2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid
DBDR: 2012 Toyota Camry XLE

Manufacturer’s web site
Toyota Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Photo Gallery:
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Forty Canadians walked away from Tim Hortons’ 2012 Roll Up the Rim to Win contest lucky winners of Toyota’s 2012 Camry Hybrid. We felt it was our patriotic duty to take one out for a Quick Spin to see exactly what they were getting.

Aside from its highly publicized combined 4.7 L/100 km, the winners might never have realized they were driving away with a hybrid if not for the fact that Toyota and Tim Hortons splashed the hybrid term around on every storefront and the occasional front-lawn demo in front of certain stores. That fuel consumption rating breaks down to 4.7 L/100 km city and 5.1 L/100 km highway for the XLE model I drove, or 4.5/4.9 for the more basic LE model, much improved over the 2011 model’s 5.7/5.7 city/highway, impressive savings for an already efficient vehicle.

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

While I fully expected the fuel efficiency to be good, I did not expect to keep it as low as 5.7 L/100 km observed over 300 km, with a mix of highway and city driving at my usual frenetic and inefficient pace. I was in no way shy about using its 200 net horsepower (up 13 from 2011 models), and I’d estimate its seat-of-the-pants torque figure somewhere north of 200 lb-ft. Conveniently, that torque is available with the barest hint of throttle as the 105-kW electric motor delivers torque instantly through the seamless continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The hybrid system incorporates regenerative braking and auto start-stop, which is noticeable with a slight shiver from a standstill, though it is barely
perceptible when the engine turns on and off while moving.

Gasoline power is provided by a larger 2.5L inline-four, and the battery is a conventional NiMH, so the Hybrid XLE’s curb weight tips the scales at 1561 kg, 120 kg heavier than a base four-cylinder Camry LE and more than 30 kg heavier than the V6 XLE. The weight of those hybrid components may have contributed to some of the choppy, brittle ride I observed on rough roads, although not having driven the non-hybrid models, I can’t comment on the other models’ rides.

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Surprisingly, I found the Camry Hybrid surprisingly easy to navigate around town. It never feels anything less than large, but the light steering makes quick work of parking manouevres, and the steering tracks consistently through turns despite a vague on-centre feel at low speeds. At highway speeds, the steering seems to firm up and provide early resistance as you nudge the steering wheel in your intended direction, and preventing unintended wandering. Also surprising was that the choppy ride is noticeable even at highway speeds, with every pothole and expansion joint sending a shiver through the cabin. And while the engine is quiet, there is a fair amount of wind noise that intrudes at highway speeds.

A big plus in my eyes is the styling. It may not be an Aston Martin, or even a Ford Focus, but I appreciated its subtly sharp-edged shoulder lines and somewhat chiseled surfaces. Even though it is sure to earn complaints of “vanilla” and “white bread” pigeonholing from any and all simply because it is a Camry, I think it a huge improvement over the previous-gen’s bulbous, melting visage. It is neutral enough to maintain its anonymity, but a fine looking sedan that looks at home among mid-size sedan competition like the Malibu, Accord, and Passat, if not as risky or bold as the Sonata or Fusion.

Another reversal of fortune is with the seats. In the past I have experienced a variety of issues with Toyota seats, but the Camry Hybrid’s were adjustable to suit my frame perfectly and I never got even a hint of back pain or discomfort.

Inside, I was greatly relieved that the Camry doesn’t suffer from the same low-grade materials and utter lack of inspiration as our recent experiences in the Corolla and RAV4. The dash is a soft-touch plastic that convincingly mimics the look of leather, with real stitching trimming the edges where it breaks up the dash. Clear, bright gauges provide the driver with all the basic information and the centre stack is simple and inoffensive, and all controls are easy to use with a 6.1-inch display, including easy-pairing Bluetooth. Ample storage includes two cupholders perfect for those larger double-doubles in the console and a couple more bottle holders in the door pockets, plus a variety of cubbyholes. Back seats are comfortable and spacious in the outboard positions, but the elevated centre position is uncomfortable and lacks headroom.

Overall, this isn’t the first car that comes to mind when making recommendations for a family car, and it will not be a huge volume seller, but those that find their way into a 2012 Camry Hybrid will have few complaints. It drives like most any other sedan, though with a bit more ride harshness, but the quiet hybrid delivers V6-like power when the driver wishes it, yet does not compromise on its efficiency mission.

Pricing: 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
  • Base price: $28,990
  • Options: $2,810 (Moonroof Package: XM satellite radio, garage door opener, backup camera, navigation, power moonroof, illuminated vanity mirrors, theft deterrent system, glass breakage sensor)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,565
  • Price as tested: $33,465

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    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
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