Toyota nailed it, reviews say: Its redesigned 2012 Camry Hybrid (Base MSRP: $25,990 to $27,500) is not only one of the best hybrid family sedans you can buy -- it's one of the best family cars, period.
Fuel economy? The Camry Hybrid "blows away anything not called 'Prius,'" ConsumerReports.org says.
Power? The Camry Hybrid boasts "by far the strongest acceleration" of any mainstream hybrid family sedan, Edmunds.com says.
Safety, reliability, stretch-out-passenger space? They're all strong suits, experts say -- just like the regular 2012 Toyota Camry (Base MSRP: $21,955 to $29,845), which takes the Best Reviewed prize in our report on 2012 family cars.
In fact, critics can find only one real drawback: the Camry Hybrid's cramped trunk. You'll get more cargo space with the hatchback 2012 Toyota Prius (Base MSRP: $24,000 to $29,805) -- plus better fuel economy, equally solid crash protection and nearly as much passenger room as the Camry Hybrid.
But if you prefer more power, don't like the Prius's wedge-shaped look or just feel crowded inside the smaller Prius, the Camry Hybrid beats its other family-sized rivals -- the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid (Base MSRP: $28,775) and near-twins 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (Base MSRP: $25,850) and 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid (Base MSRP: $25,700) -- in tests.
"Overall, the [Toyota Camry] Hybrid should be a solid, blue-chip choice for a family car," Edmunds.com says.
The Camry Hybrid takes no styling chances, critics say. It sticks closely to the usual sedate Camry look, although it gets a bolder grille, more wedge-shaped side profile and sharper body creases for 2012. Both Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book point out the Hyundai Sonata -- also offered as a hybrid -- as a more stylish pick.
But in the cabin, Edmunds.com sees a "notable improvement." Toyota has replaced "the previous mismatch of poorly fitted hard plastic" with easy-on-the-eyes textures and stitching. The stitched, padded dash top earns praise from more than one tester. But one source still notices "thin carpet, a hard headliner and some cheap plastics" -- even on the top-trim Camry Hybrid XLE.
Passenger space is no problem in the Camry Hybrid. Testers report plenty of legroom up front and in the backseat -- "even for 6-footers riding in tandem," ConsumerGuide.com says -- and the backseat is wide enough to fit three adults comfortably. Edmunds.com says the Camry ties with the 2012 Honda Accord (Base MSRP: $21,380 to $29,630) for "the most comfortable backseat in the class."
The hybrid battery pack eats up some trunk space, but you'll still get "a truly useful 13.1 cubic feet," Edmunds.com says -- enough for three big suitcases and a duffel bag, according to another source. The 60/40 split rear seats fold, but cargo space still falls far shy of the compact Toyota Prius hatchback and family-size 2012 Toyota Prius v wagon (Base MSRP: $26,550 to $30,140).
The entry-level 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE (Base MSRP: $25,990) comes equipped with keyless entry and ignition, automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, power accessories, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth and a CD stereo with auxiliary input and USB jacks.
The step-up Camry Hybrid XLE (Base MSRP: $27,500) gets a touch-screen control interface, Bluetooth audio streaming, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-way power driver's seat and heated mirrors.
It might be one of the fuel-stingiest cars around, but testers say the 2012 Toyota Camry hybrid sure doesn't drive like it.
"If you didn't know it was a hybrid, the Camry would lead you to believe it was a deftly executed gas-only sedan with some extra pop under the hood," Motor Trend testers say. It's "very swift for a hybrid family sedan," Edmunds.com says, accelerating from zero to 60 in 7.4 seconds, nearly three seconds faster than a Prius v wagon -- and in 7.2 seconds at Motor Trend, only 0.2 seconds slower than a turbocharged, gas-powered Hyundai Sonata.
And the Camry Hybrid feels pretty much like driving a regular car, reviews say. A couple of sources say the regenerative brakes (which help feed power to the hybrid system) feel "grabby," but otherwise they can't tell they're driving a hybrid. "Save for the slightest of vibrations from its engine start/stop system, the Camry keeps its hybridness a secret," Motor Trend says. Like other sources, Motor Trend finds the "developmental-league" Sonata/Optima Hybrid slow and jerky compared to the smooth, seamless Camry Hybrid.
A 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and electric motor work together to pump out 200 horsepower. Every Camry Hybrid comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and front-wheel drive.
One source calls the Camry Hybrid's fuel economy "amazing" for a car this roomy. At 41 mpg overall (43 mpg city/39 mpg highway), the only family-size cars that sip less fuel than the Camry Hybrid are the 50-mpg Toyota Prius and the 42-mpg 2012 Toyota Prius v wagon, although both are substantially slower.
The step-up Camry Hybrid XLE gets bigger 17-inch wheels and tires that hurt fuel economy due to greater rolling resistance, but you can still expect 40 mpg overall.
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates
The 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid's safety, reliability and resale value stack up well against its rivals.
First, safety: The Camry Hybrid earns a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with the highest possible ratings in all independent crash tests there (front, side, rear and rollover roof strength) -- but so do the Toyota Prius and the Ford Fusion, Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata hybrids. The federal government's crash tests find some differences among these cars, however. The Optima Hybrid is the only one to earn perfect government crash scores, while the Camry Hybrid, Prius and Sonata Hybrid drop to 4 out of 5 stars for frontal crash protection. The Camry Hybrid and Prius also drop to 4 stars for rollover resistance -- but both do a better job avoiding accidents in the first place than the Sonata Hybrid (a near-twin to the Optima Hybrid) in one independent test. Meanwhile, the Ford Fusion Hybrid manages only 3 stars for frontal crash protection. The Camry Hybrid comes with the usual standard safety features -- antilock brakes, traction and stability control and front, front-side and curtain airbags -- plus side airbags for rear passengers and knee airbags for both front passengers.
Reliability should be very good for the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid, according to one major consumer survey that looks at repair history. It carries three-year/36,000-mile basic and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties, plus an 8-year/100,000-mile hybrid component warranty.
Resale value should also be strong: Two top sources predict that the 2012 Camry Hybrid will hold its value better than the average family car.
NHTSA Safety Ratings
IIHS Safety Ratings
Only subscribers can read the full test results, but ConsumerReports.org editors do post some of their test-drive impressions of the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid here for free.
Review: From the Logbook: 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, March 6, 2012
Terrific fuel economy, a big backseat, strong safety scores and "by far the strongest acceleration" of any hybrid sedan make the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid "a solid, blue-chip choice for a family car."
Review: 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid, Editors of Edmunds.com, March 20, 2012
The entire 2012 Toyota Camry lineup earns a Best Buy award here. Editors test four Camry versions and say they're "especially impressed with the substantially improved Hybrid." They rate each version on 11 criteria, including acceleration, fuel economy, ride quality and value.
Review: 2012 Toyota Camry: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com
4. Motor Trend
Testers here are "immensely impressed" with the 2012 Toyota Camry hybrid: It gets more miles per gallon than either the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid or the fuel-miser Volkswagen Passat turbodiesel, with strong acceleration and a "seamless" hybrid system that -- unlike the Sonata's -- proves virtually undetectable. Still, it's not as fun to drive as the Passat TDI.
Review: Comparison: 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid vs. 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE vs. 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE, Ron Kiino, December 2011
5. Kelley Blue Book
The 2012 Toyota Camry lineup wins Kelley Blue Book's Best Resale Value Award. Testers are particularly impressed with the redesigned hybrid version, which proves "lighter, tighter" and 30 percent more fuel-efficient than before.
Review: 2012 Toyota Camry Review, Editors of Kelley Blue Book
Like the non-hybrid Camry, the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid earns a 5-star overall crash rating from the federal government. It scores a perfect 5 stars for side crash protection and 4 stars for frontal crash protection and rollover resistance.
Review: 2012 Toyota Camry HV, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
All 2012 Toyota Camrys are Top Safety Picks here. They earn the highest rating of Good in all of IIHS's crash tests -- front, side, rear and rollover roof strength.
Review: Toyota Camry, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Among family cars, only the smaller Toyota Prius and Honda Insight can beat the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid's fuel economy -- and the Insight's only 1 mpg better overall. This government website lists city, highway and overall fuel economy figures and average fuel cost per year for most vehicles on the market.
Review: 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid, Environmental Protection Agency, May 2011