Hybrid sales slip; Camry is smooth

The 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE. (Photo by Bud Wells)
The 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE. (Photo by Bud Wells)

No matter how I drove the 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid during a week in December – in town or out on the highway – it seemed to average 38 to 40 miles per gallon.

That’s how it should be, I guess, for its EPA estimate is 40 mpg in town driving and 38 on the highway.

The Camry was the third-best-selling hybrid in the country for 2014, behind two other Toyotas. The Prius Liftback was the runaway sales leader, as it has been since it was introduced 15 years ago; it sold 122,776, followed by the Prius C with 40,570 and the Camry hybrid with 39,515 (an 11percent drop).

Sales of gas/electric hybrid cars slumped 8.8 percent in ’14, slipping from 495,771 sales in 2013 to 452.152 in the past year. This, even though the overall car/truck market jumped 6 percent last year.

Toyotas, including luxury division Lexus models, captured 62 percent of the hybrid market in the past year.

Following are the top 15 sellers of gas/electric hybrids in the U.S. for 2014:

  • Toyota Prius Liftback            122,776
  • Toyota Prius C                         40,570
  • Toyota Camry                           39,515
  • Ford Fusion                             35,405
  • Toyota Prius V                         30,762
  • Hyundai Sonata                       21,052
  • Ford C-Max                               19,162
  • Lexus CT200h                          17,673
  • Toyota Avalon                          17,048
  • Lexus ES                                    14,837
  • Honda Accord                          13,977
  • Kia Optima                               13,776
  • Lincoln MKZ                           10,033
  • Lexus RX450h                           9,351
  • Subaru XV Crosstrek               7,926

Introduction of the new BMW i3 and sharp gains by the Nissan Leaf and Ford Fusion Energi boosted total sales of plug-in electric vehicles to a 23 percent rise in the past year. A total of 118,682 plug-ins were sold, compared with 96,516 in 2013.

Following are sales of the top 10 plug-in electrics for ’14:

  • Nissan Leaf                    30,200
  • Chevrolet Volt                18,805
  • Tesla Model S                 16,550
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in    13,264
  • Ford Fusion Energi      11,550
  • Ford C-Max Energi        8,433
  • BMW i3                            6,092
  • Smart for Two EV          2,594
  • Ford Focus EV                1,964
  • Fiat 500E                         1,503

The combined total of gas/electric hybrids and plug-in electrics took 3.4 percent of the total U.S. new car market for 2014.

In my December driving, the Camry hybrid posted an overall average of 38.5 mpg; I’d averaged 34.9 with a similar model in 2011 and 37.1 in 2012.

The five-passenger, front-wheel-drive Camry hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and electric motor with a continuously variable transmission. Performance is smooth; only a bit of shudder is felt on shift of electric to gas power in low range. Acceleration is strong through midrange.

The hybrid setup beneath the Camry hood.
The hybrid setup beneath the Camry hood.

For even more efficiency than the normal driving mode, the press of an Eco button will cut down the level of throttle input and reduce fan speed of the air conditioner. This takes away from the Camry hybrid’s normally satisfactory performance.

The hybrid weighs 100 pounds more than the Camry gas version due primarily to the battery pack stored beneath the floor at the rear. That pack also takes away cargo space, which measures 13.1 cubic feet in the hybrid, 15.4 in the gas model.

The Camry is one of the more comfortable and better-handling hybrid four-door sedans.

The review model in my possession was the SE; also available are a less expensive LE and a high-end XLE. The SE was sticker-priced at $32,233, including an easily controlled Entune audio system with navigation and Bluetooth, power moonroof, remote start capability and illuminated door sill enhancement.

The cheapest model of the gasoline-powered Camry is $3,000 less than the lowest-priced hybrid version.

Here are the specifications for the ’15 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE:

  • Capacity 5-passenger
  • Wheelbase 109.3 inches
  • Length 190.9 inches
  • Width 71.7 inches
  • Height 57.9 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,585 pounds
  • Track 62.4 inches front, 62 rear
  • Ground Clearance 6.1 inches
  • Turn Circle 36.7 feet
  • Drivetrain Front-wheel-drive
  • Engine 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with electric motor
  • Horsepower/Torque 200/156 combined
  • Transmission Continuously variable
  • Steering electric power
  • Suspension sport-tuned front and rear strut
  • Fuel mileage estimate 40/38
  • Fuel mileage average 38.5
  • Fuel Tank 17 gallons, regular unleaded
  • Wheels 17-inch
  • Tires Michelin P225/45/R17
  • Cargo Volume 13.1 cubic feet
  • Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5/60,000 powertrain

Competitors Hybrid models of Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata

Assembly Plant Georgetown, Ky.

Parts Content N.A.

Base Price of Lowest Model $26,790; Base Price of Review Model $27,995; Destination Charge $825; Sticker Price $32,233.