In addition to a more expressive design, the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid offers improved fuel economy, a sportier driving experience, and a long list of standard active safety features. But it also misses the mark with an SE version that falls short of being sporty and a lower seat height that may lack appeal in a market that's shifting to crossovers.

Best Value

Pricing for the 2018 Camry Hybrid, available in LE, SE, and XLE trims, starts at $28,870 for the LE and can top $38,000 for a fully-optioned and accessorized XLE model.

Standard equipment for all models includes the usual power features plus dual-zone automatic climate control, a 4.2-inch multi-information display, fabric-covered seats (heated in front), layered wood interior trim, keyless push-button start, an electric parking brake, and LED rear seat reading lights. Exterior accoutrements include auto on/off Bi-LED headlights, and LED taillights and daytime running lights. Advanced safety features on all models include a rearview camera, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.

The mid-grade Camry Hybrid SE is our best value pick. It gets 18-inch black machined-finish alloy wheels, a block front grille, color-keyed sport side rocker panels, a color-keyed rear spoiler, an embossed mesh interior trim, faux leather seats, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters. Here's how we'd build it:

  • Model: 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE
  • Engine: 2.5-liter inline-four / 88-kW electric motor
  • Output: 208 hp / 163 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Eight-speed electronically controlled continuously variable transmission
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 44 City / 47 Hwy
  • Options: Audio Package with options ($3,625, eight-inch color screen and an Entune infotainment, navigation, wireless charge pad, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, anti-theft system, HomeLink, and sunroof)
  • Base Price: $30,570 (including a $920 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $34,195

Performance

Toyota Camry Hybrid

The 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid comes with a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine operating on the Atkinson cycle for greater efficiency. The engine works in sync with an electric motor, the latter powering the sedan under light demand or combining with the engine to deliver 208 system horsepower. Power travels to the front wheels by means of a continuously variable automatic transmission.

In addition to being more efficient, we like the hybrid's performance better than that of the base engine in the standard Camry. Credit the instant-on torque from the electric motor, which gives it a sprightly feel off the line. It's an efficient system, too, making an EPA-estimated 44 miles per gallon in the city, 47 mpg on the highway, and 46 combined in the SE and XLE. If you prefer the base model – a limited equipment offering is the trade-off here – it returns an even more generous EPA-estimated 51 mpg city, 53 highway, and 52 combined, which is outstanding for a mid-size sedan. Our own observed fuel economy in an XLE was right on the mark with a vehicle-measured 46.2 mpg in a mix of around-town and freeway driving.

But in a vehicle whose worth is primarily measured in fuel efficiency figures, a number of parameters also take a back seat, including a steering system that displays too much on-center weight with little road feel, as well as a braking system that, on occasion, exhibited some confusing behavior in low-speed backup maneuvers.

Style

Sportier and more upscale and expressive than the outgoing model, the new Camry Hybrid is an inch lower as well as slightly longer and wider. Up front, LED-enhanced headlight enclosures bracket a narrow upper air intake and sit above a massive lower grille containing six horizontal bars that wrap around the fascia. Along the sides, smartly executed lines include an upper crease that begins just aft of the front wheel well, bisects both door handles, and finishes just forward of the gas filler door. In back, narrow horizontal LED taillights sit just below the gently sloping, coupe-like, roofline.

This more aggressive-looking exterior is wrapped around an interior with changes that are evident everywhere, but especially across the dashboard and center console that borrow a number of their asymmetric styling cues from the stunning Lexus LC 500. The lower front seats were entirely redesigned, now more rounded and deeply dished with firmer bolsters for additional comfort on long trips. In addition, a new, larger seven-inch touch-screen dominates the center dashboard, while a mix of bold colors and soft-touch materials gives everything a premium feel – even echoing some Lexus models from a generation or two earlier.

Four can sit comfortably, but a fifth in back can manage. We like that Toyota placed the battery pack under the rear seat, giving this sedan 15.1 cubic feet of cargo space, as well as a split rear seat – the same as the gasoline-only Camry. Like the regular Camry, however, the pass-through opening between the trunk and the back seat is on the small side and we were barely able to load a 52cm road bike between the two, even though there was plenty of overall room to spare.

Drawbacks are few and include a lower seating position in both front and back that clashes with the raised hip point of increasingly popular crossovers, while the gap between the rear door pillar and the front edge of the rear seat cushion is narrow and could present a problem for older or less mobile rear seat passengers.

The Best and Worst Things

The Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) package is standard, adding automatic high beams, lane departure warning with steering assist, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control with full stop.

At the same time, Toyota’s styling improved with the last Camry Hybrid and has only gotten better with this one, but while this new model isn't offensive, it's too polarizing – especially in non-sporty models.

Right For? Wrong For?

Toyota Camry Hybrid

The Camry Hybrid is perfect for eco-conscious buyers who want vehicle electrification without range anxiety or even the hassle of connecting a charging cord as found in plug-in hybrids. The fuel efficiency level of today’s hybrids has only gotten better, and with gas prices expected to climb, buying before demand builds means discounts can be negotiated.

It should go without saying, but driving enthusiasts should look elsewhere. It looks more aggressive, but this is still a Camry. And with Honda providing hybrid efficiency in a package that drives as well as the new Accord, is it really necessary shop another brand?

The Bottom Line

Despite improved but still mundane handling with a low seat height in a market increasingly dominated by crossovers, Toyota continues to flex its green credentials with a more expressively-designed 2018 Camry Hybrid that offers improved fuel economy and a long list of standard active safety features. The winners here are consumers, who are offered the brand's best mid-size hybrid yet.