Making the Ascent towards a hybrid future

by Petrol Mum
Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid on road

Hybrid sales almost doubled in the last year, increasing from 31,191 vehicles in 2019 to 60,417 vehicles in 2020, with indications that this number will be even greater for 2021 with over 36,000 sold to June. Hybrids are a natural choice as consumers are able to incrementally adjust to the change from a traditional internal combustion engine vehicle to a new technology. The Federal Government recently released a Future Fuel Strategy Discussion Paper that highlighted the importance of hybrid vehicles in the fuel mix for Australia heading into the future.

The Federal Government has a ‘fleets first’ approach for an effective pathway for early adoption, with businesses accounting for around 40% of new light vehicle sales in 2020. If this 40% proportion were applied to hybrid sales, over 24,000 new hybrids would have been added to business fleets in the last year. The idea being that these hybrid vehicles would then flow into the used car market and lead to less expensive vehicles for those consumers wanting to make the change to a greener alternative.

Toyota has reported that hybrids made up around 70% of Camry and Rav4 sales, and around half of all Corolla sales in 2020. I have sampled many of the hybrid vehicles offered by Toyota and their charge-as-you-go hybrid technology essentially means there is no change to the way you go about your daily driving. The ten-year battery warranty offered by Toyota also gives consumers long-term confidence and works well with the Federal Government’s ‘fleets first’ approach as cars on fleet are generally replaced every three years. Therefore, the person buying a used Toyota potentially still has up to seven years further warranty on the hybrid battery.

I recently drove the new-look Camry Hybrid Ascent and even though this is the base model in the current Camry line-up there was plenty on offer. Safety, technology and boot size are what make the Camry sedan a viable alternative to a SUV as a practical family car. The Camry has received a makeover inside and out resulting is a sharper looking sedan for the driver and passengers to enjoy. The cabin is quiet and the ride is comfortable, so the Camry feels like a car that you could easily do many kilometres in.  

The Hybrid Ascent is powered by a 2.5 litre petrol engine with Toyota Hybrid System with a maximum power output of 160kW and 221Nm of torque. The drive modes available include Eco, Normal, Sport plus full EV mode under certain driving conditions. The hybrid technology is paired with an Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission giving the Camry an official combined fuel use of 4.7L/100km and for my week I used 6.3L/100km. This is a greater amount used than the previous Camry I drove that used only 4.8L/100km.

All Camry variants now come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone automatic climate control and smart entry and start system. Another good feature is the voice control system, which works well for making phone calls and entering an address on the sat nav. On the downside the voice control button is designated by a masculine-looking silhouette.

The Ascent has cloth covered seats, but these look, feel and smell nice, which is not always the case for cloth seats. The driver’s seat has manual adjustment for recline, forward/back and height plus 2-way power lumbar adjustment. The passenger seat however only has manual recline and forward/back adjustment and I did feel that I was sitting up too high on that seat.

I like how the central colour touchscreen display is incorporated into the dash design and on the Ascent I drove the satellite navigation with SUNA traffic channel was an optional extra ($1,000). There is just one USB port and one 12V outlet available for charging/connecting devices and with the Nextbase Dashcam connected and a smartphone for Apple CarPlay/Android Auto this leaves no other ports for charging additional devices, which could be a problem for some. Other media sources are available though, include AM/FM, DAB, USB, Bluetooth and Miracast.

Adults sitting in the rear seats will find that they have ample leg room, but head room is a bit limited. For younger children there are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but only really enough width to fit two car seats in. This enables you to use the central fold down arm rest between the seats and this incorporates two rigid cup holders at the front of it. There is also drink bottle storage cubbies in the rear doors, but they are only big enough for small-sized bottles.

Rear passengers get two central air vents with open/close and direction adjustment, but there are no rear USB or 12V outlets. Parents will like the single mat that covers the entire rear footwell as it makes for easy cleaning and stops the carpet on the transmission tunnel from becoming worn over time.  

The Ascent only has a manual open operation and can be released from the button under the boot lid or the key fob. I did find it annoying that the boot release button under the boot lid was not located in the middle of the boot. The boot is huge and the cut outs behind the wheel arches are clearly designed for carrying golf clubs, but parents are more likely to want to know that there is enough space for a pram and the weekly shop. If extra space is needed then the rear seats have a 40:60 split folding mechanism and you get a temporary use spare tyre under the boot floor.

Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid Rear View Camera

The new Camry has an ANCAP (2017) safety rating of 5-stars with all models coming standard with Toyota Safety Sense. This includes Lane Departure Alert, Pre-Collision Safety System with pedestrian detection, Automatic High Beam and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Road Sign Assist. The reversing camera has a standard view and the Ascent only comes with rear sensors. The Camry is fitted with seven airbags – dual frontal, side chest, side head-protecting (curtain) and driver’s knee.

Every new Toyota comes with a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty and if your vehicle is properly serviced and maintained per its Warranty and Service Book, Toyota will extend the engine and driveline warranty for an additional two years. This also gives owners up to seven years emergency assistance including expenses related to car hire, towing or even accommodation if required.

The Hybrid battery used by Toyota, requires no maintenance and are backed by a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty. If owners complete an annual hybrid battery health check according to Toyota specifications during routine maintenance, Toyota will extend the Hybrid battery warranty to 10 years. The service interval for the Camry is every 12 months or 15,000km, which ever occurs first and the first five services are capped at $220 each.

Toyota Camry Ascent Hybrid Front Bumper

The Camry Sedan Hybrid Ascent starts at $33,490 plus on-road costs and as tested with optional satellite navigation ($1,000) and premium paint ($500) in a colour called Blacksmith Bronze my Camry was $34,990 plus on-roads. Visit your preferred Toyota dealer for more information or you can order on-line for convenience.

Charge-as-you-go hybrid battery technologySat nav is optional on Ascent
Up to 10-year hybrid battery warrantyOnly two power outlets for devices in cabin
Quiet cabinButton to open the boot is not centrally located

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.

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