If you’re in the market for a new mid-size sedan that gets generous fuel economy scores, you have a few viable choices: the Toyota Camry Hybrid, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the diesel-fueled Volkswagen Passat.
For many buyers, the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is the obvious choice. The Camry is the best-selling sedan in America, after all. However, the Camry is not necessarily the mid-size sedan I would always recommend, though I won’t fault your good sense if you do choose the Camry Hybrid. I’ll explain why shortly.
The Toyota Camry was redesigned for 2012 and the result is a better car inside and out. The design is more aggressive than last year’s model. The grille and fascia are a touch, er, tougher. Simply, the new Camry is a better-looking car than before. Yet no one is going to mistake the Camry for any kind of racecar. And they shouldn’t.
The Camry Hybrid is first and foremost a dependable and well-equipped family car that also returns up to 43 mpg on the freeway and up to 39 mpg in city driving.
Family car owners, pay attention now.
A surprise of sorts is that the less-expensive LE trim starts under $26,000 and actually gets better fuel economy than the top-of-the-hybrid-line XLE model that starts over $27,000.
- Toyota Camry Hybird LE: 43 mpg city and 39 mpg highway
- Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE: 40 mpg city and 38 mpg highway
If you’re committed to saving money today when you buy the Camry Hybrid and continue to save as you drive it in the future, choose the LE trim. You’ll get dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button power, Bluetooth connectivity and all the features you would expect in a higher-end Camry.
On the other hand, if you want to sit in the lap of Camry luxury, sacrifice a few miles-per-gallon and choose the XLE trim. That was our test model and the model I compared to the Chevy Volt in our 2012 Chevy Volt vs. Toyota Camry Hybrid Mashup Review video.
Watch 2012 Chevy Volt vs. 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid Mashup Review
An Attractive and Spacious Interior
As I note in our video , you’ll find plenty of space in the rear seats for family and friends. Even six-foot-one-inch Fast Lane Car reviewer Nathan Adlen is comfortable in the rear seat (he is also fond of the trunk space that includes an increase of two cubic-feet compared to the prior model—watch the video for proof).
Inside you’ll find plenty of soft-touch surfaces, dark leathers and brushed aluminum-style touches (okay, so the most of the aluminum is really plastic, yet it looks like the real thing).
My test car featured the Leather Package that increased the price by $1,160 and included suede inserts on the leather seats, plus heated front and passenger seats that also boast a decent number of adjustments.
The biggest upgrade in the Camry Hybrid is the premium sound system with Entune that lets you control apps on your phone and within the system. You can search using Bing, find a restaurant using OpenTable or stream music through Pandora or listen to a gaggle of radio stations and formats through iHeartRadio.
I played with the apps and they work well. I also streamed Funkify Your Life by The Meters from an iPhone nearly the entire week without issue. (If you don’t know The Meters but enjoy funky 1970s R&B, I recommend you meet the Meters the same time you look into the Camry Hybrid).
The premium audio upgrade will set you back $2,600 and also includes navigation, satellite radio and easy setup on the 7-inch screen. Is the upgrade worth it? Absolutely, especially if you’re someone who gets lost often and could use a little guidance in your life.
Is the Camry Hybrid Really Fuel Efficient?
Ultimately, the decision to choose a hybrid comes down to fuel efficiency (and possibly publicly outing yourself as a green driver). While the EPA estimates are promising, I wondered how the Camry Hybrid would deliver in real-world driving.
Good, but not spectacular is the short answer. I covered nearly 300 miles and averaged 37.6 mpg. That lags the EPA estimate of 40 mpg combined. Yet I’ll cut the Camry Hybrid a break because much of that driving happened on the freeway at rapid speeds, which isn’t a recipe for fuel-efficient driving. Plus, I still had half a tank of gas and more than 200 miles of driving range ahead of us.
The Camry Hybrid sports a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 156 horsepower. Combined with the electric motor that shuts down when you come to a complete stop to help save fuel and generate a little extra oomph when you accelerate, Toyota claims the hybrid has a combined 200 horsepower that is mated to a continuously variable transmission.
I drove the car in ECO mode most of the time and were pleased to wrangle a good amount of electric (EV) driving around the neighborhood.
The only reason I recommend the Camry Hybrid with any reservation is because you could also consider the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI as a fuel-efficient and comfortable family car. Earlier this year I covered more than 700 miles and averaged 45 mpg in a Passat. That will beat the Camry Hybrid and the Passat is much more fun to drive.
However, dependability of the new Passat is unproven at this point, so from that standpoint, it’s hard to go wrong with the Camry Hybrid.
I found the Camry Hybrid comfortable and enjoyable to drive. It won’t turn heads at intersections. But I don’t expect it will spend much time in the repair shop either in the coming years. It makes the Camry Hybrid a natural match for fuel-efficient-focused families.
On the TFLcar.com recommendation scale of:
- Buy it
- Lease it
- Rent it or
I give the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid a…BUY IT!
As tested: $34,547
Michael Waterman’s first car was a 1978 Ford Fiesta. Not particularly prestigious, but awfully fuel-efficient. He’s still a fan of efficient, practical vehicles, especially those that can hold their own in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains where Michael lives and writes about cars. He’s the former Executive Editor of Vehix.com and also writes about cars at SpeedyDaddy.com. When he’s not covering cars, he writes about music at toponehitwonders.com.