Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
No brand has done more to popularise hybrid technology than Toyota. The Japanese maker has continued to enthusiastically develop hybrid powertrains despite the excitement surrounding purely electric cars.
From a local perspective, Toyota is expanding its range of hybrid models. The next-generation Corolla and RAV4 will have hybrid options available.
At this point in time, electric cars do not make any financial sense. Tesla has done remarkably well to produce functional and desirable electric models, however, genuine affordability is a long way off. Now before anyone has a go, the cost of EVs in Australia has nothing to do with the lack of government subsidies.
Obviously, an interim measure like hybrid technology does make sense as the process of transition builds momentum.
This leads us to some questions, such as what is important to a hybrid buyer and more broadly, can a hybrid variant hold its own and present strong value credentials?
To get some answers this review will assess the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid Ascent, the entry point in the three-model Camry Hybrid range.
After conducting some deep real-world research, the terms that were most prevalent in the minds of buyers considering a hybrid were efficiency, comfort, practicality, technology and price. After a week behind the wheel, we feel confident to address each of these criteria.
This is a bit of a no-brainer. Chances are if you're considering a hybrid, efficiency is something you take seriously. The Camry Hybrid is a remarkably frugal car, we travelled 1052 kilometres during our test week and returned 5.2L/100km.
Despite the result being slightly over the claimed figure, given the mixed driving conditions, it’s a brilliant result for a car of this size. The hybrid technology allows the Camry to undercut the consumption of small cars. For context, the Camry Hybrid matched the fuel consumption we achieved in the much smaller Suzuki Swift.
The Camry is a comfortable car to drive regardless of the drivetrain, however, the hybrid takes comfort and refinement a little further. At low speeds, powered by the battery-driven electric motor, the Camry is eerily quiet. When the 2.5-litre petrol engine is required, the transition is seamless.
Toyota has deployed a CVT automatic which does the job without any of the annoying whine that afflicted earlier versions of this type of transmission.
Providing the foundation of the new Camry is the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), the new platform has allowed engineers to tweak the car’s packaging. Most noteworthy in this instance is the location of the car’s battery, it has been moved from the boot to underneath the rear seat which lowers the vehicle's centre of gravity. This somewhat innocuous move hasn't just liberated some boot space, it's improved the driving experience.
In hybrid form, the Camry isn’t as loose in the rear suspension as the four-cylinder variant. While it can’t match the sports tune we sampled in the V6, the additional beef does settle the ride down.
Noise suppression is impressive, refinement at highway speeds is well above the segment average. It cruises effortlessly over long distances.
No one could argue the toss when it comes to the Camry’s practicality. Every generation of the car can raise this flag without hesitation.
Importantly, there is an acreage of room inside the cabin that will easily accommodate a family of five without issue.
It’s no secret, the traditional passenger car is now well and truly on the backfoot. All the momentum is now with the SUV and it’s become the most popular body style in Australia, but good luck finding any SUV that offers the same amount of space for the cost of the Camry.
Technophiles will notice the Ascent trim level is missing some of latest gadgetry. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not included, neither is satellite navigation and blind spot monitoring.
Disappointingly, Toyota hasn’t included the new 7.0-inch driver information display in the instrument cluster, instead lumbering the Ascent trim level with the older 4.2-inch unit. It doesn’t stop there, Ascent buyers also miss out on the larger infotainment screen found in other grades. It seems silly to quibble over an inch, but it’s noticeable.
Overall, the safety package is a strong one, Toyota’s pre-collision tech is included which brings autonomous emergency braking and lane departure alert with steering assist. Independent crash tester ANCAP has awarded all 2018 Camry variants a five-star safety score.
The Ascent Hybrid is priced at $29,990 plus on-road costs which means a premium of only $2,300 over the petrol Ascent. It’s plenty of car for the coin. 
Some of that extra cash will be returned by way of reduced running costs. Our data has the hybrid set-up using a third less fuel (2.6L/100km) than the straight four-cylinder model.
It’s not just the purchase price that’s sharp. After what seems like an eternity of over servicing, the new platform has provided Toyota with the means to restructure its service schedule. New Camrys now have service intervals of 12 months/15,000km. The first five visits back to the dealer cost a very competitive $195 each under Toyota’s capped-price program.
Warranty coverage is nothing special at three years/100,000km but it doesn’t need to be. While three years is fast becoming outdated, Toyota’s reputation for reliability and build quality resonates well with local new car buyers meaning it’s very unlikely to be a deal breaker.
All this brings us to some final thoughts none of which are of the earth-shattering kind. The Camry Hybrid is an efficient, comfortable and practical family car. In the Ascent trim level, it does lack some of the latest toys one might expect of a car with a drivetrain that embraces new technology.
What we can’t get away from is the initial purchase price, low maintenance costs and the level of efficiency the hybrid system can deliver. The Camry Hybrid isn’t a car that is trying to be all things to all buyers, but it does offer something for most of them.
2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid Ascent Specifications
Price from $29,990 plus on-road costs Engine 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol hybrid Power 131kW @ 5700rpm Engine Torque 221Nm @ 3600-5200rpm Electric Motor Power 88kw Electric Motor Torque 202Nm Combined Power Output 160kW Transmission CVT automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 4.2L/100km Tank Capacity 50L Length 4885mm Width 1840mm Height 1445mm Wheelbase 2825mm Performance 0-100km 8.5 seconds Turning Circle 12.2m Kerb Weight 1580-1635kg Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty three year/100,000km