An old standard hums a new tune: The Camry Hybrid

The car criticized for being 'too boring' gets better looks, more interior room, and a healthy dose of sensibility.

The knock on Camry, Toyota's mainstay sedan, has been that it's too generic. It's also the best-selling car in America, named Motor Trend's Car of the Year for 2007. And now it has rolled out in hybrid form.

We had already driven the 6- and 4-cylinder gasoline-only versions – both solid citizens, the former (a torque-happy, 3.5-liter, 268 h.p. cruiser) predictably punchier. A redesign makes Camry more bulgy, less plain Jane. Headlights are racier. This hybrid's real attractiveness, obviously, is that it delivers big-car comfort while burning less fuel than many an econobox. Our well-appointed tester ($26,709) scored 40.3 m.p.g. for the week, driven conscientiously: light on the accelerator, mindful of momentum. There is a faint whine at times from the engine compartment when the 2.4-liter, 16-valve engine is being assisted (or supplanted, at slow speeds) by the electric motor (192 h.p. combined). But operation was unfailingly smooth and performance better than adequate.

The car's only an inch wider than its previous generation, but interior styling makes it feel roomier and adds rear legroom. Camry doesn't scream "hybrid." Boasting's not in this car's nature. Verdict: Size and sensibility.

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