When's the last time you saw someone get excited about a Toyota Camry? It's probably been a while, if ever. But pizazz isn't what sells cars in high volume, and Toyota has appealed to people's sense of practicality and need for security. The Camry is the top-selling car in America – in 2015, the automaker moved more than 429,000 of them off dealership lots and into the hands of consumers.
Aside from practical buyers, there's a reason Toyota sells so many Camrys: they're roomy, fuel efficient and not unpleasant to look at. That's not to say the Camry is going to get your heart rate up – it won't. But it's the classic American family car, and it survived both the recession and pickup trucks/crossover vehicle market dominance. That's why Camry, as a brand, has been synonymous with reliability for many years now.
Add a hybrid powertrain into the mix, and the Camry's around-town economy gets even better. The base Camry is rated at 25 miles per gallon city, 35 mpg highway, and the hybrid model pushes that up to 40 city, 38 highway. In real-world driving, I found the city number to be more-or-less accurate, but the highway number dropped as average speed climbed on a New York-to-Boston round-trip.
Added weight from the hybrid's battery pack felt a little ponderous in town but seemed to make the car more stable on the highway. Even at the upper end of acceptable highway speeds, the Camry Hybrid was solid as a rock. Not a shimmy or shake was felt, even deep in the pockets of traffic-choked, off-kilter curves on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Comfortable seating added to its touring car appeal, as did an infotainment system that featured easy-to-use knobs and buttons.
Like the Corolla, the Camry has a quiet, dignified interior. There isn't a lot of clutter, and the controls are easy to find. Toyota doesn't take chances on moving things around too much, and that's good for consumers with little time to dedicate to such new challenges.
There were a couple of drawbacks, though, that might make the Camry Hybrid a strange choice. With its large size and high weight, it's not really a city car. But the battery pack that added to high-speed stability also took a major toll on cargo capacity – the hybrid's trunk is 2.3 cubic feet smaller than that of the standard Camry. That's less trunk than can be found in a Honda Civic.
City dwellers and highway travelers may be better off buying a Prius or standard Camry, respectively. But we can see why the Camry hybrid – with its comfortable seating, spacious interior, smooth ride and great in-town mileage – will continue to appeal to cab drivers, suburban errand runners and others who never have to parallel park in the city.
By the numbers: 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE
MSRP: $32,217 (estimated price as tested, includes $835 destination charge)
Power and drive wheels: 2.5-liter, 200-horsepower (net) 4-cylinder gas-electric hybrid; front-wheel drive
EPA fuel economy: 40/38 city/highway mpg
Safety: http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/toyota/camry-4-door-sedan IIHS Top Safety Pick +; Five-star government crash test rating
In showrooms: Now