If you've been following over the last few weeks, you'll have seen us pitch two cars from particular manufacturers against each other.

While there are often clear differences between the models, the exercise highlights what someone in the market at a particular price point can expect, when comparing a hybrid model for an equivalently-priced gasoline-only vehicle.

This time, it's the turn of two more Toyotas - the ubiquitous 2012 Toyota Prius, and the all-new 2012 Toyota Camry. Both are better than ever - but where would your money go?


While the Camry can do little to topple the Prius in terms of economy and emissions, the model has seen improvements of its own for the 2012 model.

Comparing the base-model 2.5 liter, 4-cylinder, automatic 2012 Camry with its 2011 counterpart, combined gas mileage has increased from 26 mpg to 28 mpg. That equates to an improvement of 3 mpg over the old car's 22 mpg city, and highway mileage has risen from 32 mpg, to 35.

That means that you'll save over $100 a year compared to the old model based on 45 percent highway, 55 percent city driving and 15,000 miles.

Using the EPA's annual petroleum consumption estimates, that's almost 38 gallons less fuel.

The Prius makes both look a little foolish, returning 50 mpg combined. City economy is more than doubled at 51 mpg, and it still manages 48 mpg highway.

In terms of money, that's over $800 a year less on gas, and a significant 218.4 gallon reduction next to the 2012 Camry. Be in no doubt about the Prius' environmental credentials.


Predictably, with a 2.5-liter, 178-horsepower four cylinder, the 2012 Toyota Camry is a stronger performer than the combined 134-horsepower of engine and electric motor in the Prius.

It's not all about power, though. Refinement is important too, and the 2012 Camry is a much better vehicle in that respect than the 2011 model. The recent revisions have brought about ride and handling improvements too, making it more fun to drive.

One major benefit of the Prius is its ability to be driven at lower speeds on the electric motor alone. It's clean, quiet, and in the absence of any engine characteristics, very smooth and relaxing, too. With the electric motor to assist the engine, it can also step off the line quite smartly.

The Camry offers more outright performance than the Prius, but each car has its particular specialities.

2012 Toyota Camry

2012 Toyota Camry

Equipment and practicality

It only takes a glance at each car to determine which is bigger - the Camry sits in the class above the Prius, and has a larger interior volume (and exterior length) as a result.

Practicality isn't as clear-cut as that though - thanks to a practical hatchback body shape, the Prius actually has greater luggage volume - despite housing batteries beneath the trunk floor. Its 22 cubic feet is significantly greater than the 15 cubic feet in the Camry, and the large rear hatch makes it easier to access.

Both are well equipped, top-line Prius models even having LED headlights, and a solar moonroof to power the ventilation system sits on the options list.

For Prius-equivalent prices, you can get a highly-specified Camry, too. SE models have various sporty trim options to improve the car's looks, including 17-inch alloy wheels. Remote keyless entry also features on SE spec.


As we've found from previous comparisons, the hybrid is inevitably more expensive than the the equivalent gasoline car, owing to its greater technology and cost of production. For the $23,520 of a basic Prius, you can get a Camry SE and have $500 to spend on options and accessories.

Though the Camry can't touch the Prius for economy, the $21,995 base Camry L may also be attractive for its extra passenger volume and performance.

Unlike the previous comparisons though, the Prius has an ace up its sleeve - it may be more expensive to buy, but thanks to the huge fuel savings, you may make up the difference in only one or two years.


We're often reminded that people don't always choose cars on a like-for-like basis, but instead have a set budget and choose the best vehicle they can for that price. That's also the reason we've not been comparing Prius and the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid - at a minimum of $26,660, few are likely to choose between the two models.

That's why the regular Camry and Prius makes for an interesting comparison - they're two very different cars from the same manufacturer. One majors on performance and space while enjoying improved economy over its predecessor, the other is the world's best-selling hybrid, very much focused on reducing fuel use and emissions.

The 2012 Camry is undoubtedly a very good car, improved over the 2011 model in several areas, not least economy. It's also competitively priced.

However, the excellent economy available from the Prius means running one could be significantly cheaper in the mid to long term, offsetting any initial concerns over the purchase price. For many, the MPG will be worth the MPH sacrifices.


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