Hybrid Vigour

Hybrid Vigour is a term from biology for the tendency of a cross-bred individual to show qualities superior to those of both of its parents. This definition could also be applied to the Camry Hybrid Ascent Sport I recently spent a week with.

This particular Camry model pairs a 2.5L Dual VVT-i petrol engine with the Toyota Hybrid System and in doing so eliminates two of the limitations found with petrol and electric vehicles. From the petrol perspective the addition of the hybrid system means that the official combined fuel consumption is just 4.2 litres/100km and to prove that this consumption is not far from real-world figures for the week I drove the Camry I achieved 4.8 litres/100km, almost 25% better than my figures with the Prius I drove earlier this year, but more about that later.


The 2.5L Dual VVT-i petrol engine with Toyota Hybrid System

From the electric perspective having the petrol engine completely eliminates the issue of range anxiety and having to be concerned with where you are going to top up your battery next in order to make it to your destination. This is because the battery is charged while you are driving and doesn’t need to be plugged in, ever.

The 2.5L Dual VVT-i petrol engine with Toyota Hybrid System produces 131kW @ 5,700rpm and 221Nm between 3,600-5,200rpm and has a maximum output of 160kW. It offers decent acceleration when needed for overtaking, but you certainly won’t win the School Run GP in the Camry. One thing to consider when calculating the running costs is the Camry Hybrid needs to be run of 98RON fuel according to the sticker inside the fuel cap (but in the spec sheet is does say 95RON or higher so this is worth checking with your Toyota dealer when you go and test drive the Camry).

The difference in fuel efficiency between the Camry and the Prius v I drove may be due to the different gearbox technology used by the two cars? The Camry transmission was an electronic continuously variable transmission while the Prius had only a continuously variable transmission.

It was interesting to read in the owner’s manual for the Camry that attempting to drive in full EV mode on purpose would actually decrease your fuel economy, so for my time with the Camry I did not consider what mode I was driving in and just drove it like I would any other car. I did not see the same message in the Prius owner’s manual, so I am not sure if that message was in there also and I was driving the Prius in EV mode whenever I could thinking this would improve my fuel efficiency, but maybe I was actually doing the opposite? Next time I drive a Prius I will drive it in the same manner as the Camry and see what the fuel efficiency is like then.

In addition to being the most fuel efficient ICE powered car that I have reviewed to date the Camry Hybrid was also a really nice car to live with. The suspension was comfortable, albeit maybe a little too soft as it did bottom out a few times on some of the bigger bumps I unluckily hit and inside the cabin is quiet even when the Camry is not in EV mode.

The Ascent Sport only has cloth covered seats, which are comfortable enough, but lack lateral support with only the driver’s side being electrically adjustable. My Camry had nearly 10,000km on the odometer and the materials used in the cabin were wearing well with only a small amount of scratching around the smooth black surround near the gear selector and drink holders. But the dash was prone to collect dust and if this is something that annoys you then I suggest you have a microfibre cloth in the car to keep the dash dust free.

The 8” colour touchscreen display gives you access to your audio selections and satellite navigation with SUNA traffic information. The audio options include DAB, CD, AUX, Bluetooth or USB connection. You can select a view of the Camry’s EV transmission working to see when you are using or charging your batteries and I really liked this feature. The screen also displays the reversing camera with moving guidelines and the Ascent Sport couples this with front and rear sensors to make parking easier.

The black surround of the screen is prove to attracting dust

At the front of the centre console is a sliding lid that has a grippy texture to stop your phone from sliding around and here you will also find one 12V outlet, one USB port and the AUX outlet. Under the lid is a good sized storage cubby and under the arm rest is another deep large storage cubby that would be big enough for a small handbag. One annoying feature of the centre console design was that I could not close off the central air vents.

My son told me that the rear seats were comfortable enough and that he had extra air vents on the side of the seat in addition to those at the rear of the centre console. And I can report that the rear seats offer plenty of leg room for adults as well. There are two ISOFIX/three rear tether points for fitting children’s car seats.  One feature I thought was great was the carpet mat in the rear was one continuous piece that covers the transmission tunnel so cleaning out the children’s mess would be made just that little bit easier, as parent’s will tell you the transmission tunnel can get worn and dirty over time.

Another great feature for families is the huge boot of the Camry that would easily pass the pram and weekly shop test with room to spare. It is also reassuring to know that the Camry comes with a space saver spare tyre as well.

The Camry Hybrid models have an electronically controlled braking system that forms part of the regenerative braking system for charging the hybrid battery. This means the brake feel is engineered and as such, there are differences in how a conventional brake pedal feels, compared to the braking feel in a hybrid vehicle.

All Camry models come with Toyota Safety Sense, which includes Lane Departure Alert (although this is not available at speeds below 50km/h), Pre-Collision Safety System with pedestrian detection, Automatic High Beam (that works well) and All-Speed Active Cruise Control. Passive safety features include seven SRS airbags – dual front, front side, full length curtain airbags and driver’s knee airbag; giving the Camry model line-up a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

Every new Toyota model bought after 1 January 2019 is protected by a minimum five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Plus if you complete your annual service schedule, Toyota will extend your engine and driveline warranty from five to seven years. For hybrids Toyota will increase the standard guarantee on your new Hybrid battery to up to 10 years as long as you undertake your annual inspection as part of routine maintenance according to the vehicle logbook.

As tested the Camry Hybrid Ascent Sport I drove was $31,990 excluding on-road costs and this is the best part of $3,500 cheaper than the Prius v I drove a couple of months ago. Considering the space, technology and materials used in the Camry I think this is a very competitively priced vehicle that is certainly worth considering as your next family car and your first step towards an EV. Visit your preferred Toyota dealer to drive one for yourself.

Pros Cons
Excellent fuel efficiency Couldn’t close front central air vents
No range anxiety Needs to run on 98RON petrol
Huge boot Inconsistent feel of the brake pedal

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.