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It’s style vs. substance when choosing the best hybrid family sedan
Established as a segment-leader at its launch, it’s no surprise that Toyota is pushing back against the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid with a revamped gas-electric Camry. Rivals, yes, but these green mid-size sedans take two very different approaches when it comes to everything from styling to their respective powertrains.
KNOW THE FACTS
Matching up closely in price and fuel efficiency the Toyota Camry Hybrid starts at $25,990 for the base LE while our XLE tester begins at $27,500. Both prices are comparable to various trim options of Toyota’s smaller, style-challenged Prius. As for the Sonata, its starting price is $25,850.
While the base Camry LE Hybrid averages 43-mpg city and 39-mpg highway for a combined 41-mpg, our XLE tester gets a slightly lower score at 40/38-mpg and 40-mpg combined. The Sonata Hybrid, once the segment leader, now falls slightly short at 35-mpg city and 40-mpg highway for a combined 37-mpg.
Both hybrids achieve their numbers in very different ways, though more on that later.
THE INSIDE OF ECO LUX
In the style department the Camry offers a basic Toyota touch while the Sonata is defined by Hyundai’s modern-mojo. The Camry’s interior is set up with all the no-frills necessities such as a multi-information display, dual-zone climate control, smart key entry with push button start, and bluetooth capability. Hospitable, the Camry easily accommodates five passengers and rear seating offers a fold down center armrest and dual cup holders. Lugging cargo is also made easy with a rear seat 60/40 split and trunk storage exceeds that of the Sonata.
Our XLE tester had additional accessories such as an 8-way power adjustable driver seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, rear air vents, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio controls. For more luxury, the $3,820 Leather Package includes leather-trimmed Ultra suede heated front seats and leather door trim, as well as a few other leathery touches. The Premium HDD Navigation Package includes those items and adds more tech and safety features for $6,320. With several other packages in-between, Toyota lets customers define their hybrid for a price.
Inside the Sonata’s cabin it’s certainly more forward-thinking, though lacking in material quality and decidedly less-premium. What makes the Sonata unique in this category, however, are special features like a panoramic sunroof. And beyond those style points, the Sonata incorporates finishings like premium cloth or perforated leather seating surfaces, metal accents, simulated leather inserts, chrome accents, rear seat vents, dual-zone climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and Bluetooth. Getting more bells and whistles to the standard package requires an additional $1,500 for the Leather Package (adding comfortable leathery accoutrements) or $5,500 for the Ultimate Package (more tech and tweaks).
Similarly equipped, the Sonata wins in the looks department but once you get close and begin to touch and feel, decades of refinement in the Camry show through.
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