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Toyota Camry hybrid hits sixes

As momentum builds for Toyota's newest green machine, it has released fuel economy figures that show the hybrid Camry will achieve a combined fuel economy figure ‘in the low 6.0-litres per 100km range’.

Despite being about 70kg heavier than the petrol Camry, the hybrid is tipped to be the most fuel efficient locally built car in the country.  The equivalent petrol four-cylinder Camry delivers 8.8 litres/100km.  Toyota says that compared to its bigger, locally-built six-cylinder rivals, the hybrid is expected to save at least 1100 litres of fuel in a year of city driving.

Toyota's corporate manager of product planning, Peter Evans, expects the car's fuel consumption and emissions to rival many small and compact cars.  Evans says motorists could save at least 1100 litres or $1320 in a year of city driving with the hybrid.

This is based on a metro pump price of $1.20 a litre for regular unleaded petrol.  Fleets operating more than several vehicles stand to save far more, he says.  Servicing costs will be the same as the petrol version.

Hybrid Camry owners will pay $130 for up to four standard scheduled services during the first three years or 60,000km.  The hybrid will be powered by a 2.4-litre four cylinder and electric motor developing about 140kW and mated to a continuously variable transmission.  Apart from economy, the hybrid will emit less than 150 g/km of greenhouse gases.

Although it is built at Altona, the car's hybrid components come from Japan.  Much of the car has been locally re-engineered for Australian driving styles, ride and handling expectations.

Although it looks similar to the petrol car, it gets a sleeker underbody and other aerodynamic aids to maximise fuel economy at highway speeds.  Toyota Style Australia senior designer, Paul Beranger, says the car's design is an amalgamation of the global car with local tastes, particularly with the interior.

He says it must communicate the advance technology without alienating buyers "from the face that Camry represents".  "We are integrating mainstream with new technology," he says.  "We have to ensure that the car appeals to existing owners as well as early adopters."

Extensive local research by Toyota shows that customers interested in hybrids were aware of that technology, he says.  Toyota plans to sell 10,000 hybrid Camrys in the first year, with many going to governments and fleets but it is also targeted at families.  It goes on sale within a month, with a entry price around $33,000.

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