What it is: The Toyota Camry is the one car that needs no explanation because everybody knows what a Camry is. But the newest version might actually surprise you. First of all, the Camry has the highest percentage U.S.-manufactured part content of any car. That's right, the Camry is the most American-source car you can purchase according to a 2015 Cars.com survey.
While that is certainly surprising to most, what is really surprising is how good the Camry has become. Gone are the days of being purely a car for people looking for the absolute cheapest car that will hold a small family. The 2015 Camry sports a newly refreshed exterior that looks great, a revised interior that is very attractive, and levels of luxury that would surprise most buyers looking for an entry-level luxury car.
My test model was the Hybrid SE, which combines the extra sport exterior with the fuel-sipping hybrid engine. You get features like 17-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, a sporty front grille, rear spoiler, leather-trimmed steering wheel, and sport fabric seats for only $1,205 more than the base-level hybrid. A 100 percent no-brainer choice. My test model also had the premium audio with navigation option ($1,300), power moonroof ($915), remote start ($499), and a few other small options. Get the audio/navigation and skip the rest unless you are dying for a moonroof.
You may think that a dichotomy lies between a sport-tuned sedan like the Camry SE and a hybrid Camry, but Toyota did a great job merging the two. When you put your pedal to the floor, hybrid cars are actually rather quick. They can turn their efficiency into extra oomph and get you going quickly. The hybrid is closer in quarter-mile time to the V6 than to the I4 in the base model. While you won't get the stellar gas mileage if you push it around the city like a NASCAR race car, at least you have the option to have a little fun.
The rest of the car is everything that people already love about the Camry. The interior is great and is the type of place that four adults could easily spend hours on a road trip. There's a big trunk with lots of storage space. Camry owners have reported cheap maintenance for decades. When you go to the dealer, there is no big sticker shock when it comes to buying a new one.
MPG: 40 city/38 highway/40 combined
Price: Base Camry Hybrid SE $27,995. $32,133 as-tested. Camry base price $22,970.
Upsides: Great gas mileage and fun to drive.
Downsides: None glaring
Wrap-up: I loved the Hybrid SE Camry, but it's hard to argue for you to pick it over the regular Camry SE. The price difference is $4,155 and that buys a significant amount of gasoline. If you plan on keeping the car for five years or longer, then the Hybrid SE is likely the smarter choice. The regular Camry is rated at 25 city / 35 highway, so while the city gas mileage is significantly better, the highway mileage is very similar. Versus the competition, the Camry does compare favorably, but doesn't provide any type of special value.