Do you know that the Toyota Prius, which has sold close to 3.5 million units globally, has sold only 167 units in India since it was launched in the country in 2010? Do you also know that Honda had to drastically slash the price of its Civic Hybrid so as to get rid of the inventory before discontinuing the model here? The fact is, even as the world takes to thriftier hybrid cars, these futuristic vehicles have not found many takers in India. One of the reasons could be high sticker prices. For example, the planet’s favourite hybrid—the Prius—costs a steep R38 lakh in India. (The Prius is a CBU import.)
So as to make hybrid cars popular, Toyota started to manufacture the Camry Hybrid in India two years ago. Priced lower than the smaller Prius, the Camry Hybrid achieved modest success. While it has sold over 700 units until now—much less than what the Skoda Superb sells, which is the only other car in its segment, size-wise—the point to be noted is that, of the total Camry sales, 73% were garnered by the hybrid version.
Last week, Toyota launched a new variant of both the Camry and the Camry Hybrid. We drive the latter.
The Camry Hybrid is a large car. At the front, what accentuates its size is the big air dam and the chrome surround that runs around its chin. Likewise, the nose gets a pronounced chrome strip. It gets new LED daytime running lights and redesigned headlights. The turning lights have been smartly placed close to the wheel arch. The foglamps have moved inside the bumper. The rear bumper is wider at its base. The sides get a revised skirting. But while the new Camry looks more upmarket than the older version, it still doesn’t come across as one of the most identifiable designs on the road.
Take the driver’s seat and you will notice the Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) on the meter, which provides a sense of superior technology. Both the front seats are ventilated—cool air flows through micro vents on the cushion and back support to remove moisture. The cabin gets a new shade of beige. But it doesn’t get an inbuilt satellite navigation feature.
Because the Camry Hybrid would primarily be chauffeur-driven, Toyota has made the rear seat as cosy as possible.
In fact, calling it a ‘seat’ would be an understatement—it is a ‘sofa’ instead, one that can be reclined by 8 degrees. The rear armrest allows you to control windshield sunshade, audio system, AC and you even get a power socket. There are assist grips fitted on the back of front seats that ensure easy ingress and egress. At the touch of a button, the rear passenger can slide the front passenger seat according to his convenience. The AC is divided into three zones—it has individual temperature controls for the driver, front passenger and rear passenger. Toyota claims the AC has a pollen filter and something called a nanoe water-coated ion technology which provides moisturising to occupants’ skin and hair and even deodorises the cabin!
While the rear bench continues to be one of the best—not just in its segment but even when you compare it to more expensive German luxury cars—we wonder why the rear seats are not ventilated like the front seats?
From a standstill until you gradually reach 40-50 kmph, there is no sound from the car—the reason, it runs exclusively on electric motor. Floor the accelerator pedal and the petrol engine comes to life. In conjunction with the motor, it shoots the car ahead—the 2.5-litre petrol engine and the electric motor together generate an output of 205 PS. When you approach a traffic signal and press the brakes, the regenerative braking system turns the car’s kinetic energy into electric energy and charges the batteries. On a complete stop at the traffic signal, the petrol engine shuts down but the electric motor remains on, ensuring the car’s AC is running, without unnecessary fuel consumption and emissions associated with idling. The certified mileage for the new Camry Hybrid is an impressive 19.16 kmpl.
However, we doubt you will get that high a mileage in Indian driving conditions. Toyota claims the Camry Hybrid emits 122.8 gm of carbon-dioxide per km of driving, which is far lesser than the conventional vehicles of similar engine size.
The car gets the E-CVT gearbox. It is not as advanced as the DSG—which you now find in many German cars—and this is apparent whenever you floor the pedal. But, in city driving conditions, the E-CVT works seamlessly.
The cabin is adequately insulated from both road noise and engine sound.
The Camry Hybrid is priced R31.92 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). What you get for the money is a luxury car that is an effortless highway cruiser and cocoons you in the spacious cabin on congested city roads. However, unlike the Prius, the Camry Hybrid doesn’t come across as one of the most identifiable designs on the road. Buy it if you want to contribute to cleaner air in your city and set a benchmark for others. Because it is a Toyota, be assured of unbeatable reliability and good after-sales service.
The Camry gasoline is priced R28.8 lakh.
Is hybrid a new phenomenon?
The Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid made by Ferdinand Porsche was the first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle in the world. It was developed over a century ago. However, back then, or even until the 1980s, the world didn’t feel the need to invest in hybrid R&D because of low cost of petroleum (therefore low cost of running vehicles) and comparatively little environmental consciousness. Then, the times started to change. Interestingly, the planet’s most famous hybrid car—Toyota Prius—went on sale in Japan on December 10, 1997, a day before Kyoto Protocol was adopted (December 11, 1997).