Road Test: 2016 Lexus CT 200h

Road Test: 2016 Lexus CT 200h

A Little Sport to Go With Hybrid Drive

2016, Lexus,CT 200h,mpg,fuel economy

Do I look sporty to you?

Is it possible for a hybrid car to also be a sporty car? The answer is…it depends. It depends on what your expectations are when it comes to hybrid fuel economy, and what your definition is of sporty when applied to cars.

Enter the 2016 Lexus CT 200h. It strives to be both a hybrid and sporty. The result is a pretty good achievement of one facet and a not-quite-there of the other.

On the hybrid side, the CT’s fuel economy isn’t quite in Prius territory (52 mpg combined). However, its EPA rating of 42 mpg combined gave it the distinction of being the first vehicle in the luxury segment to step over the 40-mpg line when introduced in 2011—an excellent achievement.

Note that there’s the letter “y” after sport. We’re not talking sports car here. If a car’s styling is part of your definition of sporty, then the CT 200h certainly receives high marks.

If quick is included in the equation, then a 0-to-60 mph time of 10.2 seconds falls way short. Perhaps handling is a more important ingredient for a sporty car than quickness, and this is where the CT 200h becomes entertaining and the fun factor makes an appearance.

Unfortunately, fun isn’t present 100 percent of the time.

What’s New For 2016

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The spindle is up front

Lexus gave the CT 200h a refresh in 2014, revising the exterior and updating features. The most significant change was up front with the inclusion of the now signature Lexus “spindle” grill.

Other than a chrome surround for the grill and newly offered optional sunroof, there are no exterior or interior changes for 2016.

Base price for the 2016 CT 200h price is $31,250, plus $940 destination charges. Choosing the F Sport edition adds $1,180.

Motive Power

Both the standard and F Sport CT 200h are powered by what is essentially a Toyota Prius hybrid powertrain. It starts with an efficient Atkinson cycle 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 98 horsepower and 105 pounds-feet of torque. Combined with an 80 horsepower electric motor, a generator and a 202-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack, the series and parallel hybrid system produces a total of 134 horsepower.

A continuously variable transmission (CVT), the only transmission available, directs the push to the front wheels.

Not the Usual Lexus Style

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The hatch puts it into field of its own

Placing an upward-hinged back door instead of a trunk on a small car doesn’t seem very Lexus-like, but the CT 200h was designed for Europe where luxury five-door hatchbacks have become a large segment of the market.

The question is, does the CT attract eco-minded luxury buyers? After all, American automotive history is teeming with hatchbacks that didn’t make it, like the short-lived Lexus IS 300 Sportcross.

Apparently the answer is yes. The 2016 Lexus CT 200h is the second best-selling Lexus hybrid model through the first half of 2016, following only the RX 450h crossover SUV.

In its favor, the CT has strong visual connections to the LF-Ch concept unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. Athletic styling is accentuated by a slightly raked roofline, while eye-catching details include a character line flowing down its side, and the crease above the rocker panel.

On the backside, the unique-to-Lexus rear-access door straddles the line between hatchback and wagon and has a small, stylish lip that runs through the middle of the liftgate.

Like the exterior, the CT’s cabin also plays off the LF-Ch concept with a two-tiered dash. Missing, however, is the expected Lexus lush leather and polished wood. That said, the interior is appropriate for an entry luxury vehicle with high quality materials accented by metal trim.

Lexus did a commendable job of carving as much space as possible in a compact car. In front, we found the driver and passenger front seats comfortable seating positions with good head- and legroom. For those in back; well, it’s a compact.

The 60/40-split rear seatbacks fold forward, providing a flat cargo floor, and there’s plenty of room behind the backseat for a week’s worth of groceries.

To compete in the compact luxury class Lexus has equipped the CT with all of the desired standard features. Plus, there’s a magnum load of options that can push the $31,250, starting price beyond $40,000. We were surprised to find the Mark Levinson audio system missing from the options list.

Fuel Economy or Fun?

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What, no paddle shifters?

The 2016 Lexus CT 200h’s hybrid system offers four driving modes: EV, Eco, Normal and Sport. EV mode allows drivers to go all-electric at speeds up to 35 mph for about a mile, depending on the battery’s state-of-charge. Normal mode brings the CVT into play, allowing the car to respond to changing driving conditions by instantaneously adjusting its gear ratios.

Normal was well-suited for a day trip from Olympia, Washington, to Portland, Oregon. Once the CT was up to speed on the Interstate it held the 72 mph cruise control setting reasonably well.

There are more than a few uphill grades on the route, and they required right foot intervention to keep pace with traffic. But most of the time it was easy to forget that I was driving a hybrid. At the end of the day after driving 262 miles, the CT lived up to its 40 mpg EPA highway rating.

The save-the-environment Eco mode alters the Normal setting to provide maximized fuel economy for gas-electric driving by slowing cabin cooling, limiting throttle input and boosting battery charging. Best suited to city driving, I found the Eco mode aptly named. I scooted about town; well, not really scooted, for 67 miles and the fuel economy readout indicated 44.7 mpg, nearly two miles per gallon more than the estimated EPA number.

Acceleration was sluggish, but adequate for city traffic. The transition between all-electric driving and gas-powered driving was often not noticeable. Similarly, the car’s stop-start system is as good as they get, with the gas engine firing up after being stopped and moving the car forward without any stuttering.

The “fun” personality of the car is introduced with the Sport mode, which is calibrated towards performance and handling. In this setting, throttle response is cranked up considerably, power

2016 Lexus_CT_200h , interior,sporty,mpg

Looking more sporty than they have any right to

control from the battery is increased from 500 to 600 volts and the CT’s electric power steering is adjusted to be more responsive.

There are some wonderful, little used two-lane rural roads in the Olympia area, and they were waiting to see if Lexus’ claim that the CT 200h is fun-to-drive held up.

Driving enthusiasts will say the CT is morbidly slow, and they’d be right. But quickness and speed aren’t the only qualifiers for having a little fun behind the steering wheel.

It became immediately clear that the car’s steering is impressively accurate and the chassis is well-balanced. The CT can tap dance on twisty roads with agility and assured grip. When pushed hard, though, a couple of deficiencies make an appearance.

First, the gas engine lacks mid-range torque that the electric motor just can’t compensate for, which lowers the fun level when exiting a curve. Second, the CVT is too slow to react to either decreasing or increasing speeds and hold a gear ratio. Why Lexus doesn’t equip the CT with paddle shifters—other carmakers do—is a mystery to me.

The Car for You?

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Under the hood, it’s a Prius

The 2016 Lexus CT 200h doesn’t have any direct competitors. If you recognize the sensibility of the hatchback design and want the amenities that the luxury class offers along with superb fuel economy, it’s your only choice.

The closest non-hybrid is the 2016 Volkswagen Golf. While it offers more engaging driving, it is not in the luxury league and can only manage a combined 29-mpg.

The CT 200h erases the dork factor associated with hybrid cars. But like most small hatchbacks, interior space could be an issue. So too could the fact that it’s a little shy on being truly sporty. But if you look beyond what the Lexus CT 200h doesn’t offer, you may be charmed by what it does offer.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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First Drive: 2016 Prius

Road Test: 2016 Lexus ES 300h

Road Test: 2016 Lexus RX 450h

Road Test: 2016 Lexus NX 300h

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

How Green Are Electric Cars? Addressing the Concerns

How Green Are Electric Cars? Addressing the Concerns

A Fact-based Analysis

Green electric cars

How green is your electric car?

Few recent innovations are as potentially world-changing as the electric car. However, although hailed by most as an environment-saving invention, some others criticize them as a false hope. Fortunately, the electric car has also attracted a wealth of scientific research, and it’s in this research that we discover just how green it truly is.

Emissions

All major commodities produce manufacturing emissions as part of their creation, and it’s known that electric vehicle manufacturing emissions are higher than those of gasoline-powered cars. They can be anywhere from 15 to 68 percent higher and account for almost half of electric cars’ lifetime emissions. Most of these emissions are a result of manufacturing the large lithium-ion batteries that electric vehicles require.

At first glance, this seems to condemn the energy efficiency of electric vehicles, but a study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) definitively proves this is not the case. The UCS study states that the manufacturing emissions of an electric vehicle are offset very early in its driving life: within about 4,900 miles for a midsize electric car and 19,000 miles for a full-size.
This means that within as little as a few months, the reduced emissions from an electric car completely offset those produced during manufacturing. Furthermore, even with their manufacturing emissions taken into account, electric vehicles produce dramatically fewer total lifetime emissions than gasoline-powered or even hybrid cars. This offers hope that electric cars are the answer to the problem of increasing carbon emissions.

Battery

Hybrid , plug-in hybrid ,batteries

Batteries are part of the problem, but can be a solution

A large part of the manufacturing emissions associated with producing electric vehicle batteries can be attributed to the environmental toll of mining lithium and other rare metals. And there’s also the question of waste; because these batteries lose their ability to retain a charge over time, manufacturers are tasked with the challenge of how to efficiently and affordably recycle them.
The answer to both problems is to get more electric cars on the road. Like with any recyclable waste, battery-recycling efficiency will improve when there are lots of batteries to recycle. And a lithium-ion battery’s life isn’t over just because it can’t charge an electric vehicle anymore. Scientists say used batteries contain about 75 percent of their original energy capacity. These batteries can thus be used to store energy in the production of renewable electricity, whether on the residential level or as part of a larger electrical grid.

Electricity

So far we’ve mainly discussed the environmental costs of manufacturing electric vehicles, but it’s also important to mention the emissions associated with driving and charging an electric car. Its energy efficiency, and thus how green an electric car is, ultimately depends on how the electricity used to charge it was generated. Unfortunately, some electric cars are charged by energy from coal-fired power plants, which are a source of heavy emissions.

As an example, consider an electric car charged in California versus one driven in the U.S. Midwest. The car in California would produce the emissions equivalent to a gasoline-powered vehicle

2014,Ford,Focus,Electric,charging

Find out where those electrons come from

with 87 MPG, while the Midwest electric car would be rated around 35 MPG. This difference is based purely on how these regions generate electricity.

The UCS estimates that an electric car charged by natural gas-generated electricity will result in about half the pollution-related health problems of gasoline-powered cars. Powering up a vehicle from a renewable energy source drops that figure to about one quarter. They go on to state that, even with less efficient energy sources, overall emissions from an electric vehicle driven anywhere in the country are less than those of the average new gasoline-powered car.

All of this means that the efficiency of electric vehicles is intricately linked to the future of energy production. As the world continues to adopt renewable sources of electricity and retire increasing numbers of coal-fired plants, the already positive impact of the electric car can only improve. In fact, the UCS estimates that electric vehicle emissions could decrease by more than 25 percent with a transition to an 80 percent renewable energy grid.

Electric Cars are Part of the Solution

With all of the data available, it’s clear that electric cars are a tangible solution to the problems of global warming emissions, declining air quality and even noise pollution. And most scientists agree that drivers of electric cars should be rewarded; when you purchase an electric vehicle, you’re propelling the course of technology forward and making a positive impact on the environment. Electric cars are capable of delivering us not only to our destinations but also to a cleaner and more efficient future.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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Road Test: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

Road Test: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE

Spacious Interior, Peppy Engine, Excellent MPG

Up until this year the Volkswagen Jetta was powered by turbocharged 1.8L and 2.0L gasoline engines or the 2.0L TDI turbo diesel. The TDI is no longer offered, and VW has expressed some ambivalence about whether it will return. It definitely is absent for this model year. For 2016, VW has replaced it with the turbocharged 1.4L gasoline engine, which we drove in the 2016 Jetta 1.4T SE.

So what is VW doing adding and dropping engines from the Jetta? Being forced to replace the TDI and its excellent fuel economy, something had to come along to fill the void. Welcome to the new 1.4L turbo, delivering spirited acceleration and 40+ mpg fuel economy, making it a good engine for all but the sportiest driving patterns.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2016, Volkswagen, Jetta, 1.4T, mpg, fuel economy

The Jetta rolls in in 2016 with a new mpg option

Clean Fleet Report’s four-door 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE was powered by an inline four cylinder, 16-valve 1.4-liter turbocharged and intercooled engine, putting out 150 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, with the torque maxing-out at a low 1,400 rpms, which allowed it to pull well in all gears at all speeds. Our front-wheel drive test car was mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission with an EPA fuel economy rated at 28 city/39 highway/32 combined. Ratings for the six-speed automatic transmission for the city are the same, with the highway and combined are one mpg more, hitting that magic 40 mpg. In 255 miles of driving throughout Southern California I averaged 31.8 mpg.

The Jetta 1.4T pulled nicely into freeway traffic and then out on the highway. I was pleased to see the tachometer reading about 2,000 rpm at 70 mpg. VW has done a good job of engineering this transmission to turn the engine slowly when it counts most–out on the open road. The engine is quiet and smooth, with only a small bit of strain when taking it high in the rev band during the heaviest of heavy mashing of the accelerator pedal.

The Driving Experience

2016,VW,Volkswagen,1.4T,SE,mpg,fuel economy

Tires that grip are always welcome

The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE is quiet and smooth, riding on 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels and 205/55R16 Bridgestone Ecopia all-season tires. Bridgestone says the Ecopia is a “low rolling

resistance tire engineered to make any car more fuel efficient.” Handling can be affected negatively by low rolling resistance tires, but in the case the Jetta, the strut-type front suspension with coil springs and multi-link/coil spring rear with anti-roll bars all-around helped keep the car neutral with only a slight push when powered hard through a corner. Road feel was very good with rack-and-pinion electric power steering that thankfully was not programmed to take away the fun of driving. Highway 70+ mph cruising was solid and confident. The Jetta SE is a well-balanced car that is easy to drive.

A good handling car, of course, is nothing without good brakes. The Jetta SE comes standard with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), power assisted front vented and rear solid discs. Handling and driving confidence was also aided by electronic stability control.

Driving Experience: Interior

2016 Volkswagen, Jetta 1.4T,interior,mpg

A touch of chrome

Clean Fleet Report’s 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE minimalist interior features a clean fit and finish that was German tight, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics. The simple layout of all gauges, with their chrome accent ring edges and tunnel design, was uncomplicated by fake woods, plastic chrome pieces or similar design gimmicks. The white backlighting for the dash gauges also added a premium element.

The heated cloth front seats have better-than-average bolstering and include manual height adjustments. A good choice of seat settings, combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, made finding a comfortable driving position on long drives a breeze. The front seats are separated by a center console with an armrest that doubles as a storage area. Head, leg, elbow and shoulder room was accommodating, even for 6’+ drivers and passengers, including the rear seat that can accommodate three adults. The trunk space is more than can be found on the largest midsize sedan. If it is only the driver and front seat passenger on a long weekender, lowering the 60/40 split rear seat provides enough space for a full-size bicycle. There is a pass-through opening for longer items like skis or garden tools when making a home improvement store run.

Taking center stage on the dash of our SE trim level Jetta is VW’s Composition Media 6.3-inch color touchscreen that handles the rearview camera. Composition includes capacitive technology,

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Just enough knobs along with the bells and whistles

similar to what is found on smartphones and tablets and allows for functions such as swiping and pinch-zooming. While all this modern touchscreen technology is nice, Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls. VW does a nice job of making it easy to operate the radio and single zone HVAC system with the turn of a few knobs. The black dash has accents of chrome, aluminum and piano-black finishes, along with a leather-wrapped gearshift knob and hand brake handle.

The centerpiece of the infotainment system is the eight-speaker sound system. This well-balanced system delivers deep, full and crisp tones for the AM/FM radio/CD player/MP3 player. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (a must for those long, fuel-efficient road trips), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music, and VW’s Media Device Interface (MDI), which includes a SD card and USB slots.

Other conveniences are power windows with one-touch operation and pinch protection, keyless access, push-button engine start/stop, heated front washer nozzles, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors, multi-function car analytics and trip computer display, multiple power ports, front and rear reading lights and front and rear carpeted floor mats. Standard on all Jetta trim levels is Volkswagen’s VW CarNet connected car technology that provides a seamless link between the car and an iPhone, Android smartphone or computer. As Volkswagen says, it “keeps you connected with your car even when you’re apart.” It comes with a full feature introductory trial, with a subscription available.

Driving Experience: Exterior

2016, Volkswagen Jetta, 1.4T,mpg,interior

Seating felt and looked good

The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T SE exterior, refreshed for 2015 and continued over to 2016, is conservative in styling, which is not a bad thing as its design will age well and not look out of date. The front end leads off with a narrow grill and sleek Halogen headlights on the outer edges that begin the subtle character line leading to the horizontal tail lamps. The windshield is swept back with a near-flat roof and a color matched shark fin antenna that leads to a trunk lid with an integrated spoiler helping the Jetta have a drag coefficient of .030.

Safety and Convenience

All 2016 Volkswagen Jettas come with six airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system and an Intelligent Crash Response System. The SEL model has automatic headlights and daytime running lights, front fog lights, and rear parking distance control sensors. Additional safety features include driver assistance systems and a lighting package.

Pricing and Warranties

Prices for the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T range from $17,680 to $22,325. Clean Fleet Report’s test car had a MSRP of $20,095. All prices do not include the $820 destination charge.

All 2016 Volkswagen Jetta’s models come with these warranties:

  • Basic: Three years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain: Five years/60,000 miles
  • Scheduled Maintenance: One year/12,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance: Three year/36,000 miles
  • Corrosion Perforation: 12 years/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta SE 1.4T

2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4T,mpg,styling, design

Crisp German lines front and rear

Looking for a sedan that can seat five, has a high level of standard equipment, massive trunk space and excellent fuel economy—for about $20,000? Opt for the base model Jetta S and you will be even a few thousand less. This solid, well put together car delivers confidence on the open road at freeway speeds, a connected feeling to the road and cabin isolation from outside noise.

If this intrigues you, then 2016 Jetta SE 1.4T should be on your shopping and consideration list. Go to your local Volkswagen dealer and take a lengthy test drive on the open highway and experience it for yourself.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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First Drive: 2016 Nissan Sentra

Road Test: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T

Disclosure

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this, we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

Road Test: 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

The No Brainer Gets a Remake

2016 Toyota, CAMRY HYBRID,mpg,road test

Rolling on with new style and grace

For decades the midsize family sedan commanded the largest share of the U.S. car market. For the past 14 years, the Toyota Camry has ruled the midsize roost, a position it continues to hold through the first six months of 2016. Included in the Camry’s yearly sales number since 2006 is the Camry Hybrid like the 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid.

But the midsize car dominance began waning last summer, with sales declining two percent in 2015. The family hauler replacement choice is the compact crossover sport utility. This year the little SUVs will likely nudge the midsize sedans off the top spot and become the best-selling vehicle segment.

This trend is also evidenced when looking at hybrid vehicles. The 2016 Toyota RAV 4 Hybrid small crossover has leapfrogged over the Camry Hybrid to become the second-best selling hybrid vehicle in 2016 behind the company’s Prius. Through the first half of the year, the RAV Hybrid has outsold the Camry Hybrid two to one.

The children of baby boomers are driving this surge, but that doesn’t mean the midsize sedan is an abandoned child—more than 2.3 million were sold last year. But if you’re one who is going to stay the course and are considering a 2016 midsizer, then why not invest a few extra dollars for the Camry with a gasoline-electric drive system?

A hybrid-powered Camry offers a sparkling EPA combined city/highway rating of either 41 or 40 mpg, and gives you 650-plus miles between visits to the gas station. In an era when one storm—meteorological or political—could send gas prices toward $4 per gallon again, the hybrid option on the Camry seems to me a common sense choice.

Yes, the gasoline pump price currently hovers just over two bucks a gallon, but what if…?

Last year Toyota gave the Camry gas and hybrid models more than a usual “mid-cycle” refresh. The updates included a 1.8-inch longer body, a new exterior appearance, upgraded cabin appointments and engineering tweaks to sharpen driving dynamics. The 2016 editions are carbon copies.

The 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid is available in three trim levels: Base LE starts at $26,790 plus $835 destination charges; the sporty SE has a sticker price of $27,795; and the top XLE is priced starting at $30,140. LE editions have an EPA fuel economy rating of 43-mpg city/38-mpg highway/41-mpg combined. The SE and XLE are rated at 40-mpg city/38 highway/40 combined.

Styling: Is This Really A Camry?

2016, Toyota, CAMRY, HYBRID,mpg, fuel economy

Restyled enough to make you wonder if it’s a hybrid

Past Camrys were not unattractive, but words like bold or expressive were never used to describe their styling. The impressions were Palm Springs-retirees as the target customer. Not anymore.

Tightly drawn and crisply rendered, the 2016 Camry Hybrid has an in-your-face large trapezoidal grille complemented by slim headlights that sweep into the fenders. Vertical LED turn signals set into the outer edges of the front facia are almost menacing in appearance.

The sportier XLE Hybrid is distinguished by a mesh grille and front fascia treatment—a statement that economy and entertainment need not be mutually exclusive.

Slab formed body sides are out, replaced with a sharp body crease that begins at the muscular front fenders and sweeps across the doors and rear quarter panels. Slightly flared doorsills suggest a road-hugging stance. Around back, large two-tone taillights are connected by a chrome garnish.

Attention to detail lets the 2016 Hybrid slip through the air with a 0.27 coefficient of drag, and that saves fuel and reduces noise.

With all the benefits of the design and only a few exterior badges to call attention to its gas-electric powertrain, the Camry Hybrid is a fine way to go green without broadcasting it.

What About The Cabin?

Open the doors and one might think Toyota borrowed a couple of interior designers from the company’s Lexus premium division. The cabin exudes the kind of quality and refinement that buyers

2016, Toyota CAMRY, HYBRID,interior,mpg

The dash is upgraded too

of luxury cars are used to.

The feeling and look inside is upscale with the integration of rich-looking plastics, soft-touch surfaces and upholstery, including a mix of leather and Ultrasuede. There are carefully chosen upscale cues, such as genuine cloth stitching on the dashboard.

Headroom is ample, and five-footers can easily see over the hood. Thanks to a height adjustment on the driver’s seat and a tilt/telescoping steering column, nearly everyone should be able to find a good driving position. The left dead pedal is just where it should be.

Controls are large, easy-to-reach, easy-to-understand at a glance and are glove-friendly. Nestled between the three-dimensional Optitron gauges in the instrument panel is a new 4.2-inch color screen on the SE and XLE models. It displays a range of vehicle functions and coordinates with the multimedia system to display audio, navigation, warnings and communications.

The screen can also illustrate the flow of electric and gas power and can be adjusted to detail fuel-consumption data. But it does without the growing-leaves animation and other visual diversions used by some hybrids to coach efficient driving.

Four adults fit comfortably and, as with virtually every car in this class, three across in the rear seat means sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. If little ones are part of your family, front- and rear-facing child seats will fit in the back with ease.

Since this is a hybrid, the nickel-metal hydride battery pack has to be packaged somewhere; in the Camry it’s in the trunk. Cargo space is a respectable 13.1 cubic feet, 2.3 cubes less than the non-hybrid models. For additional space, the rear seatback folds down.

No Lack of Tech

The 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid offers a standard convenience feature list and options that include virtually every infotainment and connectivity item buyers expect. Even the base LE is equipped with keyless ignition and entry, automatic headlights, heated exterior mirrors, full power accessories, cruise control, an eight-way power driver’s seat and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Infotainment, including the intuitive Entune system, provides smartphone-based access to the Bing search engine and popular mobile applications such as iheartradio and Pandora Internet radio. It enables casual-speech voice command of audio and navigation functions and can convert incoming text messages to speech, answering with programmable responses.

Dual 12-volt power outlets coupled with USB and Aux inputs gives the cabin lots of connection points.

Safety

High-tech safety options include Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, lane-departure and blind-spot systems with cross-traffic alert, and a pre-collision system.

The 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid is a Top Safety Pick for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and enjoys a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-star safety rating overall.

Proven, Reliable Hybrid Powertrain

2016 Toyota CAMRY HYBRID, engine,powertrain, hybrid system,mpg

The heart of the machine

Toyota’s mid-cycle refresh of the Camry Hybrid was extensive, but in the engine room the Prius-derived Hybrid Synergy Drive is the one thing the engineers left alone. The hybrid system has no black magic, but it is one of the most sophisticated and refined of its kind. Plus, it’is a proven, reliable powertrain.

Like the Toyota Avalon Hybrid and Lexus ES 300h, the Camry’s gasoline engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder dual overhead cam engine that runs on the more efficient Atkinson cycle. Output is 156 horsepower and 156 pounds-feet of torque.

The engine is joined by a 105-kW permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor that produces 199 pounds-feet of torque. Combined with the 141 equivalent horsepower that the electric motor later puts out, the combined output is rated at 200 horsepower overall, a confusing rating given the numbers involved.

Power is routed through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with three drive modes – hybrid, ECO, and EV for low-speed, short-range electric propulsion. The Hybrid’s onboard sensors automatically determine what blend of gas and electric propulsion best balances power and fuel economy.

Completing the system is a 6.5 amp-hour sealed nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Regenerative braking converts the electric motor to a generator that captures kinetic energy when coasting or the brake is applied, storing it in the hybrid battery pack.

This isn’t a decaf version of standard gasoline Camry. The Hybrid’s 0 to 60 mph sprint of 7.2 seconds is actually quicker than the regular four-cylinder car by a half second. That’s not pokey, and means it’s an admirable highway car with good passing power and on-ramp acceleration.

Driving the Camry Hybrid

2016 Toyota CAMRY HYBRID,styling, design, mpg

Dialing in a little more aggression

Our week-long test drive car was a SE model; the version Toyota says dials up some “eco fun.” Added to the $27,995 sticker price was an Entune premium audio and navigation package, a moonroof, special paint color, VIP security system and the QI wireless phone charger, which was not compatible with my iPhone. With destination charges, the total price ended up at $32,099.

We gave the SE Hybrid a shakedown in a variety of driving environments from back road to highway, to Interstate stop-and-go, to in-town.

In the world of daily driving where the Camry Hybrid will live most of the time, I found it to be supple and as smooth as well-oiled ball bearings. The suspension soaked up the bumps of city streets with only distant notice of their passage.

Western Washington is a land of hills and mountains, and I appreciated the hill-start assist. It prevented the car from rolling backward when starting off on an incline when the brake pedal is released—a common occurrence in these parts.

The transition from all-electric to gasoline engine is exceptionally smooth. While I know that CVT’s are the fuel economy way to go, I still dislike the engine revs held at a high level during rapid acceleration. But, it is something I can almost get used to.

Driving on two-lane highways and freeways, the interior was as quiet as anything sold under Toyota’s upscale Lexus brand. That can be attributed to beefed-up window and door seals, outside mirrors reshaped to reduce wind turbulence and carpeting with 30 percent more insulating material.

I really liked the confident grip of the thick leather-trimmed steering wheel. Steering felt predictable, and the SE Hybrid accepted quick steering transitions with ease. The car felt just as composed taking curves as it did in a straight line, Body roll was well controlled, and the extra chassis rigidity and the SE’s specific suspension tuning gave the car the ability to tackle a twisting road with some zest.

I’m not saying the 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE is a sports sedan, but I give Toyota engineers a big nod for an impressive job of turning the Hybrid into a rather engaging car to drive.

At the end of our week the trip meter registered 548 miles. Even with 62 miles of some entertaining driving, the instrument panel readout was 43.9 mpg. That’s a number that exceeds the EPA estimate, mainly because I was more judicious in managing fuel economy than the EPA’s protocols, and the EPA does not factor the Eco and EV modes in their fuel economy estimates.

The Midsize Hybrid Car For You?

2016 Toyota CAMRY HYBRID,badge,mpg

Still the most trusted badge

The 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid’s fuel economy and new personality are difficult to ignore, but it’s not the only kid on the block. Ford’s Fusion Hybrid has been nipping the Camry Hybrid’s heels for some time. It has sharp styling and its 44 mph highway trumps the Camry.

If you want fuel economy and function, the Honda Accord Hybrid has my attention with mpg numbers of 50 city and 45 highway. Then there’s the reengineered Hyundai Sonata Hybrid that equals the Fusion Hybrid’s fuel economy with mature styling and the automaker’s flair for tons of standard equipment.

New hybrid car buyers with no attachment to a specific brand will have to spend some time to determine which of the above is the best choice for them. It’s a no brainer for Toyota devotees, however. The Camry Hybrid’s new exterior and interior styling, lots of features, plenty of power along with the fuel economy makes it an easy choice. Select the SE model and you can add eco-driving fun.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2016 RAV4 Hybrid

Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Road Test: 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Lexus ES Hybrid

Road Test: 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

How Fuel Management Systems Help the Environment

How Fuel Management Systems Help the Environment

Another Tool for Fleets

fuel management systems

Make sure your money goes in the tank

If you are someone who manages a commercial fleet of vehicles, whether that is trucks, tankers, ambulances or taxis, managing the amount of fuel you use is incredibly important, especially with the volatile nature of the price of oil and the limited resources. However, managing, checking and storing fuel for an entire fleet of vehicles can be quite difficult to maintain over a long period of time.

Fuel management systems like those from FuelTek are not only an effective way of monitoring your fuel, but the benefits of adopting one will also mean that you can help the environment at the same time.

Detect Leaks

One problem faced by fleet managers is that of fuel leaks. Leak prevention is essential as the detection is not always easy, particularly during long-haul journeys where fuel consumption is greater. Leaking fuel is incredibly harmful to the environment and local wildlife, as we’ve seen in the news with the infamous BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

By controlling your fuel, you can detect whether a leak has occurred or if a leak is likely to occur, and can act accordingly. If you store fuel on site, you can also detect if anyone has attempted to break in and steal your fuel or check to see if water has entered the fuel storage unit; something you need to prevent at all costs.

Manage Fuel Consumption

fuel management systems

You need to keep track of fuel in the yard and on the road

Another important thing to consider is managing fuel consumption. When delivering goods, drivers often face the prospect of reaching their destination late. This can lead to speeding, which, aside from the fact that this is dangerous and illegal, can also lead to an increase in fuel consumption, meaning that not only is the company losing money, but there is also a negative impact on the environment because of increased greenhouse gas production.

By monitoring fuel consumption, you can identify vehicles with issues and schedule repairs. Equally, you can also identify inefficient routes taken by your drivers and plan more effectively; monitoring in this way also means you can spot poor driving habits, enabling you to train and educate your drivers accordingly.

Diesel Exhaust Fluids

Fuel management systems are becoming increasingly popular in diesel fleets. A new fluid found in modern diesels, diesel exhaust fluid, adds another critical item to be monitored by conscientious fleets.

Diesel exhaust fluid converts the nitrogen oxides emitted from the engine to harmless steam and nitrogen, further reducing the emission that are the precursors of smog.

A more environmentally friendly fleet not only serves to present a company in a more positive light to the public, customers, shareholders and the board, but also has the added bonus of actually limiting an organisation’s negative impact on the environment; everybody wins!