2010 Toyota Hybrid Camry Luxury, fitted with 'option' pack.
In short there is plenty that's new: there are more than 300 unique parts and design elements that separate the Hybrid Camry from its lesser brethren.
Toyota's new hybrid family car is offered in two model grades - Hybrid Camry and Hybrid Camry Luxury. Both use Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive System (petrol and electric engines), in combination with electric power steering, electronic brake control, regenerative (electric) braking and electric air-conditioning.
What's The Appeal?
Fuel efficient 'green' family transport is the appeal. The Hybrid Camry is the first Australian family-sized car (a genuine five-seater) to feature the full suite of Toyota's Hybrid technologies.
What Features Does It Have?
Hybrid Camry's standard equipment includes steering wheel controls for audio and multi-information displays, reversing camera, rear sonar parking sensors and Toyota's Smart Entry/Smart Start.
Our test car, the top-of-the-range Hybrid Camry Luxury, adds a leather accented interior, four-way power-adjustable front seats, electro-chromatic interior rear-view mirror and rain-sensing wipers.
The Hybrid Camry Luxury on test was also fitted with the 'option pack' ($4500) that adds satellite navigation, an eight-speaker premium audio system, electric tilt-and-slide moonroof and personal lamps for rear passengers.
What's Under The Bonnet?
It's a crowded place. There's a 140kW 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, two electric motors and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
The first electric motor and the petrol engine supply power to the front wheels. A second electric motor/generator acts primarily as a generator to convert excess petrol-engine power into electricity which is stored in the hybrid battery. It also acts as a starter motor for the petrol engine.
The petrol engine is the main drive source. Electric power is used only for take-off, low-speed operation and reversing. When maximum performance is called for, then both the electric and petrol engines work in tandem.
A regenerative braking system slows the car by using the electric drive motor as a generator. It converts kinetic energy from the vehicle's motion into reusable electricity, which is then stored in the High Voltage (HV) battery.
How Does It Drive?
In spite of its added complexity, the Hybrid Camry is a particularly good drive. It is exceptionally quiet at all legal speeds, and ghostly silent when the petrol engine shuts off while sitting at the lights or in slow heavy traffic.
The front seats are comfortable and the leather-wrapped steering wheel is a noticeable improvement over the standard Camry tiller.
The Hybrid Synergy Drive system is barely discernible in its operation. Combined with what would have to be the best continuously-variable-transmission out there; this drivetrain is a class act.
When called upon, the performance offered by both the petrol and electric engine is superior to the standard petrol Camry.
The Hybrid Camry also feels better-balanced than the 'standard' Camry over rougher surfaces or when cornering quickly. The added weight of the battery pack under the rear seat would seem to be helping here. It is no sports car, but we were genuinely surprised with the quality of the drive and the eager performance.
Steering is light and lacking in feel, but that makes negotiating busy shopping centres and parallel parks a doddle at the wheel of this family-sized sedan.
What Did Our Passengers Think?
Our test car featured the black-on-sandstone two tone leather interior, which got the thumbs up from all passengers. Combined with the leather-wrapped steering wheel, this particular trim combination gives the Hybrid Camry a classy and airy interior feel.
Feedback from passengers was largely positive. The Camry may be smaller than Commodore and Falcon inside, but it is comfortable, spacious and a genuine five-seater.
Seating and leg room is generous, both front and back, and the super-quiet cabin makes holding a conversation particularly easy.
With that High Voltage (HV) battery located under the rear seat, boot space has ultimately been compromised when compared to the petrol Camry.
However there is still a reasonable 389 litres of luggage space (down 71 litres), a full-sized alloy spare wheel, and the boot can be accessed from the cabin.
How Safe Is It?
The Hybrid Camry features Toyota's Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management system (VDIM) - the first locally-built Toyota to offer this technology.
VDIM is designed to optimise active safety by combining control of Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Electric Power-assisted Steering (EPS), Traction Control (TRC) and the anti-skid braking system (ABS).
The Hybrid Camry is still being tested by ANCAP for a crash safety rating, however the rest of the Camry range features a 4-Star ANCAP rating - meaning it lags behind the 5-star ANCAP awarded Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon. The Hybrid Camry's rating is expected to be revealed later this month.
Fuel Consumption And Green Rating
Toyota claims the Hybrid Camry will use 6.0 litres of regular unleaded to travel 100km, but achieving this figure in our real world test wasn't possible. Normal driving in a mix of urban highway and heavy traffic saw our test car achieve a best of 6.9 l/100km.
The Hybrid Camry emits 142 grams of CO2 per kilometre, while covers under the engine, rear floor and fuel tank improve airflow and contribute to an overall drag coefficient of 0.27, making it the most aerodynamically-efficient car built in Australia.
It also uses considerably less fuel than its petrol-powered rivals.
Toyota expects the Hybrid Camry to achieve the maximum five-star rating on the Federal Government's Green Vehicle Guide.
How Does It Compare?
It's hard to compare apples to apples with the Hybrid Camry. Size-wise it is smaller than, but nonetheless comparable to, the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.
In Luxury guise, the Hybrid Camry is almost identically priced to the base model Commodore Omega ($39,990) and base model Falcon XT ($40,290).
It trounces both for quality, refinement, equipment and features and, importantly, for fuel economy. It's also a better drive than both. Compared to its local big car rivals it is a stunning bargain.
However, if fuel economy is number one for you, then you can soundly beat the Hybrid Camry at its own game by buying a diesel.
Volkswagen's Jetta 77TDI returns an astonishing 4.9 l/100km, Skoda's Octavia TDI an almost-as-impressive 5.3 l/100km, and Mazda's stylish 6 diesel a none-too-shabby 5.9 l/100km.
All three are great cars, but none are are as roomy or refined as the Hybrid Camry. If you are shopping for a true family sized five-seater sedan, then the super-refined and efficient Hybrid Camry is a peach.
Is It Expensive To Maintain?
You won't be able to take your Hybrid Camry to the local garage for a service, but under Toyota Service Advantage, Hybrid Camry owners will pay just $130 for up to four standard scheduled services during the first three years or 60,000 kilometres driven (whichever comes first).
Toyota offers a three year/100,000kms vehicle warranty with an eight-year warranty on the Hybrid High Voltage (HV) battery.
Silver Ash, Ink, Wildfire, Sakana Silver, Arctic Frost, Reef, Liquid Metal, Crystal Pearl (Luxury), Diamond White (Basic).
There are two interior colour combinations - high-contrast European black-on-sandstone or black-on-black.
The lower-spec Hybrid Camry retails for $36,990 (plus on-road costs). The subject of this review, the Hybrid Camry Luxury, is priced from $39,990 (plus on-road costs).
Quite simply, the Hybrid Camry Luxury represents the best sub-$40k family car buying out there.