2013 Camry Hybrid XLE Road Test

The 2013 Camry Hybrid XLE boasts fuel economy numbers higher than expected.

What It Is
A hybrid sedan perfect for families and long daily commutes.
Best Thing
Consistently delivers higher fuel economy than original estimate.
Worst Thing
Feels a little dated. Needs a refresh or remodel.
Snap Judgment
The 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid has been the top dog in its segment for years, but with the rise of new models from the competition, the Camry Hybrid needs to step up its game.


Toyota cars have developed a stereotype of being appliances on wheels, designed to get you from point A to point B, with no flair. If that's the case, it's a wildly successful formula, because the automaker continues to outsell its competitors month after month, year after year. The Camry is a prime example. It's not exciting by any stretch, but it's one of the best-selling cars in America, and for good reason. It offers good performance, efficiency, safety, and reliability, and the 2013 Camry Hybrid builds on that foundation.

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However, the Toyota Camry's grip on the midsize segment has loosened each model year since its last refresh, and although it currently holds the top spot, that may come to an end. The Camry and Camry Hybrid were redesigned for the 2012 model year, making the current model feel slightly behind the rest of its competition. Completely redesigned and refreshed models like the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and Honda Accord Hybrid have set their sights on the Camry Hybrid and have taken aim. So does the 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid still stack up?

What We Drove

The 2013 Camry Hybrid XLE comes with a starting price of $27,670, but the one we drove came loaded with options for a total price of $35,170. Standard features include an eight-way adjustable power driver's seat, keyless entry and ignition, start-stop technology, power windows, 6.1-inch infotainment touchscreen display, Bluetooth, and ECO and EV driving modes for the hybrid system. Powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and Hybrid Synergy Drive System, the 2013 Camry Hybrid delivers 170 horsepower. Sitting on 17-inch wheels, the Camry Hybrid features a chrome-tipped exhaust, side rocker panels with chrome inserts, and integrated chrome-trimmed fog lamps.

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Our test model was equipped with several optional features, including the blind spot monitor ($500), Convenience Package ($695) that includes a backup camera, anti-theft system, and HomeLink Universal Transceiver, Safety Connect ($515), Leather Package ($1,185), Premium HDD Navigation with Entune and JBL ($2,670), a power tilt/slide moonroof ($915), and carpet/trunk mat set ($225).

Standard safety features include the Star Safety System, which features brake assist and anti-lock brakes, ten airbags, LATCH anchor and tethers, a tire pressure monitoring system, and whiplash-injury-lessening front seats. The 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid was also recognized by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety as a Top Safety Pick.

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The Commute

Driving in Palos Verdes isn't conducive for fuel-efficient driving, with steep hills all along the coast, but it was the perfect place to see some real-world figures. One of the first things we noticed about the 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid is that it was pretty slow off the line. Trying to drive efficiently, we tried to slowly get up to speed, but the car seemed to crawl. Putting our foot down, it finally started to get moving, but it was still sluggish.

The interior was attractive, with soft-touch materials throughout, adding a sense of refinement. All infotainment controls were easy to use, phones synced up with no issues, and switching between the different driving modes was simple. We spent the majority of our time in ECO mode, as the road for the daily commute is filled with hills and valleys that require more acceleration than the EV mode allows. However, when on straight roads, we'd hit the EV button and drive a good distance before it the engine kicked back on to recharge the battery.

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Looking at the EPA-estimated 40 mpg city rating, we were surprised when we saw the actual mpg numbers. Our average for the week was just about 40 mpg, but when driving normally around the city, typical mpg ranged closer to 45 mpg. Although we all have our different driving styles, the fact that we managed to outperform the estimated number is a pretty big deal.

The Grocery Run

Most hybrids like the Camry place their batteries in the trunk behind the seats, limiting actual cargo capacity. The 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid does this too, but we were surprised to find that it offered only 2 cubic feet less space than the gas-powered Camry; it even has a small passthrough for long objects. Compared to other hybrid models out there, that's a pretty big trunk. Whether loaded up with groceries or luggage or the weekend's necessities, the 2013 Camry Hybrid offers you plenty of room, and its trunk space is a major selling point.

Inside the Camry Hybrid is plenty of room for all passengers, with enough legroom to rival any competitor. Passengers have easy access to the back seats, and taller passengers have plenty of leg and head room; parents will find the LATCH points easy to access and use. The leather-trimmed suede seats were comfortable and supportive, whether driving to the store or down the highway. There was plenty of interior cargo space in the center console for phones, wallets, and other small items, so the cup holders could be used for what they're meant for--drinks.

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The Weekend Fun

Waiting for a friend to get off work, I cruised down the coast, enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. Down in Orange County, there aren't that many big hills, so fuel economy improved greatly. What we weren't expecting was to average almost 70 mpg while driving normally at speeds between 50 and 65 mph. We didn't even apply any of the hybrid driving tricks--slow acceleration, slow braking, no air conditioning--to increase that number.

Driving with the windows up and radio turned off, we were surprised with how quiet the cabin is, even for a hybrid. There was hardly any wind or road noise, even at highway speeds, and with the radio on, any and all noise was drowned out completely. Parking at the beach is always a feat, as parking spaces are usually cramped, with other drivers purposely taking up more than one space so their vehicles don't get scratched. With the backup camera and spot-on steering, we were able to navigate the tightest spots with ease.

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Summary

The 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid and Camry models in general, have remained at the top of the segment for a reason. Although it may not be the most stylish or the most exciting to drive, it provides exactly what people purchasing in this segment want; it's comfortable, quiet, fuel-efficient, and safe for an affordable price. Honda and Ford have placed a target on the Camry Hybrid's back, and have introduced their own models to compete with the current segment leader. We feel the 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid should definitely be one of the top choices for anyone looking for a fuel-efficient midsized sedan, whether as a family vehicle or a daily driver.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $35,170
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 40
EPA Highway: 38
EPA Combined: 40
Cargo Space: 15 "grocery bags"
Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Good
Estimated Combined Range: 680
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Excellent

Notebook Quotes

"Can someone explain to me why I should have a Prius instead of this? It's comfortable, quiet, seats five comfortably, has decent cargo space, and looks decent. It's everything the Prius isn't, except its fuel economy is just as good. I'd take this over the Prius in a heartbeat." -Keith Buglewicz, News Director

3 comments
Jacob Brown
Jacob Brown

You owe it to yourself to drive the Jaguar F-Type, by the way. It's like the best thing you've ever driven, except better.

Jason Davis
Jason Davis

Well, yeah, I guess, I mean, when you compare my two least favorite to drive vehicles ever, I'd also take the one that doesn't have pogo-stick rear suspension...

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