5 June 2018

Toyota Camry Hybrid 2018 Car Review

The most immediately obvious change to this latest Camry is its looks. Toyota seems finally to have taken on board the once regular comment that its cars may be reliable, but their styling has been rather boring, and though the majority of buyers may not be vehicular enthusiasts, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like a handsome car in the driveway.

Toyota Camry hybrid jm 18
Toyota Camry
toyota camry hybrid jm5 18
Toyota Camry
toyota camry hybrid jm6 18
Toyota Camry
toyota camry hybrid jm8 18
Toyota Camry
toyota camry hybrid jm10 18
Toyota Camry

So the latest Camry looks more dynamic, the interior is more stylish, and the hybrid makes few concessions to traditional ‘eco warrior’ flourishes: this ZR spec is, after all, the headliner of the line-up.

That means it gets the highest price – yes, it costs more than the V6 version – the longest features list, and – once a rarity for a hybrid – sufficient dynamism to feel like a conventional car, without levying as high a cost at the pump as its conventional equivalent.

It even gets 18-inch alloy wheels with an attractive design that in no way screams ‘aero’, as did those of early hybrids. Nor does the CVT transmission, for you can now change gear via steering-wheel-mounted paddles to inject more than an illusion of vigour into your drive. Don’t forget that quoted figures for hybrids can be slightly misleading, as electric engines deliver maximum torque from basement revs, which means off-the-line punch in any hybrid is strong, though it then drops off as the petrol engine picks up. Hybrids of old mated a small petrol unit to an electric motor, with fuel economy rather than performance top of mind. Hybrids like this one, or its Lexus relatives, take a slightly different approach – with the combo delivering more performance than expected from the capacity without boosting petrol use, rather than saving fuel by cutting the petrol engine’s capacity.

Fortunately this Camry hybrid also handles much better than past versions. The MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear set-up gets front and rear stabilizer bars and ‘pitch and bounce control’. It’s still no race car, but you can now drive with zest without immediately feeling your gut clench as the car sledges, wallows, or otherwise frightens the pants off you. Indeed the set-up seems comfortable with a lively approach, as it can now show off a bit with that torque…

Naturally, driving with zest will not give you the 4.5litre/100km fuel consumption figure Toyota quotes. Indeed, our tester’s hilly home roads, daily running about and test loop is a light on urban and highway stretches, and it’s urban stop-start traffic which shows Toyota’s hybrid system at its best. So the average over the test period evened out at 6.7l/100km, still not bad for a car this size being driven largely over demanding hilly roads. Given much urban driving it would have come down, as evidenced from a single 15-minute chunk spent crawling through traffic in an Auckland suburb at school closing time, when the car ran on electric alone for 12 of the 15 minutes, and used around 3.5 litres per 100km, or less, for the three minutes the petrol engine fired. Think the battery must have been all but empty? It wasn’t – for school closing time means lots of decelerating and stopping, and there was as much charging going on as draining of electricity reserves.Impressive.

Standard specification is high on any Camry these days, with auto emergency braking, dynamic radar cruise control, auto high beam, lane departure alert and a reversing camera all standard, along with the usual suite of airbag and braking, stability and traction control. There’s auto headlight levelling, too, air con, radar cruise control, hands-free phone capability with voice recognition, satnav, an eight-inch touchscreen, blind spot alert and rear cross traffic alert, three USB ports, eight-way power adjust front seats, leather seat and trim accents, front and rear seat ventilation, a tilt and inner slide sun roof, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and various exterior trim flourishes like the sports side skirts and dual exhaust tip, plus more. Oh yes, and a glass radio antenna, which may be slightly less efficient than ideal in NZ’s more rural areas, if this may annoy you, insist on trying on home roads before you buy.

That 524-litre boot is spacious even when you don’t fold the seats – the gap through from the boot is pretty narrow anyway – and under its floor, as well as tyre-change tools, there are a few small wells to tuck compact valuables out of sight when you’re at the beach.

Overall this latest Camry – certainly in ZR spec – can compete on its own merits against mainstream competitors. Eco warriors may buy it to say they run a hybrid, others may acquire it without thinking about the powerplant, to have a spacious and practical Toyota in the drive that is smarter than ever before, with any petrol savings simply a bonus.

At a glance


Toyota Camry ZR Hybrid


2487cc petrol with hybrid electric motor



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

 131kW at 5700rpm petrol only, 221Nm at 3600 to 5200rpm: hybrid electric system 88kW/202Nm, total combined power 160kW


CVT auto with eco, normal, sport and EV modes and steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles for sequential shift

Fuel economy


Towing capacity



2WD to fronts

Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

524 litres

Safety systems

Lane departure warning with steering assist

Autonomous emergency braking

Auto high beam

Rear cross traffic alert

Blind spot mointor

2 Isofix, 3 child seat tethers

Reverse camera with parking sensors front and rear

Bluetooth hands free

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