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FIRST THOUGHTS: The release of the Hybrid Camry completes the all new line up from Toyota for this very popular car. It's a vital cog in their wheel given that's it built in Australia for both the local market and export.
Toyota has undertaken a lot of research to make this new Hybrid Camry as good as it can be. Straight off the bat, they tell us it's more of a driver's car than the previous model, and it's a ‘new era' sedan. Camry is the first locally produced Hybrid and Toyota Australia is rightfully proud that they beat off the challenge of other countries to build it here. Two models will be available, Camry H and Camry HL. The ‘L' designates Luxury so as you'd expect, that model will cost more, but gets more technological appointments.
Toyota has identified some key factors that they wanted to address with the 2012 Camry Hybrid – namely performance, running costs and price. And key to achieving more sales in Australia is dispelling the myths that hybrids suffer on these fronts. While hybrids are still certainly not mainstream here, Toyota has sold a huge number around the world and the 2012 Camry Hybrid is right at the forefront of their technological innovation. Toyota also recognises that the hybrid message probably didn't make its way to the public effectively with the first Camry. With an entry level price that undercuts the old model by two grand, they look to have gotten off on the right foot with this new model.
Greg Gardner Corporate Manager Product Planning explained that there was a lot of effort aimed at making Camry better than it has ever been in terms of build quality. "Camry hybrid builds on all the positives of the petrol model," he said. "It has range topping power, seamless acceleration, exceptional fuel economy and impressive quietness."
The hybrid drive system itself has been tweaked as well with new software changes improving management of the electrics, while reduced panel gaps, improved touch surfaces throughout and an increased sense of safety (thanks to up to the minute standard equipment) have all combined to make a genuine improvement in Camry Hybrid.
From the exterior, subtly different styling ensures the Hybrid model will stand apart from the other ‘normal' Camrys around town. Unique blue tinted badges and a new grille design are different but attractive.
This new Camry is a little wider than the old model, but the big difference is a 46mm increase in rear seat space, meaning taller passengers will now have a lot more knee room than they ever did before. There's even a special film that's been added to the windscreen to keep noise down. Inside, this new Hybrid Camry is genuinely quiet. The extra sound insulation that's been fitted has made a noticeable difference to wind noise and tyre roar. At speeds up to freeway speed (110kph) Camry is quiet and refined. Soft touch padding has been employed to make the interior a comfortable and elegant place to be, which carries through to quality stitching and newly designed gauges.
New Hybrid Camry's boot is both deeper and wider thanks largely to a more compact battery pack. An increase of eight percent takes capacity up to 421-litres meaning there's plenty of carrying capacity even with four adults on board. The standard audio system is impressive, with the optional model even better, comprising a ten speaker JBL unit in premium guise. Satellite navigation and digital radio also come as part of this premium system along with live traffic updates for major metro areas.
The locally designed and tuned suspension package makes a big difference on road where the Camry can really soak up nasty country roads with ease and comfort. Around town, the ride is supple without ever being wallowy or floaty. It's not a sportscar by any means, but it's not meant to be. And in a vehicle of this ilk, we'd take bump absorption and comfort over outright handling in any case.
A 2.5-litre petrol engine with improved hybrid technology replaces the old 2.4-litre engine and this new powerplant is a vastly improved offering. Technology is present throughout the engine set up but in short it's a high compression (12.5:1) Atkinson cycle engine, which is the first time such a system, has been used with a hybrid system. Smaller details also help to keep the combined fuel consumption low. An electric motor powers the water pump and AC compressor so there are no belts and thus no unnecessary drag on the engine.
On its own, the petrol engine when running on 91RON fuel develops 118kW and 213Nm, which is more than enough to get the Camry moving as rapidly as you would ever want in a car of this type. Combined with the electric engine though, you get an impressive maximum power figure of 151kW. Despite that impressive power figure, Hybrid Camry uses only 5.2L/100km combined. It will also get a five star rating in the green vehicle guide.
There is also an EV mode which can be selected by the driver and mans that the Camry runs only on the electric engine. However, as we've noted in the past, this isn't a particularly practical system as it will only run for around 1km. Once the battery runs down or you reach a certain speed, the petrol engine cuts in. Further standard technological inclusions come with the addition of hill start assist control and regenerative braking, which charges the battery.
Toyota has focused a serious amount of effort on safety. Seven airbags come standard – with a driver's knee airbag being one of the standard inclusions too. All five seats have a seatbelt warning indicator and there's the expected 5-star ANCAP rating. Stability and traction control come standard along with ABS and brake assist.
Owners looking to minimise their running costs would do well to take a close look at Hybrid Camry. Toyota's Service Advantage means you get four years instead of three years fixed price servicing up to 75,000km. That means you pay a fixed $130 per service for the first five services. Identical service costs for hybrid and petrol Camry dispel the ‘hybrids cost more to run' myth.
There is little to split the two available hybrid models really. Both model grades get the same mechanical package, the same safety inclusions and important tech like reverse camera and hill start assist. Both also get a full sized spare, and an electric driver's seat. The high grade HL model gets mainly tech upgrades over the entry level model. What that means though for the budget conscious is that the entry level Hybrid Camry will more than meet your expectations.
Opt for the HL model and you get 17in alloys as opposed to the standard 16s, front fog lamps, rear lip spoiler, chrome door handles and chrome detail trim. Inside, the HL gets leather accent trim, premium door linings, memory driver's seat, power passenger seat, premium steering wheel and gear shifter trim and an electric rear sunshade. HL also gets the upgraded audio system with a larger 7in display, and the reversing camera is fitted with a back guide monitor. Blind spot monitoring and auto high beam also come with the HL package.
|Country of manufacture||Japan|
|Available from||March 2012|
|Priced from||$34,990 (H)|
|Engine size||2.5 L|
|Claimed fuel consumption||5.2 L/100km|