In the case of the Toyota Camry Hybrid, what a difference a year makes.
The new 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE will achieve EPA fuel economy ratings of 43 mpg city, 39 highway. That's 12 mpg (39 percent) higher in the city and 4 mpg (11 percent) higher on the highway than last year—for a class-leading EPA Combined figure of 41 mpg.
In any case, that places the Camry Hybrid LE above the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, which gets 41 mpg city, 36 highway.
Although that's not close to the 51/48-mpg ratings of the iconic Toyota Prius, the new Camry Hybrid's numbers approach those of the new 2012 Toyota Prius v, which comes with 44/40 ratings and 42 Combined. Only a few other models, like the smaller 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid (44 combined), are higher.
If you want the highest mileage in the Camry Hybrid, you'll need to choose the LE model. A slightly lower 41/38 rating is given to the XLE, which has a different wheel size as well as more features, adding weight.
The new Camry Hybrid is no longer the engineering afterthought that the former version had been. Essentially, Toyota engineers have gone through the Hybrid and given it all the updates to the inverter, battery, and software that were received by the Prius at its last full redesign a couple of years ago. They've also re-engineered the internal combustion engine onboard; it's now an Atkinson-cycle version of the base 2.5-liter, with its compression ratio bumped up to 12.5:1.
And yes, the new Camry Hybrid runs just fine on regular gas.
Overall, Toyota made the Hybrid an important part of the Camry's full redesign from the start, so this model is smoother, more responsive, and quieter.
Several years back, the Camry Hybrid had sold at the 35,000 annual level and above, but recently sales have been closer to the 20,000 level. Toyota is hoping it will sell 55,000 or more annually (out of what could be 350,000 or more Camrys altogether), and with the smoother, more responsive driving feel, relatively unchanged prices, and much more impressive gas mileage numbers, we could see them selling many more than that.
See the first drive report of the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid over at Green Car Reports, as well as our review of the 2012 Camry lineup.