Photo by Vince Taroc.

Photo by Vince Taroc.

My first car was a hand-me-down Toyota Camry that had seen better days, so I was excited to test-drive the new 2015 Camry Hybrid SE over a long holiday weekend.

This car comes with a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that delivers a net horsepower of 200. It feels sturdy, and has the power to merge and pass when you need to. My back passenger was happy with legroom, and the trunk was spacious.

Instead of a gauge showing RPM, the Camry Hybrid displays three states: “Charge,” “Eco,” and “Power.” I assume if you want to improve your MPG, you can try to stay in the Charge and Eco modes for a long as possible.

Fuel economy was about as advertised: 40 mpg city, 38 mpg highway. I was able to go on a long trip without filling up. Once you’re low on gas, a screen on the driver’s side tells you your range with the gas you have left, and you can have fun trying to see if you can stay in EV mode to beat the car’s range estimate. This usually means driving slower and taking it easy on the gas pedal, and the fun part is in seeing how the other Los Angeles drivers react to you keeping a very safe distance from the car in front of you.

If you go for the lower LE trim, you’ll get a slightly better fuel economy: 43 city/39 highway.

Photo by Vince Taroc.

Photo by Vince Taroc.

Wireless smart phone charging is starting to come into some vehicles, and this Camry had the available feature included. Unfortunately, I wasn’t easily able to get it to work for my Android phone, or for a couple of other phones I tried. If I knew it worked for my phone, this $75 feature would be a definite buy.

The Bluetooth system and good insulation allowed me to talk on the phone comfortably while driving at freeway speeds. This may not be a concern for most people, but with my hour-long commute, this was appreciated.

And here’s a tool for drivers who are geographically challenged or are driving to unfamiliar destinations: A screen with a compass on it that can help driver get their bearings; sure, navigation beats that, but nav is an optional feature you may not be able to purchase.

As for price, the MSRP for the base SE hybrid model is $27,995. The standard Camry, SE model, is $23,840, and gets an estimated 25/35 mpg. Fleet managers will have to decide whether the better fuel efficiency is worth the added cost.

About the author
Thi Dao

Thi Dao

Former Executive Editor

Thi is the former executive editor of Government Fleet magazine.

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