What would happen if you combined one of the most popular family sedans with one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. You might just have made the ideal family car or commuter car. And that’s what Toyota has done with the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid. It’s the Camry, mixed with the Prius, but without the Prius’ (somewhat unwarranted) uncool factor. In fact, the Camry, with its new looks, brings a small amount of hipness to Toyota’s hybrid world.

EXTERIOR

Similar to the standard gasoline Camry, the hybrid version boasts the same all-new looks for the 2018 model year. The only exterior difference is the blue badging on the front, which indicates it’s “green”. Wait, what? Toyota did a phenomenal job with the Camry’s redesign. It’s a little bit longer and wider with a lower profile, but that’s good for a family sedan, especially since as a hybrid, it doesn’t impact the fuel economy. I love the Camry’s new front end. It’s now modern and distinctive.

PERFORMANCE

One of the warranted knocks on the Prius is the lack of power. It’s that stigma that often keeps people from considering any hybrid. The Camry Hybrid has plenty of power, plus hybrid technology. The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine has an electric assist motor to combine for 208 horsepower. The continuously variable transmission is necessary for maximum fuel economy but is really the only negative aspect of the powertrain, and that’s more of a personal preference. I get the need for the technology, I just don’t like it.  There are four driving modes that can alter how the Camry performs. Driving the Camry Hybrid, you forget you’re in a hybrid at all. Off the line it’s fine and on the highway, it performs way better than a Prius would.

INTERIOR

Inside, the Camry Hybrid feels much like the regular Camry. There isn’t any strange styling as there is in the Prius. You wouldn’t even know you’re in a hybrid when you enjoy the increased cabin space in the Camry (thanks to the redesign). Three passengers can sit in the back seat comfortably with shoulder room to spare. The extra length means improved legroom too. The touchpoints are slightly improved over the previous model and that’s never a bad thing. Heated front seats are standard for the Camry Hybrid on the LE and SE trim. Often heated seats aren’t found in hybrids, so this is a nice bonus. The trunk space in the Camry Hybrid is the same as the standard Camry at 15.1 cubic feet. This is another nice surprise as many hybrids have the battery located near the back of the car, thus eating the cargo room. The Camry Hybrid has the electric-assist battery located under the rear seat.

The infotainment system is intuitive to use, but the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support is counter-productive. The apps you get through Toyota’s Entune System can make up for this absence, but if you’re like me, you’d rather just have CarPlay and not worry about learning new apps and systems. My tester had the advanced audio system which included JBL speakers, so the sound quality was fantastic.

TRIM/PRICING

There are three trim offerings for the Camry Hybrid, LE, SE and XLE. My tester was the top of the line XLE trim which includes leather seats, a head-up display and a moonroof. Base price for this top-of-the-line trim is $32,250. My tester, loaded with extra, including the advanced audio system and the driver assistance package had a final MSRP of $37,363.

FUEL ECONOMY

Because it’s a hybrid, the fuel economy is incredible. It is rated at 44 mpg/city and 47 mpg/highway. It’s the most fuel-efficient Camry made. In a week’s worth of driving, I barely moved the fuel needle as it was returned with three-fourths of a tank of gas. The Camry Hybrid does have a slightly smaller fuel tank at 13 gallons as opposed to the 16-gallon tank found in the gasoline Camry.

With rising gas prices, fuel efficiency is cool and something to brag about. The 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid lets you save a little face with your friends who may otherwise ridicule you for driving a Prius, but now you can brag that it’s just a family sedan that rarely needs to stop at a gas station.

SPECS

2018 TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID XLE

Price/As tested price………………….. $32,250/$37,363

Mileage…………………………………… 44 mpg/city; 47 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid

Horsepower…………………………… 208 hp/163 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… CVT

Drive Wheels…………………………. Front-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point……………………. Georgetown, Ky.

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Jimmy Dinsmore

For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - jimmydinsmo[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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