I had never thought I would buy a hybrid of any sort, especially coming from a 2016 VW Golf with a small capacity turbo-charged engine, I had just about promised myself I would always want something with a turbo. However times changed, and I wanted to upgrade to a much larger vehicle.
Originally, I first looked at the top spec Camry SL in 2.5-litre four-cylinder trim, however during a test drive, the car just felt heavy, slow and awkward. By chance I later test drove a base spec Ascent Hybrid – and was instantly sold.
I had my reservations about CVTs (having previously owned a 2014 Corolla), but found the Hybrid Camry CVT had minimal drone, even under heavy acceleration. That electric surge is also very addictive. So the decision was made, Camry Hybrid it was. Then came the problems...
First to decide on colour and spec. After much consideration, I opted for frosted white in Ascent Sport trim. A modest price increase over base Ascent and getting extra goodies like a body kit, slightly bigger infotainment screen, sat-nav (more on that later), smart key, larger driver's MID and leather steering wheel.
I ultimately opted away from the top spec SL Hybrid as I just couldn’t justify a $10k price premium over the Ascent Sport Hybrid. Decisions made, the second problem presented itself. There was simply no stock available anywhere. I put my deposit down in May of 2018 and finally took delivery in September of 2018. Four months of waiting and I was beginning to wonder whether it would be worth it. I have since put 6000km on the car and loved it, but there's no such thing as a perfect car.
To begin, one of the most impressive features of this car by far has been its efficiency. I calculate my own average fuel economy at the pump each time by dividing distance travelled since last fill up and litres purchased at this fill up. I have seen numbers ranging from 3.9L/100km to no higher than 4.6L/100km. It’s rated at 4.2L/100km, so really not bad.
Annoyingly Hybrid Camry carries only a 50L tank instead of the 60L for non-Hybrid Camry’s. I can only assume this is to accommodate the Hybrid battery. Usually the trade off for efficiency is performance. Whilst this is no rocket ship, the car accelerates surprisingly briskly and smoothly, allowing you to zip in and out of traffic easily and pull hard on the motorway. Standard multi-link rear suspension also helps bring that added level of composure. Very impressed, top marks here.
Base Ascent and Ascent Sport are both trimmed in cloth upholstery, and while I would much prefer leather accented, the seats are still very comfortable (with driver's electric lumbar support) and highly adjustable seats (electric on driver's side) to suit all body types in conjunction with adjustability of the steering wheel.
There’s plenty of room both in the front and back, the boot is massive, and in Ascent Sport trim, and above has an external release (thank you Toyota). A few points are lost though as general glass, floor and door insulation could benefit from extra sound-deadening materials. Overall, a very comfortable vehicle to travel in.
Generally, the tech featured in this car is what you would expect from a car in 2018. The standard radar cruise, AEB and lane departure warning with steering assist is impressive. Every car should come standard with radar cruise, especially in this car being able to bring the vehicle to a complete stop – makes start-stop traffic a breeze.
I have found the AEB a little sensitive, but do not mind the occasional warnings (I know the sensitivity can be adjusted). However, the lane departure warning with steering assist needs fine tuning. It is either overly sensitive, tugging the steering wheel and beeping at you regularly or simply lying dormant like it doesn’t know there’s lines on the ground.
I have resorted to turning off the steering assist completely. The standard sat-nav is also a complete joke, forget it. Toyota has copped a lot recently for no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. My previous Golf had it and I loved it. While it’s not a deal breaker for me, I would love to have the option at least to either mirror my phone or use maps on my phone. The infotainment does gain a few points back for surprisingly good sound quality from the speakers.
To date, I haven’t had a single reliability issue with this car which is really what you would expect from a Toyota. I am expecting trouble free motoring from this car for years to come and if anyone else is looking at not buying an SUV and would prefer a traditional three box sedan, I would highly recommend you consider the Camry. Just hope you don’t get mistaken for an Uber.