What motivates people to keep coming back to Toyota showrooms to buy Camrys?
You never hear a car enthusiast waxing poetic over a Camry, but any manufacturer would kill to have the sales of this model. So what is it about this thing that allows Toyota to sell them nearly as quickly as they can make them?
Pricing: 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE
Base price (Hybrid XLE trim): $29,235
Options: $6,085 Leather and Premium Audio Package
A/C and other taxes: $100
Price as tested: $37,040
Under the Hood
Toyota’s now-familiar hybrid drivetrain pulls this Camry around town. A 2.5-litre inline-4 (running on the very lean but torque-poor Atkinson cycle) coupled with an electric motor puts out a net 200 horsepower. The front wheels are driven through a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that also offers a “B” mode – Putting the shifter into “B” uses regenerative braking as a kind of engine braking “for enhanced control on steep descents”.
The fuel economy is rated at 4.7 L/100 km (50 US mpg) in the city, 5.1 L/100 km (46 US mpg) on the highway and 4.9 L/100 km (48 mpg) for the combined cycle. I averaged a decent 6.8 L/100 km (35 US mpg) during my time with it, which was made up of almost all city driving – mostly slow commuting and some short freeway cruising. I managed to eke out 6.1 L/100 km when I reviewed this same model last summer. The fuel tank has a 64 litre capacity.
I was surprised to see the Camry only weighs 3,441 pounds.
The styling, as is the case for the last few generations of Camry, continues to evolve. Toyota wouldn’t be silly enough to revolutionize the look of something that sells this well. And so it continues to take small steps in slightly new directions, even when it is advertised as all-new. The current shape certainly took a scalpel to some elements – most noticeably the front and rear fascias. There are updated headlight clusters, a more integrated looking front end, and the tail lights flow nicely into the upper line of the trunk lid’s vertical part.
The 17″ wheels are handsome and are wearing 215/55-sized tires.
Although the rear quarter of the car is big and there’s a lot of metal to look at, it doesn’t seem too heavy and the proportions are decent.
Otherwise, the lines are clean and…. well, Camry. They won’t offend anyone, but they’re not going to get many second looks either. This is just my opinion, but I almost think there are a few cues to the new exterior styling that remind me of the Camry from a couple of generations back. It’s a nice looking car, to be sure, but there’s nothing exciting about it. Watch for this theme throughout my review.
I found the front to be relatively spacious. Headroom isn’t amazing, but it is sufficient, and there’s room to stretch out a bit.
There’s an interesting blend of shapes and lines inside, including some new takes on sculpting the dash. The materials are nice to look at for the most part, but I feel that they are behind the curve in terms of quality. Some surfaces are borderline soft-touch, and there’s some attractive stitching across the dash. Unfortunately there are a couple of truly offensive touches Toyota added. I really take issue with the two trim pieces that flank the center stack’s bottom, where it meets the center console. They are hard plastic, and they have fake stitch-marks cast into them. Fake stitch marks cast into hard plastic pieces are just insulting and it looks crappy. I’d rather not have the stitch marks. I thought that was a weird corner to cut.
The manually adjustable steering wheel is nice, and has a bigger diameter than I expected. It’s comfortable to hold and use, and has buttons for media, phone and handsfree operations. Of note, the control pads look like something the army would use to control a Predator drone – they mean business!
Behind it sits a hooded instrument bin with a gauge cluster exclusive to the hybrid Camry. There’s a large central speedometer with a driver information screen in the middle. It lets you scroll through your fuel range and average fuel consumption, average speed and elapsed driving time, your average fuel economy since starting the vehicle and hybrid power flow graphics.
The speedometer is flanked by 1/3-of-a-circle gauges on either side – a CHG-ECO-PWR gauge showing you where the power is coming from on the left (and a small digital screen showing engine temperature, gear selection and outside temperature) and a fuel gauge and analog average fuel economy gauge on the right. These are squished together, and are difficult to read.
There’s also a small digital screen on this side, allowing you to switch between the odometer and two trip meters.
The seats are quite comfortable, and upholstered in Ultrasuede and trimmed with leather – apparently this is exclusive to the hybrid as well. Both front seats are power adjustable and heated – I just wish Toyota had added a little more bolstering to them.
The center stack starts with a standard Toyota “Hi, I’m out of a car from 20 years ago” digital clock – it even gets its own hooded bin. Underneath it sits a 6.1″ touchscreen and below that, a dual-zone automatic climate control system.
The touchscreen controls the media system, and is augmented with hard buttons allowing you to select which function you want to head to. The sound system is JBL-branded and it sounds very good. You have a full complement of sources: AM, FM, satellite, CD, auxiliary, USB and streaming Bluetooth.
The center console has the gear selector on the left, and two cupholders on the right. The armrest is comfortable and nicely upholstered.
Overhead, you’ll find a typical power tilt and slide sunroof with a manually sliding sun shade and there’s a 3-position HomeLink garage door opener ahead of it. There’s not a ton of driver assistance tech, but you do get a blind spot monitoring system, as well as a backup camera. There are no audible distance sensor warnings but there are nice distance markings, allowing you to see when you’re getting close to something.
It’s not a very exciting interior to be in, but everything functions well and it is well laid out. Fit and finish seems to be very good.
The Camry has three seats in the back – with three seatbelts and three headrests. The two main seats are very comfortable and trimmed the same way the fronts are. The center seat is narrow and raised, making it significantly less comfortable, but there is only a small raised part of the floor, so if you are stuck in the middle, it’s not the worst thing in the world as your legs would be comfortable enough.
First of all, rear seat leg and foot room is absolutely amazing. It is very roomy, and allows for great comfort. Headroom is acceptable – the roof is scalloped up over the rear seats so the sunroof doesn’t intrude too badly. Being a rear seat passenger in this car on a road trip wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.
You get nice door bins with bottle holders, a dome reading light and two seatback map pockets. There are adjustable air vents on the back of the center console, but nothing else. No 12V plug, no storage. It’s a bit spartan.
The middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with two cupholders in it. There are 2 LATCH anchors for kids seats. We got all three kids back there, and they were relatively comfortable. Legroom was great, but width-wise, it was just OK.
At the bottom of the center stack, there’s a flip-up lid – behind it is a nice, deep rubberized bin with USB, auxiliary and 12V plugs. On the center console, behind the shift lever, there’s a flip-up lid covering a small storage bin that has another 12V plug in it – I don’t like that you are unable to close the lid if you’re using that plug. The armrest lid covers a large, carpeted bin with a good amount of usable space, and there’s a decent sized glove compartment too. Door bins are well thought-out – easy to access, long enough to use and with an integrated bottle holder.
On the underside of the dash to the left of the steering wheel, you’ll find a nice pop-out carpeted bin.
The trunk in the hybrid Camry is compromised because of hybrid parts requiring extra space. It’s still a decent trunk at 370 litres – it’s large, deep and easily accessed. The rear seats split 60/40 and the larger portion folds down – but that doesn’t really add more cargo space since the hybrid’s battery is in the way. All you get is a small (approximately 6”x14”) pass-through port for longer skinny items.
While not quick, the drivetrain provides enough pull off the line and around town – there’s no lag when you want to get going from a stop, and it pulls easily into traffic. It’s not a fast car but there’s enough power to get up to any speed during normal driving and when you step on it, you’ll feel the instant torque of the electric motor kick in.
Of course the CVT is very smooth and I found it to be intelligent. I rarely caught it making the annoying whining sound these transmissions are famous for.
The ride is exceptionally comfortable and soft. The car is supple and luxurious over bumps and it easily soaks up big hits and dips. Handling is where you’ll need to make a compromise. There’s a ton of body roll around corners and the electronic steering is incredibly vague – you can’t count on a shred of feedback. You can hold a wake for it on center, because it’s dead as dead can be. With that said, the car does grip the pavement around corners and is relatively predictable.
The brakes are grabby – typical for a hybrid, as it uses regenerative braking forces to charge the battery.
The hybrid Camry offers EV mode, which allows you to drive in full electric mode (under light throttle up to a certain speed) and ECO mode, which dulls the responsiveness to eke out every possible opportunity of saving a drop of gas. Unnecessary, in my opinion.
The Camry is very quiet. Road noise is well damped and engine and wind noise levels are very low. The engine only lets you know it’s there when you step on it and there was no noticeable wind noise until I was traveling at highway speeds. I really liked the visibility out of the Camry – it’s great from every angle.
Although there’s nothing that really stands out in the way the Camry drives, it does most things well and competently. Whoops, there’s that theme again.
There is no pull handle inside the trunk lid, which means you’ve got to put your hand on the trunk lid itself to close it – if it’s dirty, you’ll be getting yourself dirty, and you’ll see your handprints on it. A silly and unnecessary omission. I’d also really appreciate another 12V plug in the trunk.
I can truthfully say that nothing surprised me about the Camry.
It really does most things well. It doesn’t do a spectacular job at anything, but that’s how it’s got to where it is today. Toyota has consistently built a car that will comfortably and competently transport people from point A to point B. It will do so reliably, with great fuel economy and with enough space for the passengers to be happy.
You’ll likely never get excited about getting into your Camry, but there are plenty of people that will gladly trade the excitement factor for basic reliable transportation, and you’re guaranteed that here.
If the Hybrid is a bit pricey, the cheaper 4-cylinder Camry provides plenty of power for almost any situation and provides fantastic fuel economy.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was actually quite high for this car. She thought it looks “nice”, she felt the interior was very comfortable, and she loved how roomy the back seats were. For the kids, people. Sheesh. She also appreciated the lit vanity mirrors, because without them, she’s less of a woman. A note of interest – lit vanity mirrors come as part of the option package.
I give the Toyota Camry Hybrid a 7.5 out of 10. I’m surprised at how high I scored this car, but in looking at it from a consumer’s perspective, there’s nothing this car doesn’t do well. It has earned its reputation as a safe, dependable (albeit boring) choice. It’s built well, it’s designed well, it looks fine, it drives well, and it transports people and things well. I had very little to nitpick and after spending some time with one, I understand why there are so many Camrys driving around. The competition is fierce, though, and it’s an interesting segment.
It might not be for everyone, but it’s a nice car that will suit most people. It makes sense.
If you’re alright with the “compromise” of having a car that does everything well instead of being great at a couple of things, and you’re aware of this when you’re shopping, you’ll likely never regret buying a Camry. And you’ll likely never have a problem reselling it to a like-minded person. There are lots of them out there. As to the hybrid, it’s a pricier proposition to be sure, and it would take a number of years to recoup the savings at the pump. Especially when compared to the shockingly frugal 4-cylinder Camry.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Toyota Canada.
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