- Trim Tested: Camry Hybrid XSE
- Price as Tested: $36,485 (estimated, including destination charge)
- Likes: Surprisingly sporty looking; super quiet cabin; smooth ride
- Dislikes: A little sluggish to get started; loud engine noise under heavy acceleration
- Changes for 2021: The 2021 Camry hybrid gets a mild refresh, with tweaked front-end styling and new touchscreen options. The Hybrid is now available in the top-of-the-line, sporty XSE trim, which we tested.
The Prius has been Toyota’s best-selling hybrid for more than a decade, but for drivers who want the comfort of a popular midsize sedan with a style that doesn’t scream “I’m using less gasoline!”, the Camry Hybrid is a top contender. We drove one for a week, and these are our impressions.
How It Drives
The Camry Hybrid is largely inoffensive as a daily driver, and that’s better than it sounds. Yes, it can be a little sluggish getting started – particularly when backing up. Even though it’s running on battery power at low speeds, it doesn’t quite have the urgency of a pure electric vehicle.
Still, lackluster power from a stop aside, it’s easy to get passing power from the Camry Hybrid at highway speeds, something the Prius can’t always do, in our experience.
When it comes to handling, the Camry Hybrid is a strong performer, with one caveat – it has what seems to be an absurdly wide turning radius. Yes, the Camry has grown in length over the years, but in a typical parking lot, I had to make a few attempts to get it out of and into parking spaces. The steering, on the other hand, is responsive, and there’s little body lean when taking sharp curves.
Interior Comfort & Quality
As a cruiser, it’s tough to beat the Camry Hybrid. It’s nicely quiet in the cabin on long highway trips, regardless of the type of road surface. The seats are comfortable and easy to adjust, and there’s little road or wind noise, no matter what speed the car is traveling.
On the downside, the engine can be loud whenever it’s asked for a surge of power, and the exhaust note is harsh, not soothing. Also, because of the car’s continuously variable automatic transmission, the engine revs out of sync with increases in speed, which adds to the cognitive dissonance – meaning, it just doesn’t make the right noises at the right time.
The ride quality is incredibly smooth, absorbing any and all bumps without broadcasting those hits to the passengers in the cabin. Given its price, it’s a lot smoother than a lot of luxury cars we’ve driven; tack on the gas savings, and it’s a great choice for anyone who has to tackle a longer-than-average commute.
The cabin is very nice for an affordable midsize sedan, with lots of storage cubbies, including a fairly sizable one between the two front seats. The surfaces feel premium, as do the switches and knobs.
Technology & Usability
Most of the high tech stuff in the Camry Hybrid relates to its powertrain. But there are plenty of creature comforts as well. The updated touchscreen is large, clear, and within easy reach of the driver.
The Camry Hybrid has a nice sliding charging tray for smartphones. In theory, you place the phone there, push it back out of the way, and off you go. Unfortunately, drivers can only connect to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto by using a cable, and the tray doesn’t handle a phone very well with the cord sticking out. Toyota has only in the last few years adopted CarPlay (and even more recently Android Auto).
For the gas-saving nerds, though, there are plenty of mpg displays that can be accessed to see how well they’re doing.
The Camry Hybrid gets a slew of advanced driver-assist features as standard, but unfortunately, blind spot warning is still an option.
Carfax vehicle overviews let shoppers compare a vehicle’s specs against its competitors. However, some aspects of a vehicle – performance, comfort, usability – can only be evaluated through actual driving. That’s why we evaluate as many vehicles as we can, so you’ll know what to expect.