2012 Camry Hybrid – Comfort and Class with a Hybrid Bonus

2012 Camry Hybrid

The Camry is a well-appointed, comfortable ride and provides high luxury for its price point. The hybrid adds to this by putting Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive® under the hood, boosting fuel economy to excellent levels for a mid-sized sedan, though the Camry Hybrid is not without competition.

The manufacturer says

Over the past 25 years, Camry has won the loyalty of millions with its unique blend of efficiency, features, value and reliability. Now, with the 2012 Camry Hybrid LE delivering an estimated 43 city/39 highway/41 combined mpg, it’s more than just economical, it’s one of the most fuel-efficient sedans in its class. Plus, it achieves all that while producing 200 hp. Time to add even more Americans to its legion of enthusiasts — though gas station owners may be less than thrilled.

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Toyota
  • Year, Model: 2012 Camry Hybrid XLE
  • Class, Type: Mid-sized sedan
  • Propulsion system: Gasoline-electric
  • Fuel(s): Gasoline
  • Base Price: $25,990 (LE)
  • MSRP as tested: $34,547
  • Availability:
  • Nationally, now

Overview

The Camry is a highly comfortable car that drives smoothly, but without much pizazz. Compared to other mid-sized sedans in this class (VW Passat, Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Altima), it is an average ride with good handling and comfortable seating, but little "fun factor."

Still, Toyota managed to take the car up a notch by adding its Hybrid Synergy Drive®, utilizing a peppy 2.5-liter 4-cylinder DOHC and an electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT) that gives a total of 200 horsepower. This translates to plenty of motoring power when speeding up for a merge, passing, etc.

For its class, the fuel efficiency in the Camry Hybrid is good at 40 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway (40 mpg average) – the lower-end LE model gets higher numbers at 43/39 (41 mpg average). During testing, we managed to average about 37 mpg in a mostly highway experience.

Like current-generation Toyota hybrids, the Camry can drive in full electric vehicle (EV) mode in town at low speeds and for short distances. Unlike smaller Toyotas like the Prius c, of course, the heavier Camry does so only up to about 20 miles per hour and for only about 3 miles at a time. Still, for a quick trip around the block to the grocery or drug store, and to get you out of the garage silently, that's a nice bonus.

The ride in the Camry is smooth and comfortable. The car aims for the middle market between the higher-priced (and more luxurious) Avalon and the lower priced (and less comfortable) Corolla. It hits the mark well and most drivers will thoroughly enjoy the comforts this sedan offers. Driving enthusiasts will not, however, find the Camry to be sporty or fun to drive. This is a car built to appeal to the masses and it does that very well.

Interior space is excellent in the Camry. The rear seats do fold down for access and the car easily accommodates two child safety seats with plenty of room to spare for a third passenger in the back. The trunk is roughly average in this class, being slightly smaller than the competing Volkswagen Passat and Nissan Altima, but adequate for most people's needs. Space would be equivalent, but the hybrid packs cut a full 2.3 cubic feet from the cargo area.

From the driver's perspective, seating is more than comfortable and the instruments and controls are intuitive and nicely laid out.

What we like

Good economy at a fair price. The Camry Hybrid is at a good price point for the market and, with fittings included, competes with regular gasoline vehicles in this class.

Great comfort level that competes with or exceeds others in this class. This is an "everyday" car and few will find it inadequate.

What we don't

MPG is good, but others at a similar or lower price point, namely the Volkswagen Passat TDI, are comparable and offer a better drive and somewhat higher level of luxury for about the same price point.

Sluggish feel and rattling stop-start are noticeable in the Camry Hybrid. The car accelerates well, but feels sluggish compared to regular gas engine vehicles. The stop-start, because of the larger engine, announces itself with car body shaking as the engine fires up, which can require some getting used to.

Conclusions

Overall, while perhaps not the best vehicle in this class, the Camry is a hot seller for reasons that become obvious to anyone who sits in one. The hybrid is a great option for higher fuel efficiency and its price premium is not too steep compared to some. Those who drive primarily on highways at speed, however, may find better economy and pricing in a diesel vehicle.

Test Period Length and Limitations
The 2012 Camry Hybrid XLE was loaned to us for 6 days, unrestricted. We racked over 450 miles in the vehicle, mostly in freeway driving, 250 miles of which were on a short road trip.

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