Toyota Camry Hybrid: Better Alternative For Diesel Sedans?
The 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid is an interestingly odd car in our car market. It is a petrol-electric hybrid – one of its kind in our market, and so there is no direct rival for this car. Yet, if we go by price, the Camry Hybrid costs around INR 32.24 Lakhs, and so the car positions itself against the likes of three popular diesel-powered executive sedans – Skoda Superb TDI L&K (INR 31.18 Lakhs), Audi A3 35 TDI (INR 35.65 Lakhs), and Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 CDI Sport (INR 34.90 Lakhs). We pit these cars against the Camry Hybrid only because of the idea that the latter may better these cars in fuel economy. It is cheaper in running costs than a regular petrol sedan in its segment, and so the car may win over these expensive diesel sedans as well. But the question is – does it?
Now just to revise your memory, the Toyota Camry Hybrid is driven by a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine producing 160 hp of power at 5,700 rpm and 213 Nm of torque at 4,500 rpm. It is aided by an electric motor that draws power from the battery which is charged each time the car accelerates, decelerates, and brakes (using regenerative braking). This results in a combined power output of 205 hp, and the car can run solely on the electric propulsion at speeds up to 40 kmph with mild throttle applications without lighting up the petrol engine. Once you press hard the gas pedal at higher speeds, the engine wakes up quickly and works in hybrid mode.
However, the acceleration performance may appear slightly compromised, thanks to the efficiency-enhancing 6-speed CVT auto gearbox. A 0-60 kmph sprint takes 4.44 seconds, while 0-100 kmph takes 9.20 seconds, lethargic than all the three diesel cars we are weighing against. But then what you should expect is improved mileage, the Camry Hybrid presents an impressive fuel economy of 14.1 kmpl in city driving cycle. On highways, there is a marginal spike of mileage to 15.7 kmpl. This is naturally due to higher instances of pure-electric driving in slow moving city traffic, and in highways it is again the regular petrol car. Nevertheless, the Camry tops in mileage by at least 1 kmpl difference in the city-highway combined driving cycle as against the three diesel sedans.
This may also make the Camry marginally cheaper to run in terms of monthly running costs, although the difference may not be any huge, thanks to the fuel price divide between diesel and petrol. Diesel is cheaper, and the cars are efficient than their petrol counterparts. So, for those buyers who may drive higher odo mileage, diesel cars make a lot of economic sense. But here in this case, the running costs will more or less be the same even in worst case scenario, thereby rescuing the Camry Hybrid from the traditional ‘diesel-economy’ theory.
But again, the rivals may give the Camry Hybrid an edge over in terms of cabin experience and comfort. The Camry’s cabin is not as interesting and comfy as you would expect for this price, its built and design layout is still average, and the central touchscreen infotainment system takes a while to get used to. Yet, the car is equally equipped in terms of features (both in-cabin and safety techs), with respect to other three cars. The competition here is among equal packages on paper, so it really depends upon buyer’s personal feel good factor.
Finally, the ‘Hybrid’ tag of the Camry is sure to create larger impressions at your parking lot, friends and family circle. Particularly in metros like Delhi, there are strong anti-diesel sentiments, and a hybrid car is a politically-correct statement in such ambience. Further, stiffer regulations and censorship on diesel cars above 2,000 cc and 10 years age limit, along with higher initial costs (due of 1% green cess and things like that) and falling resale values make owing a premium diesel sedan a bit bleak and insensitive. Although here in this case, Skoda Superb and Audi A3 escapes the 2,000 cc norm along with the petrol-hybrid Camry, but the Mercedes CLA remains axed out owing to its 2.1-litre engine.
Therefore, the Camry Hybrid makes a lot of sense for those intra-city wanderers who lives in a metro city and drive not-so-high odo reading. But, if you are looking for a luxury long-drive monster that is great in luxury and driving performance, then Camry Hybrid may not be a right choice.
* All prices mentioned here are Ex-Showroom, Delhi.