29.11.2019Toyota Camry 2.5 Hybrid review
The saloon market may be losing out to crossovers and SUVs currently, but there's still plenty to like about the traditional three-box shape. Toyota reckons so too, and as such, the Camry name has returned to the UK market after a significant hiatus, replacing the Avensis. We see how the latest Toyota saloon performs.
Review by Chris Lilly
There is only one engine available for Camry customers to drive. It's the larger of Toyota's wide-reaching hybrid set-ups, with a 2.5 litre petrol engine supported by an electric motor. It produces a combined 215 hp which allows for a 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds. It's peppy then, without being properly quick, and the Camry will make decent headway when you're in a hurry. It doesn't enjoy being driven hard however, as the CVT transmission will make lots of noise without really pulling the car along quickly. It's a common comment with this type of gearbox, and although it has the potential to be more efficient than a conventional set of cogs, a normal automatic is far nicer to drive. Adjust your driving style though, press the throttle gradually, and you really get the system to work well. It's a quiet and refined set-up both in town and on the motorway, when harsh acceleration is less frequent. Not one for those that crave performance then, but rather a car that rewards smooth driving.
The suspension set-up is similar to the engine, and offers a comfortable ride. It's not 'floating on air' smooth, but the Camry is particularly accomplished on the motorway when it settles down well and proves a fine cruiser. Grip is good, but there's not much feedback from the steering wheel - great for wafting, poor for performance. The Camry is very much a car that rewards being driven to its strengths, and it will deal with all but the worst pot-holes well if you don't smash into them at speed. You can feel the car's weight when cornering, but it's kept well in check so there isn't much lean in the corners.
The Camry is a much better looking car than the one it replaced, and has the current sharp Toyota design language. It catches the eye without being garish, and although it's not to everyone's taste, it looks pretty good in my opinion, and certainly can't be accused of being boring. In a market with some fine-looking saloons such as the VW Passat and Mazda 6, it sits close to the top of the styling chart. It also performs well in offering plenty of interior space. Four adults will be perfectly happy on a long drive, with good levels of head and leg room available. There's a deep boot too, so a luggage for a long trip away would be swallowed with little fuss.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The cabin is certainly towards the upper end of Toyota's premium spectrum, and it's a pretty good one. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and the materials used are good throughout. It won't worry lower-priced versions of executive saloons, but the Camry holds its own in its class. Trim looks good, and switchgear feels as well put together as you would expect from a Toyota, but the buttons can prove small - an accusation that can be pointed at the infotainment system. It's one of the Camry's weak points compared to its rivals, with a compact screen and fiddly controls.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
One of the key benefits of the Camry is its efficiency. Toyota has refined its hybrid system over more than 20 years, and it works well. The Camry's best official economy figures come in at 53.3 MPG and 120 g/km CO2. The test model sticks close to those best figures, at 51.4 MPG and 126 g/km CO2. It performs well in the real world too, with an average on the trip computer of 49.9 MPG after 350 miles, and trips regularly reaching 55 MPG with ease. It must be driven smoothly to achieve these efficiency scores, but with a little practice, the Camry can be a frugal car.
Clearly the hybrid powertrain is a key green system, with a compact battery and electric motor working with the engine to improve efficiency. The Camry often runs on electric power alone for short periods, and can be put into EV mode for as long as the battery's charge survives. There's an Eco mode to help with economy, alongside Normal and Sport, and there is a wealth of information for the driver to improve economical driving. Trip stats and driver coaching can all help make the most of the Camry's hybrid system.
The trim levels are almost as simple as the engine choice for Camry buyers. There are two - Design and Excel - and even the entry level model comes well equipped. Fitted as standard are 17-inch alloys, LED headlights, heated front seats, leather upholstery, keyless entry and start, drive mode select, 7-inch infotainment system with navigation, 7-inch driver display, parking sensors front and rear, reversing camera, and air conditioning. Excel adds features such as a wireless phone charger, power-adjusted steering wheel, blind spot monitor, 18-inch alloys, and full LED lighting.
The Camry isn't an exciting car to drive, but it is a comfortable one. It's pricey compared to rivals, but for some, the benefit of hybrid power will be a big draw. It aids economy and running costs, without the penalties diesel incurs in terms of tax, company car tax, and potential clean air zone regulations.
Model tested: Toyota Camry 2.5 Hybrid Excel
Engine / CO2: 2.5 litre petrol hybrid / 126 g/km
Trim grades: Design & Excel
On-road price: From £30,710.
Warranty: Five years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.0 Stars