Monday 17 June 2019

The first question on everyone’s lips about Toyota’s new Camry saloon

Did smooth petrol hybrid match diesel's famous MPG over wide mix of drives?

In demand: the new Toyota Camry hybrid saloon
In demand: the new Toyota Camry hybrid saloon
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

The answer is it used up 5.2-litres of petrol every 100km (54.32mpg). Yes, that's what I got overall from extensive drives in the new Toyota Camry hybrid. Why am I telling you this so early in the review? Because that's what everyone asked me about when I met, or let down the window, to talk to them about the car (at their request, I stress).

Now the driving wasn't hectic. I didn't fling it around corners or skirt with speed limits. No, I drove with my 'hybrid mindset' (smooth rather than sharp acceleration/deceleration).

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It wasn't because I wanted to but because traffic and route circumstances dictated as much. If I'd been a bit heavier with the right foot I'd say consumption would have risen closer to 5.6l/100km. That is still a sip above 50mpg. And in a large petrol hybrid driven over predominantly longer distances, it's a decent return.

I'd say a good diesel rival would easily have touched 55-60mpg+ if driven with the same gentleness. Either way, though, the Camry was there or thereabouts. For a roomy, well-proportioned saloon, the figures are worth noting I think.

When I say roomy, I mean large but not massively so; not as occupant or luggage spacious as the Škoda Superb, for example - but then what is?

On the other hand, my Platinum-spec Camry had luxuries akin to posh-car trim of recent vintage. One couple said it looked like a BMW inside; it was well finished and fitted out, alright. No doubt some people will view it as both a lower-priced executive option and a hybrid step towards full electric.

Even more to the point is its relevance, or otherwise, to tens of thousands of diesel owners (including taxi drivers, of course) without a natural option now the Toyota Avensis is gone. Is the Camry for them? Yes, for some I think, though there is a fair step up in size and price. They also have the choice of the quite roomy Corolla hybrid saloon.

Now, talk of MPG and the like is alright as far as it goes, but you need the car to stand scrutiny on other fronts, too. What's the point in frugality if you are uncomfortable and uneasy?

The Camry can hardly be accused of either. We certainly found the test model warmly comfortable with decent rear space, despite the battery being under the back seats.

The dash-centric interactive display was okay - just - there is such competition out there now that one leapfrogs the other on a weekly basis.

And I had to keep changing the relationship between steering wheel height and seat adjustment. Annoying. Couldn't get 'my' setting.

A few passengers/observers were not so sure about the sharply sculpted front either. Me? I think it works. You need something a bit different. Large family/fleet saloons are usually notoriously conservative; this isn't.

It is, as you know, powered by a hybrid system combining a 2.5-litre 4cyl petrol engine, electric motor and battery pack with a total output of 218hp.

That's decent power and, with continuously variable transmission (a different sort of automatic), it had plenty in reserve for the moderate demands I placed on it. I found it to be a seriously easy driver.

What more do you want?

An SUV? Ah, well, now you are prodding a sore point. Who wants a large saloon when you can have an SUV, right?

We can surmise that most people would opt for the SUV, I suppose.

Yet demand for this saloon has been exceptional ever since its arrival was announced last year.

I know its name and reputation carry a lot of cashable clout, but it also goes to show how, if you get the right product out there, people will buy. That's not to say the Camry is a perfect proposition by any means; diesel is still a major long-journey tour de force; my test car didn't do a great job over some poor road surfaces, the boot aperture is shallow, and the lower rear roofline made entry a bit difficult for taller passengers.

Furthermore, €42,000 is a chunk of money for a mainstream saloon, however well technically endowed.

But it is so easy to lose sight of what the Camry does, and is expected to do, superbly well: drive quietly, frugally and smoothly in a manner I took for granted but subsequently noticed by its absence in a different car altogether. That's a sure sign of something above the ordinary.

 

Facts & figures

Toyota Camry

Hybrid saloon: 2.5-litre, 218hp, auto (CVT), 4.3l/100km/ 5.3 l/100km (from 98g/100km), From €180 tax, €39,750. Trim tested: €42,950.

Standard: Safety Sense - adaptive cruise control, road sign assist; 7in t/screen, two-zone climate control, 7in TFT, parking sensors, 17in alloys. 'Sol' adds satnav, leather seat trim, elec/heated front seats. Platinum: 18in alloys, LED headlights, wireless charger.

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