Toyota Camry i-Tech Hybrid 2012 Review

Toyota Camry i-Tech Hybrid 2012 Review

The top-of-the-line Toyota Camry i-Tech is a hybrid with no performance compromise. There’s not a whole lot of price difference between the Camry i-Tech and the Prius i-Tech (only a couple of grand), but while the Prius i-Tech is packed with more features (adaptive cruise control, heated seats, head-up display and a few other comfort items), the Camry focuses more on the driving experience.

A back-country drive through Tahuna, Otway and Te Aroha gave the Camry some serious

bumps and uneven surfaces to contend with where the road is subsiding into the swampy surrounds. Mid-corner attitude was excellent. There’s an expected level of lean into the corners – it’s not a sports car – and this means that it is a pleasant and comfortable cruiser on a longer journey, especially as it’s relatively quiet (compared to the Prius i-Tech). Cruise control is supplied, but seems to wander a bit from the selected speed (possibly the CVT gearbox’s fault).

Fuel economy is quoted as 5.2l/100km on the combined cycle. To achieve this you have to travel between 90-95kph on the open road and accelerate gently. In the real world, you’ll more likely be in the low sixes. That’s still good for a large car (the Toyota Aurion Sportivo I swapped the Camry for is sitting at 7.9l/100km for a similar journey as I write this). Of course, being a hybrid helps, and you can use the EV (full electric mode) to travel up to 2km at up to 45kph. The Camry will stop at the lights and if you accelerate gently will gain momentum using just the electric motor until the petrol motor is required.

Toyota has made the design slightly more striking with stronger edges. The rear of the car has been sharpened up since the last version, which had a very boring look. The spoiler is similar, but new, angular rear lights meet the chrome trim on the boot lid which necessitates the badges to be moved. This results in a more coherent look for the rear.

New-style 10-spoke wheels are more interesting than the 2010 model and at the front a revised grille and splitter with angled fog lights modernizes the look.

Inside there’s a large 7-inch touch screen for the satellite navigation, radio and other media features. The sat nav is generally easy to use but seemed to be a bit behind, missing some roads that had been built at least a year ago – check for an upgrade if you’re purchasing one. The radio operation was annoying and fiddly. Present stations seem to jump about in their position and it was unintuitive to retune the stations. Overall sound quality was good, especially because the level of road and engine noise is quite low. iPod integration was easy to use and you can stream audio over Bluetooth.

The large screen made Bluetooth phone integration convenient, as did the voice recognition (though it didn’t understand my ‘hybrid’ accent every time). Buttons on the steering wheel enable you to pick up and hang up. Additional buttons control the menus and stereo functions. Information such as the trip computer and graphics to display battery/engine usage are shown on a small LCD in the instrument cluster.

Safety features include plenty of airbags (driver’s knee air bag is standard, too), a reversing camera with parking assistance, the usual complement of ABS, traction control and vehicle stability programmes, plus a blind spot warning system (BSM) which displays an orange icon in the wing mirror if a car is in your blind spot on the driver or passenger side.

We drove the original Camry i-Tech back in 2010 and we said it was well worth the wait, but lacking in handling and gearbox response. Thankfully these seem to have been fixed. A dash across the Kaimai Ranges confirmed that you can maintain speed and poise easily, with a dollop of torque to get you past slower cars. The seats don’t appear to be much different, but the only complaint from my passengers were that they felt cold – leather always does when it’s 11 degrees outside, though. An additional passenger comfort feature was the electric blind in the rear view mirror which automatically retracts when you put the car into reverse.

The absence of heated seats in the front was the only omission, in my opinion, from what is a very well-rounded, balanced vehicle. The Camry i-Tech would suit around town or open road motoring for a family or business person. There is sufficient overtaking power and cornering ability to handle New Zealand’s variable road quality, and the interior is well specified.

Looking for more info and specs about the Camry range? Check out Toyota’s NZ website (opens in a new window).

Looking for a second hand Camry? There are plenty for sale here (opens in a new window)

Price: $56,890

Pros

  • Hybrid with power
  • Smooth cruising
  • Good interior room for driver and passengers

Cons

  • Fiddly radio
  • Air conditioning design looks dated and the buttons are a little fiddly

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

 

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