Choosing the hybrid version of a midsize sedan has always resulted in a worse driving experience and a smaller trunk. The 2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid not only proves that things have changed, but it might actually be the best buy of the Camry bunch. Obviously, fuel economy is its main selling point — it can actually match the Prius‘ 52 miles per gallon. However, its 208 horsepower betters the regular Camry’s base engine, its handling is equal if not a bit better and the trunk is the same generous size. Those seeking a sportier look and driving experience can even get the Hybrid in the Camry’s SE trim level.
Frankly, for those who have previously dismissed the Camry as too conservative and boring, or who wrote off the Hybrid in particular for being dreary to drive or a poor value, it’s time to re-evaluate things. Its sharper handling, more composed ride and higher-quality interior result in a car that’s ultimately more competitive. Plus, the Camry’s traditional virtues of space, reliability, resale value and fuel economy have been maintained.
If there’s one thing preventing the Camry Hybrid from being a slam dunk, it’s the Honda Accord Hybrid that goes toe-to-toe in most respects and bypasses it several. At the very least, make sure to drive both.
What’s New for 2019?
The Camry Hybrid has been completely redesigned last year, and for this year, it sees the welcome addition of Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa connectivity. See the 2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid models for sale near you
What We Like
Superior safety equipment and ratings; superior fuel economy; higher-quality cabin and sharper driving dynamics than past Camrys; user-friendly tech interface; distinct LE and SE trims
What We Don’t
Sunroof reduces headroom; most efficient trim rides on steel wheels; Android Auto isn’t available
Every Camry Hybrid has the same 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine paired to an electric motor and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) that produce a total output of 208 hp. However, differences in battery type and wheel/tire combos result in different trim levels achieving different fuel economy numbers.
The base Hybrid LE trim level has a lithium-ion battery pack and 16-in wheels, resulting in an eye-popping fuel economy estimate of 51 mpg in the city, 53 mpg on the highway and 52 mpg in combined driving. That effectively matches most Prius trim levels.
The Hybrid SE and XLE have a nickel-metal hydride battery pack and larger 18-in wheels (they’re snazzier but have greater rolling resistance). This results in 44 mpg city/47 mpg hwy/46 mpg combined, which is still better than most other hybrids. The average annual fuel cost difference between the LE and the SE/XLE would be $100 at the time of this writing.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid is available in LE, SE and XLE trim levels. Read our regular 2019 Camry review for more information on the gas-only models, and watch our Camry first drive review video to see some of the visual differences between trim levels.
The base Camry Hybrid LE ($28,250) comes standard with 16-in steel wheels, automatic bi-LED headlights, LED running lights, automatic high beams, proximity entry and push-button start, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, multiple drive modes (EV, Eco, Normal, Sport), a backup camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-way power driver’s seat, a manual height-adjustable passenger seat, heated front seats, cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split folding back seat, a 7-in Toyota Entune 3.0 touchscreen, one USB port, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa compatibility, a variety of other smartphone-streaming apps (including one for navigation), an auxiliary audio jack and a 6-speaker sound system.
The Hybrid SE ($29,950) adds different styling, 18-in wheels, altered suspension and steering tuning, more aggressively bolstered front seats, SofTex simulated leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Available on LE and SE, the Entune 3.0 Audio Plus package adds an 8-in touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, a CD player, HD Radio, satellite radio, Safety Connect emergency communications, Remote Connect remote vehicle control services and in-car Wi-Fi. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems are also available, packaged together.
The Hybrid XLE ($32,825) reverts to the LE’s styling, chassis tuning and seat design. It adds its own 18-in wheels, an enhanced climate-control system, an 8-way power passenger seat, leather upholstery, the leather-wrapped steering wheel, a color head-up display, three USB ports and the LE/SE’s options listed above. Adaptive LED headlights, surround-view parking camera system and a 9-speaker JBL sound system are optional.
A sunroof is also optional on every trim.
Every Camry Hybrid comes standard with an impressive array of standard safety equipment beyond the usual allotment of airbags and vehicle control aids. Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control are all standard — they’re options on most competitors. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the XLE and optional on the other trims. Safety Connect emergency communications are available on all trims.
In government testing, the Camry got a perfect five stars in every category. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the 2019 Camry a Top Safety Pick+ for its best possible performance in crash protection, crash prevention, headlights and child-seat anchor ease of use. You really can’t do any better than those results.
Behind the Wheel
Today’s Camry feels like a totally different car behind the wheel than its predecessor, showcasing a degree of poise, precision and composure that this nameplate has never approached before. Though the LE and SE differ in steering and suspension tuning, their dynamic differences aren’t that great, and every Camry is now more comparable to driver-oriented competitors like the Honda Accord and the Mazda6.
All of that applies to the Hybrid as well, which no longer makes you pay a vehicle dynamics penalty for going with the fuel-efficient choice. Indeed, Toyota’s engineers claim the hybrid is actually the best Camry to drive, thanks to its battery placement under the back seat (and therefore between the axles) that balances the car and lowers the center of gravity. Moving the battery out of the trunk also means the Hybrid now matches the regular Camry’s sizable cargo capacity.
Literally sitting behind the wheel feels different in this newest Camry as well, as a lower seating position with a more thoughtfully placed wheel, shifter and other controls result in a more driver-oriented cabin. High-quality materials enhance a stylish (if somewhat overwrought) design, and we especially like that there isn’t that much of a materials and overall ambiance difference between the LE and XLE beyond leather seats and extra features.
In terms of overall space, the Camry Hybrid is one of the largest midsize sedans, but can’t quite match the palatial back seat and trunk of the Honda Accord.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Honda Accord Hybrid — The Accord Hybrid was also redesigned last year. It has its own attractive new styling, a colossal well-made cabin and standard allotment of safety tech. Its 47-mpg estimate falls in between the LE and the SE/XLE figures.
2019 Honda Clarity PHEV — With its hefty tax credits, the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid should actually end up costing as much or less than a Camry Hybrid while being capable of going 47 miles on electricity alone. Its cabin quality, space and overall refinement are also more in keeping with the Camry than plug-in hybrids like the Prius Prime.
2019 Toyota Prius Prime — If you’re willing to sacrifice refinement for even greater fuel efficiency, the Prius Prime gets one of the highest miles-per-gallon-equivalent ratings of anything that’s not completely electric.
2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid — If you’re interested in the top Camry Hybrid XLE trim level, it’s definitely worth checking out the all-new Avalon Hybrid. It ups the ante in terms of luxury and space. It could also be worth checking out the outgoing Avalon Hybrid.
Used Lexus ES 300h — For a used car alternative, this Lexus is mechanically related to the last-generation Camry Hybrid, and provides similar fuel economy to that car. Not surprisingly, its cabin quality is superior to that of the Camry.
The base Camry LE gets the best fuel economy of the group and is far from a stripped-down model. OK, so the steel wheels are unfortunate, but there’s still plenty of standard equipment, especially in the safety realm. With the LE, you get the same fuel economy as a Prius but with a larger, more comfortable cabin, higher-quality interior trappings and a more refined driving experience. It’s also not that much of a letdown from the higher, pricier trims. Don’t write it off. Find a Toyota Camry Hybrid for sale