2010 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Base price: $26,900
As tested: $32,515
MPG: 33 city/34 highway
- Toyota reputation for reliability and high resale
- Increased fuel economy over non-hybrid Camry
- Overall good performance, room, safety features
- Four-cylinder non-hybrid Camry better value with similar mileage
- Annoying hybrid “shudder”
- Competitive brands offer excellent alternatives
By Jim Prueter
Camry gets minor updates and unique styling changes
Toyota Camry has never been the kind of car that inspires people to follow you home and ask what kind of car you’re driving. No “thumbs ups” from fellow motorists, no head turning either. But, it has always been a good value, built with quality and well thought-out in design. Camry has also traditionally maintained high resale value; used-car buyers aware of its excellent reliability record keep it on the top of their list of desirable vehicles. But often, words like “uninspiring,” “Vanilla” and “boring” have been used to describe it.
Still, since 1980, more than 10 million drivers worldwide have chosen the Camry, with 6.6 million of those sold in the U.S. alone since 1983. This consistency has earned the Camry “top seller” status most years. With that kind of staying power, you’re doing a lot of things right.
Now in its fourth model year since its last major redesign, Camry receives numerous mechanical and styling modifications as part of a “mid-cycle update.”
The Camry Hybrid’s exterior changes for 2010 are more noticeable than the regular Camry’s. The grille sheds the two-blade design in favor of a sportier blacked out look, there’s a larger center air dam on the lower front fascia and rear taillamps forego predominantly red lenses in favor of a clear look.
The 2010 Camry Hybrid is powered by the same 2.4-liter four-cylinder 187-horsepower Atkinson cycle coupled with an electric motor as when it was first introduced for 2007. The motor’s dedicated battery recharges off friction caused when braking. The vehicle can run solely on electric power at speeds up to about 25 mph for two miles, and attains an estimated 33/34 city/highway fuel economy. That compares to 22/32 mileage for the 2.5-liter non-hybrid four-cylinder and 19/28 for the 3.5-liter non-hybrid V-6 Camry.
As with any vehicle, including a hybrid, your success in achieving record fuel economy depends largely on your driving habits. Lead-footed drivers heavy on the gas pedal will not fare as well as more conservative drivers, but watching the vehicle’s information panel can help you modify bad driving habits to improve fuel economy. Our test car’s trip computer showed 34.7 mpg in an approximate 50/50 mix of city and highway driving over 480 miles.
The 2010 Camry Hybrid has a base price of $26,900, and you’ll pay a premium for the increased fuel economy: $6500 more over the base Camry, $4250 over the LE, $2165 more than the sportier SE model, but $184 less than the top-of-the-line XLE Camry. Our well-furnished test car listed at $32,515, including niceties like leather upholstery, DVD navigation, upgraded audio system, power moonroof and heated seats.
Unless you drive an exceptional number of miles, with gasoline between $2.75 and $3 per gallon, it will take quite a while to earn back the premium hybrid price in fuel-cost-savings alone.
Tax credits may change the math some, however there is no federal tax credit for the Toyota Camry as there is for other hybrid, natural gas or diesel powered vehicles at this time. You can check www.hybridcars.com for a list of vehicles that qualify and their amount.
Similar to the Camry Hybrid we tested for 2007, the four-cylinder gasoline makes an annoying shudder when it automatically comes to life when taking over for the electric motor as more power is demanded from the driver or when the vehicle exceeds 25 mph. Unlike in the Camry, this transition was barely noticeable in the Ford Fusion Hybrid we tested.
Performance-wise, we found the Camry to be surprisingly quick. It’s certainly not a sports sedan but not annoyingly slow either. It climbs from zero to 60 mph more quickly than the standard four-cylinder Camry, but is slower than V-6 models.
Standard safety gear includes seven airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution; stability and traction control and tire-pressure-monitoring system. The Camry Hybrid received the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s highest five-star rating in all crash tests.
Toyota does a lot of things right with their vehicles. The carmaker has a knack for knowing what consumers want and expect, and then delivering on those expectations. Not everyone who strives to be environmentally responsible has a lifestyle to accommodate a compact car. With the Camry hybrid, those consumers have found what they’re looking for.
Still, since Camry first introduced their hybrid for 2007, competition has caught up, equaling and in some cases exceeding Toyota’s offering. Vehicles like Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Mercury Milan, Chevrolet Malibu are but a few.
Overall, if you’re in the market for a mid-sized hybrid sedan, Camry is worth a test drive. But we’d recommend driving a few others at the same time. We especially liked the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, whose driving experience was noticeably quieter with much less vibration and shudder when the engine fires up.