Guide to Green Cars > The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide > Toyota

2012 Green Car Buyer’s Guide, Toyota

2012 model year highlights from Toyota: the Camry, Camry Hybrid, Prius, Prius C, Prius V, Prius Plug-In and Yaris. 


Compiled by Megan E. Phelps, John Rockhold,
Hannah Kincaid, Emily Glover,
Bradley Berman and Zach McDonald

See “What the Numbers Mean” in The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide, 2012 for a full description of the metrics we collected for each model.

Toyota Camry

Gasoline, Sedan 

Toyota-CamryPrice Range: $22,700 – $25,500
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 25/35/28
Annual Fuel Cost: $2,000
Air Pollution Score: 5
Greenhouse Gas Score: 7
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 44/Above Average
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick (4-door models); 5-star NHTSA rating
102.7 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3
Similar Used: Redesigned for 2012

Good to Know: 

  • After its first major update in five years, the 2012 Toyota Camry has crisper exterior styling, improved fuel economy and a lower price.
  • Comes in 4- and 6-cylinder variants. The 4-cylinder model has the best fuel economy of any gas-only vehicle in its class.
  • Drivers seeking sporty handling, look elsewhere: The Camry lives up to its reputation as a quintessentially “sensible” family sedan.
  • Redesigned interior features expensive-looking materials — even real stitching in upholstery — but the car fails to keep pace with competing models in overall appearance.

What the Press Says: 

  • “Its comprehensive list of enhancements notwithstanding, those with more avant-garde styling preferences still will find the 2012 Toyota Camry sedan falls short in the head-turning department.” — Kelley Blue Book 
  • “It’s been 20 years, but the Toyota Camry might just have leapt back to the front of the pack as the worry-free car you would gladly recommend to your mother — without being afraid to be seen in it yourself.” — Automobile 

What Drivers Say: 

  • The Camry drivers we heard from were generally happy with the spacious interior of the car, but would like better gas mileage. This car was on the borderline of our criteria: It can get 35 mpg on the highway, but combined mileage is below 30. One reader in North Dakota also told us that while the handling on this car is generally good, it’s simply too light to do well in a rough winter.

Toyota Camry Hybrid

Hybrid, Sedan 

Toyota-Camry-HybridPrice Range: $26,600 – $28,900
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 43/39/41
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,350
Air Pollution Score: 7
Greenhouse Gas Score: 9
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 51/Superior
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; N/A
Space: 102.7 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3
Similar Used: Redesigned for 2012 

Good to Know: 

  • Newly redesigned for 2012, the Camry Hybrid brings the latest version of the Hybrid Synergy Drive to Toyota’s best-selling platform.
  • Updated design boosts horsepower by more than 5 percent and improves fuel economy by a combined 25 percent over last year’s model.
  • Transitions between gas and electric power are more seamless than in previous models, creating a driving experience nearly indistinguishable from the non-hybrid Camry.
  • The gas engine is noisy with hard acceleration, and the brakes need an extra push to engage.
  • The console display system features a 6.1-inch touch screen, a rearview camera, fuel- and energy-use monitoring, and Bluetooth connectivity for wireless music streaming.
  • The interior was upgraded with added roominess, higher-quality materials and more comfortable seating.
  • The battery has been repositioned for an additional 2.5 cubic feet of trunk space.
  • The updated exterior styling is not that exciting but doesn’t hurt the car’s reputation as a sedate family sedan. Millions of loyal customers don’t seem to mind.

What the Press Says: 

  • “If you didn’t know it was a hybrid, the Camry would lead you to believe it was a deftly executed gas-only sedan with some extra pop under the hood.” — Motor Trend 
  • “The Camry Hybrid lacks the whiz-bang driving displays of the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, but it beats both in terms of efficiency and driveability, and it’s a leap beyond the outclassed 2011 Camry Hybrid.” — 

Toyota Prius

Hybrid, Compact Hatchback 

Toyota-PriusPrice Range: $24,800 – $30,600
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 51/48/50
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,150
Air Pollution Score: 7
Greenhouse Gas Score: 10
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 54/Superior
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; 5-star NHTSA rating
Space: 93.7 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3
Similar Used: 2010, 2011

Good to Know: 

  • Toyota has sold more than 1 million Prii in the United States since the car’s introduction in 2000 — outselling all other hybrids combined.
  • The Prius liftback was to enjoy its sixth consecutive year as the most fuel-efficient car on the market without a plug — until the new Prius C arrived.
  • High mpg comes at a price of meek performance and tame driving characteristics. The refrain from critics has been: soft suspension, squishy brakes, numb steering and lackluster acceleration.
  • Questions about Prius safety in recent years are unfounded. The federal government gives the 2012 Toyota Prius five out of five stars for overall safety.

What the Press Says:  

  • “The 2012 Toyota Prius may not make the cover of the hot-rod magazines, and it probably won’t be on the wish list of every newly licensed teenage boy. But, for the vast majority of folks who simply need a high-mileage mode of transport that is also very eco-friendly, very reliable and very much in demand, the 2012 Prius hybrid in all its forms is the hybrid of choice.” — Kelley Blue Book 
  • “The poster child for eco-motoring, the Prius is a practical, spacious and an easy way to lower fuel bills.” — Car and Driver 

What Drivers Say: 

  • “I like the fact that the car is designed to teach you how to drive differently to save fuel,” says Dana Driscoll of Clarkston, Mich. “We looked at other hybrids, but the Prius was the only one that changed our thinking and behaviors. That’s really cool.”

Toyota Prius C

Hybrid, Subcompact Hatchback 

Toyota-Prius-CPrice Range: $19,700 – $24,000
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 53/46/50
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,150
Air Pollution Score: 7
Greenhouse Gas Score: 10
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 56/Superior
Safety Ratings: N/A
Space: 87.4 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 4
Similar Used: New for 2012

Good to Know: 

  • Read our lips: 53 mpg in the city!
  • The Prius C is the most affordable, fuel-efficient car in Toyota’s expanding hybrid lineup.
  • Among cars without a plug, the Prius C is the world’s most fuel-efficient hybrid in city driving.
  • The Prius C edges out most other cars in its class in both interior and cargo space. Although it’s a subcompact, it’s deceptively roomy. Still, it’s not much more efficient than a regular Prius despite the smaller size.
  • It costs just $600 more than the next- cheapest hybrid on the market, the Honda Insight, which it bests by 12 mpg in city fuel economy.
  • The Toyota Prius C comes in four levels of trim. The most expensive packages include add-ons such as heated seats, a power moonroof and Toyota’s Entune multimedia system.
  • At just 99 combined horsepower, the Prius C lacks power — but critics find its tuning and handling to be more fun than that of the classic Prius.

What the Press Says: 

  • “It’s both smaller and more affordable than the existing Prius, while delivering superlative fuel economy figures.” — Autoblog 
  • “The Yaris begets a smaller, lighter Prius for people with smaller, lighter wallets.” — Car and Driver 
  • “Swimming in its natural aquarium — city driving — the C negotiates the real world with adequate if indifferent small-car reflexes. ... At highway speeds, however, that 99 horsepower can make the C feel as if it’s motoring through an atmosphere a lot thicker than planet Earth’s.” — Motor Trend 

Toyota Prius V

Hybrid, Wagon 

Toyota-Prius-VPrice Range: $27,200 – $30,800
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 44/40/42
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,350
Air Pollution Score: 7
Greenhouse Gas Score: 9
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 51/Superior
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick (4-door models); N/A
Space: 97.2 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3
Similar Used: New for 2012

Good to Know: 

  • The Prius V matches the cargo room and interior roominess of most crossover SUVs while giving up less than 20 percent of the 50-mpg fuel economy of the regular Prius.
  • The V is a long-awaited solution for families who want a hybrid but require more space than they can get in a mid-size hatchback.
  • The V nets 60 percent more cargo room than a standard Prius with a $2,400 price premium.
  • Sold with a menu of features similar to the standard Prius, plus a few new ones, such as an optional panoramic moonroof and Toyota’s new multimedia system.
  • Because of its greater weight, the Prius V groans under heavy acceleration even worse than the classic Prius does.
  • Something about stretching out the design makes it feel less Prius-like — in a good way. The wagon-like Prius V appears less like a corrective appliance.

What the Press Says: 

  • “The first new family member is the Toyota Prius V. It’s just a little bit larger and should only cost a couple of grand more. And for that extra money you’ll get a genuinely useful five-passenger wagon with plenty of room for kids and their kid paraphernalia.” — 
  • “The Prius V is longer, wider and taller. That means more room, but it also means an EPA-estimated 42 mpg in the city, so make sure you need the extra space. If you don’t, there’s little reason to choose the V over the cheaper, 50-mpg Prius.” — 
  • “The V is proof that quick and powerful aren’t prerequisites for fun to drive. ... The pseudo-minivan hybrid rides better than a regular Prius.” — Motor Trend 

Toyota Prius Plug-In

Plug-In Hybrid, Compact Hatchback 

Toyota-Prius-Plug-inBase Price: $32,000
Combined MPGe: 95 all-electric/50 in hybrid mode
Annual Fuel Cost: N/A
Air Pollution Score: N/A
Greenhouse Gas Score: N/A
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: N/A
Safety Ratings: N/A
Space: 93.7 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3
Similar Used: New for 2012

Good to Know: 

  • After years of DIY geeks installing expensive aftermarket batteries to give the conventional Prius the ability to plug in — with mixed results — Toyota is now selling an official plug-in version.
  • The Prius Plug-in provides about 11 miles of all-electric range. After that, the car acts like a conventional 50-mpg Prius.
  • This car is ideal for drivers who mostly make short trips and are able to recharge frequently — and for those who want to treat this as their primary vehicle, capable of road trips when needed.
  • Toyota takes a blended approach to plug-in hybrids, meaning the gas engine comes on anytime strong acceleration is needed. It lacks the quick, high-torque acceleration of other electric models.
  • The Prius Plug-in’s relatively small battery pack (for a plug-in car) charges to full capacity in about three hours using a standard 120-volt electrical outlet.
  • The Prius Plug-in qualifies for a $2,500 federal tax credit — rather than the $7,500 credit for cars such as the Leaf and Volt. While the credit lasts, that makes the Leaf more affordable.

What the Press Says:  

  • “After driving the corded Prius in California recently, we can confidently say that from both the outside and behind the wheel, the Prius Plug-in hybrid looks, drives and feels pretty much like any other example of the world’s most popular hybrid.” — Autoblog 
  • “Is the Prius Plug-in worth it? Yes it is — in the manner that cleaner air and moving toward a more stable and, eventually, more affordable energy future are worth it.” — 

Toyota Yaris

Gasoline, Compact Hatchback 

Toyota-YarisPrice Range: $14,900 – $18,000
City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 30/35/32
Annual Fuel Cost: $1,750
Air Pollution Score: 5
Greenhouse Gas Score: 7
ACEEE Green Score and Class Ranking: 49/Above Average
Safety Ratings: IIHS Top Safety Pick; 4-star NHTSA rating
Space: 84.4 cu. ft. p.v./seats 5
Drive Score: 3.5
Similar Used: Redesigned for 2012

Good to Know: 

  • The Yaris is Toyota’s smallest and most inexpensive car — with styling and price targeted at young, urban, value-conscious buyers.
  • The 4-cylinder, 1.5-liter engine is adequate, but the Yaris comes up short on driving pep versus its competitors.
  • It comes as either a three- or five-door hatchback. (The four-door sedan model was discontinued for 2012.)
  • The base model is essentially an econobox, stripped of nearly all amenities. Adding amenities on par with its competitors adds $1,000 or more to the sticker price.

What the Press Says: 

  • “The Toyota Yaris’ ride is compliant, and the car’s handling is reasonably responsive and secure. Acceleration is adequate, but engine drone would intrude.” — Consumer Reports 
  • “The 2012 Toyota Yaris has improved looks, ride, handling and cabin materials, but it’s hurt by its highway performance and by gas mileage that doesn’t match its segment’s leaders.” — 

What Drivers Say: 

  • Many Yaris drivers told us they get mpg that’s considerably better than the EPA rating, including Sinoch Kisinger of Coalmont, Tenn., who consistently gets 38 to 42 mpg, even when driving up a mountain.
  • The Yaris got good ratings for those taking cross-country road trips. Ben Taylor of Kahoka, Mo., says the car has plenty of room for two adults, a large dog and luggage. Several city drivers also told us they love the Yaris. “It can park anywhere,” one Baltimore resident says. “It’s small and nimble, but feels big inside.”

More 2012 green cars: Find details about many more green cars from other automakers in The Ultimate Green Car Buyer’s Guide, 2012.

Photos from Toyota 

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