MIDSIZE executive sedans continue to be battered by the rise in popularity of SUVs, but that hasn't stopped the Toyota Camry from continuing to headline this segment. The Japanese automaker accounts for nearly the entire segment's sales in the Philippines — pushing the Honda Accord and Mazda 6 to the sidelines.

Toyota plans to lead this category with the newly facelifted 2022 Toyota Camry Hybrid. As the name implies, the beloved Camry gets a new electrified powertrain along with a host of equipment and aesthetic changes.

From the outside, the 2022 Toyota Camry Hybrid gains a revised front end that gives this vehicle a more assertive look. The grille is now wider, but the rest of the vehicle carries over unchanged. It's not exactly a bad thing since the Camry always had a regal look — especially when compared to the Honda Accord which looks merely like an enlarged Civic. Combined with the new set of 18-inch wheels, the facelifted Camry manages to perfectly fit in the trendy central business districts of the Philippines.

As for the interior, it's mostly business as usual. The visuals are mostly carried over from the pre-facelift model, which means you still get an interior that's loaded with soft-touch materials and leather upholstery. The Mazda 6's interior still holds more visual interest with its genuine wood trims and plush Nappa leather, but the Camry isn't too bad, to begin with. You also get a new 9-inch infotainment that's now Toyota's proprietary head unit rather than the previous third-party-sourced ones. It comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless charging, as well as a JBL sound system.

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But this is a Camry, which means its amenities are just as luxurious for the rear passengers. As a matter of fact, this is probably why the Camry is so popular in the first place. Rear passengers are treated to seats with powered recline, adjustable headrests, powered rear and manual side sunshades, and a front passenger seat that can be electronically controlled from the back for even more legroom.

The other main highlight of the new Camry is its new hybrid powertrain. Combining Toyota's new 2.5-liter Dynamic Force direct-injected four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor, it has a combined output of 211 hp and 221 Nm of torque. These are very healthy numbers, and this drives the front wheels via an e-CVT. The best part about this is how it transforms the Camry in plenty of ways.

First, the Camry is already known for its top-notch refinement, but with the hybrid powertrain aggressively trying its best to run in electric mode, the serenity this car provides is even better than what its competitors can offer. It pretty much is like a budget Lexus ES already. Even out on the highway, especially when coasting and the engine's been cut off, the Camry is very hushed and stable. You also wouldn't believe the fuel economy I had with this vehicle. It's a given that the Camry Hybrid will be more efficient — as is the case with most hybrids, but overall, I've been doing 16-18 km/l. That's insanely good for a midsize passenger car and is more than twice the 8.5 km/l I could achieve with the pre-facelift non-hybrid model.

Even better is the fact that this powertrain has made the Camry fun to drive. Thanks to this new powertrain, the Camry feels extremely responsive the moment you put your foot down. This is down to the electric motors filling in the gaps of the gas engine since engines don't produce peak power in the entire range. The CVT still holds the engine's revs and doesn't try to mimic a traditional automatic, but it's probably for the better. Because of this, power from the engine is delivered smoothly and very responsively.

Chuck the 2022 Toyota Camry Hybrid into a corner, and you'll be surprised at its grip levels and how the suspension manages to keep the body stable. Due to the CVT, it won't have the linearity of having a traditional automatic. The sporty feel is also thanks to how responsive and precise the Camry steers. Basically, all the suspension does is absorb the road imperfections with no added vertical or lateral movements.

The 2022 Toyota Camry Hybrid is more than just a facelift for the Philippine market. The improved looks and equipment make it a much more compelling executive sedan, but with the hybrid powertrain, it effectively makes the Camry feel like a budget Lexus at this point. Sure, at P2,355,000, it's now the most expensive in its segment, but a Lexus ES 300h costs more than a million more. With that in mind, that amount doesn't seem too bad after all.