The 2013 Toyota Camry isn’t the most exciting car to drive or the sexiest car to look at, but I think it had plenty of qualities families will appreciate. But what about the all-important fuel economy figures? In my case, I hit EPA’s combined estimate pretty much right on the nose.
After a week of driving the Camry to work, hauling my son to the babysitter every morning, and running errands in the city over the weekend, I ended my week with the 2013 Camry SE with just shy of 29 MPG showing on the dashboard’s fuel economy estimate. That’s not quite the highway fuel economy estimate of 35 MPG, but that result doesn’t make me wonder about the Camry’s EPA ratings the same way I did about those of its cousin, the Lexus ES350. That’s because I spent a lot more time driving in town and idling in the Camry than I did in the ES350. To beat the EPA combined estimate of 28 MPG by several tenths was admirable under those circumstances.
Had I been driving the Camry one week later, I have a feeling my mileage would have creeped up toward that magic highway number. The week after we tested the Camry, I took our family on vacation, necessitating a decent three-hour road trip on the way to do a lot of trawling around Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s 35 MPH backroads. Since the Camry had steadily climbed from a displayed average of 18 MPG on the first day of my test week to more than 28 MPG on the final day with very little highway driving time, I’m sure a good long stretch on the highway would have allowed it to skew that trip computer-calculated average MPG toward the EPA highway figure.
If you’re a buyer who gives fuel economy more weight than some other factors in your decision while shopping midsize sedans, you probably won’t do much better in the 2.5-liter four-cylinder Camry SE’s competitors — unless, perhaps, you pay more for optional engines. The Ford Fusion, when equipped with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission, actually fares worse than the Camry, putting up a 22/34/26 city/highway/combined MPG rating in EPA testing. The Chevrolet Malibu equipped with the same cylinder count, displacement, and number of transmission ratios does only slightly better on the highway, and its 25 city/36 highway MPG ratings result in a combined rating of 29 MPG. The Nissan Altima also gets a 2.5-liter four-banger as its base engine, but its Xtronic CVT helps it distance itself from the pack in fuel economy, earning it a 27/38/31 city/highway/combined MPG rating from the EPA.
The Fusion and the Malibu both offer optional smaller, turbocharged engines that promise more efficiency if driven gingerly, but also deliver more power if called upon. In my experience, having access to more power sometimes intoxicates my right foot to the point that any mileage benefits are moot.
Disclosure: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.