Drive: Toyota’s 2020 Camry Hybrid XLE has style and impressive fuel economy

Is the Toyota Camry the best midsize, medium-priced sedan on the market? Years ago, we thought so — before the emergence of the Nissan Altima, Kia Optima, Mazda6 and Hyundai Sonata complicated the equation. Judging by sales data, the Camry, now in its eighth generation, remains on top — selling fairly well despite the decline in the popularity of conventional sedans.

In one category in particular, the Camry is without peer: fuel economy. We’ve been driving a 2020 Camry Hybrid XLE, patiently waiting for the fuel-level indicator to wobble. After 50 or 60 miles on urban streets and rural roads around Fairfield and Litchfield counties last week, it hadn’t budged. Maybe our 44-mile daily commute will move the needle.

The Hybrid XLE is equipped with a nickel hydride battery and conventional tires, so it isn’t quite as fuel-efficient as the Hybrid LE, with its narrower and lighter tires, and lithium-ion battery. But the test car’s fuel economy was, in a word, spectacular: 44 mpg city, 47 highway, and we had it pushing 50 mpg with our customary light-footed driving. This sedan will cruise comfortably on the highway for about 600 miles between fill-ups. Driving with care, in ECO mode rather than Normal or Sport, this Camry could reach Columbus, Ohio, from western Connecticut, on one tankful.

The Hybrid LE’s fuel economy, however, is truly astonishing. It’s rated at 51 mpg city, 53 highway. Remember, this is a midsize sedan, not a compact or subcompact coupe. Acceleration is leisurely, especially in ECO mode, but the hybrid system delivers acceptable power, with smooth transitions between the electric motor and gasoline engine.

In general, the Camry is exceptionally well-designed. Its back seat is habitable for two or three full-sized adults, there’s plenty of room in front, and even the trunk is big for a midsize car, at 15.1 cubic feet. The interior is stylish — we were able to compare it with a family member’s 2013 Camry, and while the color scheme was similar, the 2020 model’s dashboard lines and curves were much more inviting.

The Camry rides smoothly, but we felt it could have used a little more soundproofing. Handling is competent at best, and compares less than favorably with the sporty character of the Mazda6.

2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE

Price: $39,619

Engine: 2.5-liter inline Four with gasoline-electric hybrid system, 208 horsepower

Transmission: electronic continuously variable automatic

Drive: front-wheel

Weight: 3,572 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 18-in. machined finish alloy

Tires: P235/45R18 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 15.1 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons

Fuel economy: 44 mpg city, 47 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

Toyota offers the Camry in several incarnations. A conventional Camry L, with no hybrid system, starts at $24,425. It’s fairly well equipped and is no slouch in the fuel-economy department, achieving ratings of 29 mpg city, 41 highway.

The fuel-economy champ, the Hybrid LE, has a base price of $28,430. Our test car had a base price of $32,550, rising to $39,619 with options.

Rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Camry is one of a very few vehicles we’ve ever seen with 5-star ratings, from top to bottom, in government crash tests.

The Camry is the sales leader in the midsize-sedan segment, with U.S. sales of 336,978 last year. The Camry peaked at 473,108 units sold in 2007, and didn’t drop below 400,000 until 2016.

Steven Macoy ( is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.