For many shoppers, "hybrid" is associated with "expensive." After all, most hybrid cars are far more expensive than their traditional gas-powered counterparts, right? 

Not so with the 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Yes, it's a little more expensive than the standard Camry, but it doesn't command the hybrid premium expected by many shoppers. Instead, it asks you to pay more upfront. In return, it gives you a lot more in fuel economy and range. 

While the Camry Hybrid was once wildly popular thanks to few challengers from rival brands, things have changed in the last few years. New competitors include the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Honda Accord Hybrid, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the Nissan Altima Hybrid -- and more are on their way. While the Camry Hybrid is still an excellent vehicle, we certainly suggest you scout the competition, even if you're a loyal Camry buyer.

What's New for 2014? 

The Camry Hybrid is unchanged for the 2014 model year. 

What We Like 

Gas mileage is an improvement over the standard Camry; pricing is very reasonable; roomy interior; good ride and handling 

What We Don't 

Fuel economy doesn't compare to rivals; build quality could be better 

How Much? 

$26,900-$29,400 

Fuel Economy 

The Camry Hybrid offers one engine: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 156 horsepower from its gasoline engine and 44 hp from its electric motor for a combined 200 hp. The only available transmission is a CVT automatic. Fuel economy ranges from 43 miles per gallon city/39 mpg hwy for the base-level Camry LE Hybrid to 40 mpg city/38 mpg hwy for the upscale Camry XLE Hybrid. The difference is due to the XLE's larger wheels and tires. 

Standard Features & Options 

The Camry Hybrid is offered in two trim levels: LE and XLE. 

Shoppers who pick the base-level LE ($26,900) get keyless entry with push-button starting, 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 6.1-in touchscreen display, a USB/iPod interface, Bluetooth and automatic headlights. 

Step up to the XLE ($29,400) and you'll get 17-in alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power driver's seat and fog lights. 

Major options for the Camry Hybrid include leather upholstery, a power sunroof, a power passenger seat, heated front seats, a navigation system, an upgraded JBL audio system and Toyota's Entune infotainment system, which includes apps, traffic information and other services. 

Safety 

The 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid has the usual assortment of safety equipment and then some, boasting stability control and no fewer than 10 airbags (front, side, side-curtain and knee). A blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert is available on the Camry XLE. 

So how does it all work? In government crash testing, the non-hybrid Camry wasn't perfect, but its scores of four stars for frontal protection, five stars for side protection and four stars for rollover protection were good enough to earn the maximum overall score of five stars. We expect that the hybrid model would perform in largely the same way. 

Behind the Wheel 

The Camry Hybrid drives exactly like a traditional Camry, and that's a good thing. There are no intrusive noises from the hybrid system, and the car doesn't show you in any way that it's any different from a regular Camry -- unless you're at the pump. Handling is surprisingly composed, while acceleration is acceptable though not lightning-fast. If you're interested in the "sporty" model of the hybrid bunch, we'd recommend checking out the Ford Fusion Hybrid. 

Beyond the Camry Hybrid's driving dynamics, the interior is a nice place to spend time. Build quality is inconsistent, but we generally feel the sedan is up to midsize-sedan par. And we enjoy the touchscreen infotainment system, too. Expect no surprises here and you won't be disappointed. 

Other Cars to Consider 

Ford Fusion Hybrid -- The Fusion Hybrid is only slightly more expensive than the Camry, but its 47 mpg rating in city or highway driving blows Toyota out of the water. 

Honda Accord Hybrid -- At nearly $30,000, the Accord Hybrid is far more expensive than a Camry Hybrid. But the Accord's gas-mileage ratings are class-leading: The sedan returns an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 50 mpg city.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid -- The Sonata Hybrid can't touch the Camry for fuel economy, as it returns just 36 mpg city/40 mpg hwy. But pricing is a little cheaper, and the Sonata offers a bolder appearance. 

AutoTrader's Advice 

If you want a Camry Hybrid, we strongly suggest the base-level LE model and adding a few options that bring the car to your liking. It's hard to justify the XLE's price increase, unless you must have those alloy wheels -- especially considering the XLE actually decreases the sedan's stellar gas mileage.

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