2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid

8.0
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid

The Basics:

The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is a stealth green car; packing a version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, from the Prius, the Camry Hybrid looks much like a standard four-cylinder or V-6 Camry, yet its 43 mpg EPA city rating (LE) makes it one of the most fuel-efficient cars of any size.

For 2012, the Camry Hybrid returns redesigned, along with the rest of the Camry lineup, but Toyota has stepped it up a notch with this model. The Camry Hybrid sees more extensive changes than the base four-cylinder and V-6 models; its powertrain has been fully reengineered—for much-improved gas mileage, improved responsiveness, and better smoothness and drivability.

The redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry remains the most conservative-looking pick among mid-size sedans, but if you want comfort, value, and frugality above all else, it's probably just your style.

Like the latest Prius, the Camry Hybrid gains both an Eco mode and an EV mode; the latter allows you to drive for a short distance on electric power only. Just as in the Prius, the electric motors are now used a little more. But even more importantly, drivability is greatly improved: Transitions between gasoline and electric power are smoother than ever, and the grabby feel during low-speed braking (because of the transition between regenerative braking and conventional braking) has been eliminated. In short, if you're not in Eco mode, which softens responses, the Camry Hybrid now drives more like a normal, four-cylinder sedan.

To get there, Toyota installed a new Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, replaced all remaining accessory drive belts with electrically driven ones, and redesigned the inverter and battery pack. The latter change allowed a smaller, lighter battery pack, and more trunk space (13.1 cubic feet, up from 10.6).

From a passenger standpoint, the Camry Hybrid won't feel much different than the standard Camry models. There's plenty of space for adults, even in back (where Toyota's conservative roofline pays off), and the ride is soft and well-isolated. Interior trims and finishes have been significantly updated, too. The only substantial compromise you make with the Hybrid is that you give up the folding rear seatback; you do get a trunk pass-through, however.

For the first time, the Camry Hybrid is offered in two trim levels. 2012 Camry Hybrid LE models come with standard dual-zone climate control, cruise control, and a Bluetooth hands-free interface, but XLE models add alloy wheels, chrome trim, fog lamps, and heated mirrors, along with other extras.

For more about the Camry Hybrid, see the full review of the 2012 Toyota Camry lineup over at The Car Connection.

Buying Tips:

Keep in mind that in Camry Hybrid models, you forgo the folding rear seatback. You do however get a trunk pass-through for skis and the like.

Other Choices:

  • 2012 Hyundai Sonata
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat

Reason Why:

With much-improved gas mileage, thanks to some improvements handed down from the Prius, the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is again the most fuel-efficient car in its class. Against the Camry Hybrid, the Nissan Altima Hybrid has been a rival, though that model is on hiatus for 2012. But the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is new; it offers gas mileage numbers close to those of the Camry Hybrid, but it's sorely lacking in sophistication, with a more lurching. That said, the rest of the Sonata Hybrid is, as the Sonata lineup, styled with more excitement than the Camry. The Ford Fusion Hybrid gets fuel economy ratings that are close to those of the Hybrid (up to 41 mpg), and its handling is particularly good. Meanwhile, the Volkswagen Passat, in high-mileage TDI diesel form, gets an excellent 43 mpg highway while maintaining strong, confident performance. All of these offerings have around the same sticker price.

The Bottom Line:

The 2012 Toyota Camry is the most fuel-efficient way to transport the family in a traditional-looking, comfortable four-door sedan.

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