Toyota bZ4X review: head not heart

Published:09 June 2022

Toyota bZ4X header
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
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  • 4 out of 5

By Tom Wiltshire

Bauer Automotive staff writer; enjoys Peugeots, naturally-aspirated diesels, column shifts and steel wheels

By Tom Wiltshire

Bauer Automotive staff writer; enjoys Peugeots, naturally-aspirated diesels, column shifts and steel wheels

► Toyota’s first purpose-built EV driven
► A RAV4-sized EV with 317 miles range
► FWD or AWD options available

This is the new Toyota bXz4 4XBz bZ4X, and if you ignore the California-only RAV4 EV, it’s Toyota’s first real venture into a battery-electric vehicle. That’s right, after 20 million hybrid vehicles, it’s finally out with petrol and in with EV at the world’s biggest car manufacturer.

Playing the long game means that the Toyota bZ4X is an impressively considered approach to an electric car, with a new ownership approach named ‘Kanzen’ intended to make running one as painless as possible. And it’s hardly as if Toyotas are known for being temperamental in the first place.

So while the tech specs may not break any new ground, don’t dismiss the bZ4X as a half-hearted attempt at making an EV just because everyone else is doing it.

Best electric SUVs

What’s in a name?

Toyota bZ4X rear tracking

bZ (small b, please) means ‘Beyond Zero’ – Toyota’s belief that an EV should have more appeal than just having nothing come out of a tailpipe. ‘4’ refers to the car’s mid-size status, putting it into contention with the likes of the Skoda Enyaq, Kia EV6 and Tesla Model Y. One can assume future model labelled ‘3’ or ‘5’ could well be in the pipeline.

‘X’ is because it’s an SUV or crossover, and surprisingly it’s more than just some body cladding – thanks to a technology partnership with Subaru, which sells a reclothed bZ4X as the Subaru Solterra. And it’s endowed both models with a surprising degree of ability on rougher ground…

Pretty mechanically tame then?

The platform the Toyota bZ4X sits on is called eTNGA, and unsurprisingly it’s the brand’s bespoke electric car platform heavily related to the standard TNGA underpinnings of cars like the RAV4.

It’s fairly standard stuff with a ‘skateboard’ style 71.4kWh battery pack and axle-mounted electric motors. The battery in this case is structural, aiding rigidity, and suspension is via MacPherson struts at the front and trailing arms at the rear.

Toyota bZ4X side profile

The resulting car is around 9cm longer than a RAV4 but a little lower, with a heavily sloping rear window giving it the ‘coupe-like’ roofline that’s so fashionable – complete with missing rear wiper.

It pairs that with several Land Rovers’ worth of black plastic cladding around the wheelarches. It’s not heinously ugly, though you’d struggle to be kinder than calling its drawn-up face and anonymous rear anything more than distinctive.

The motor situation is a little more interesting. Currently there are two options powering the Toyota bZ4X. A front-wheel drive model uses a single 150kW (201bhp) electric motor on the front axle, giving a 0-62mph sprint of 7.5 seconds.

There’s also an AWD model which feels Subaru’s influence and is ‘symmetrical’ – downrating the front motor to 80kW and putting an identical one on the rear axle, for a total output of 215bhp. This pulls the 0-62mph sprint down to 6.9 seconds and unlocks a swathe of X-Mode off-road settings.

There’s nothing stopping Toyota uprating these further – the bZ4X’s sibling, the Lexus RZ, already promises to pair the 150kW motor on the front with the 80kW on the rear, so it’s possible a higher-performance Toyota model could see the light of day, potentially breathed on by the GR department.

What’s the Toyota bZ4X like to drive?

Performance in the AWD model we drove was what we’ve come to expect from a mid-range EV these days. There’s a satisfying surge of acceleration, though even if you floor it it’s not too lairy. That initial surge tails off as you speed up, though there’s plenty in reserve for a motorway overtake.

Toyota bZ4X front cornering

More impressive is the ride and handling. The stiff body structure and compliant suspension helps it feel amazingly composed over rough surfaces – though it doesn’t iron them out completely, it’s totally unfazed. For a two-tonne SUV on 20-inch alloys, it’s very good indeed.

Stick it into a corner and the bZ4X remains composed, stays flat and even has a hint of dynamism. The influence of Toyota’s performance department has been creeping into its road cars for a little while now and it’s on display here, making the bZ4X significantly nicer to drive than an ID.4 or a Model Y.

It’ll even do some very mild off-roading. You’ll be limited by ground clearance, but the bZ4X can wade through up to 500mm of water and the X-Mode driving modes give it an impressive amount of traction on slippery surfaces.

At a cruise, the wind noise around those usefully big door mirrors is a little obtrusive but we could see ourselves comfortably spending many miles in the bZ4X. As for how many miles…

What’s the electric range and charging situation?

WLTP range for the Toyota bZ4X is a maximum of 317 miles on the WLTP test cycle for the most basic FWD model, knocked down as far as 257 miles if you go for a Premiere Edition AWD car. Those figures seem realistic, as we saw around 240 miles indicated from our test car – and the range gauge remained accurate as we drove. Once we get hold of a car in the UK we’ll update this with a proper range test.

Toyota bZ4X charging

You can get longer ranges elsewhere – a Skoda Enyaq 80 will do up to 329 miles, for example, and a long-range Ford Mustang Mach-E can stretch out up to 379 miles. But the Toyota’s very efficient with its comparatively smaller battery, a factor that’s ever more important when rising energy prices mean the cost of running an EV is skirting dangerously close to petrol or diesel in some places.

As for charging, you can top up at 150kW from a suitably powerful charger to get an 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes. Be warned, however, that from launch home charging speed will be limited to 6.6kW. Later in 2022 the on-board charger will be upgraded to 11kW for faster overnight topups.

What’s an electric car really like to live with?

What’s it like inside?

A mixed bag, and very different to most Toyotas. For starters, you get a raised dial pack and small steering wheel à la Peugeot i-Cockpit – this tester was fine with it, but my driving companion couldn’t get comfortable, so be warned.

The dash layout is otherwise fairly sensible and feels hardy if not luxurious. There’s a high-set centre console with physical heating controls – a blessing – and a wireless charging pad ahead of two cupholders. There’s no glovebox as Toyota reckons it makes the cabin airier. Not sure how much we buy into this, but there’s plenty of space for odds and sods in the centre console.

Toyota bZ4X interior

As for space, rear legroom’s exceptionally good and this 6ft 2in tester could comfortably sit behind himself. The usual EV issue is that the high floor means the underside of your thighs could be supported better – that’s a problem that’s mirrored in the front seats, which have very short squabs for taller drivers.

The boot volume, meanwhile, is only average at 452 litres – significantly less than a Skoda Enyaq’s 585 litres or the 490 you get in a Kia EV6. There’s no frunk, either, so charging cables sit in a little compartment under the boot floor.

We’re very pleased to see a new Toyota infotainment system, though. All but the base-spec car will get a 12.3-inch touchscreen, Toyota’s version of the one found in the latest Lexus NX. It’s responsive, good-looking, and orders of magnitude better than the system it replaces.

What’s it like to own?

Toyota’s keen to keep hold of a fair number of its bZ4Xs – intending to lease them, recondition them at the end of the term and send them out again. Certainly it’s a comprehensive package of benefits – you’ll get a home charger and installation, six month’s access to the Toyota network of 12,000 charge points, three years’ roadside assistance and if you order early enough, three years of free servicing.

Not only does the bZ4X benefit from Toyota’s 10-year Relax warranty but the battery pack’s guaranteed to retain at least 70% of its charge over a million kilometres (621,000 miles).

Toyota bZ4X infotainment

Initially things do look a little pricey, though, with a personal lease on a mid-spec Motion costing £611 a month with £3662 down or £669 a month with £3662 down on a PCP if you’d prefer the option to own the car outright.

Verdict

Stupid name aside, the Toyota bZ4X is a formidable entrant to the bulging E-SUV segment – an impressive first move from such a latecomer to EVs. It’s spacious, good to drive and should prove utterly painless to own whether you’re leasing it for a short spell or hanging onto it for the best part of a decade.

It’s only average in practicality terms but well above average to drive, with a superb ride and composed handling. And with most of Toyota’s traditional sticking points, like crap infotainment or a cheap-feeling cabin, consigned to the past, there’s even more reason to opt for the pragmatic choice rather than the emotional one.

The new Toyota bZ4X won’t set your heart racing – it’ll lower your blood pressure. Just save some room in the garage for a GR Yaris for the weekends.

Specs

Price when new: £51,550
On sale in the UK: 2022
Engine: Twin 80kW permanent magnetic electric motors
Transmission:
Performance: 215bhp, 248 ft lb, 6.9 seconds 0-62mph, 99mph, 0g/km (from tail pipe)
Weight / material: 2060kg
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4690/1860/1600

Rivals

Photo Gallery

  • Toyota bZ4X front three quarter
  • Toyota bZ4X rear three quarter
  • Toyota bZ4X rear
  • Toyota bZ4X front three quarter
  • Toyota bZ4X side profile
  • Toyota bZ4X interior
  • Toyota bZ4X front three quarter
  • Toyota bZ4X rear three quarter
  • Toyota bZ4X front three quarter
  • Toyota bZ4X rear three quarter
  • Toyota bZ4X side profile
  • Toyota bZ4X front tracking
  • Toyota bZ4X front
  • Toyota bZ4X front cornering
  • Toyota bZ4X rear tracking
  • Toyota bZ4X front cornering
  • Toyota bZ4X rear tracking
  • Toyota bZ4X charging
  • Toyota bZ4X motor
  • Toyota bZ4X infotainment
  • Toyota bZ4X rear seats
  • Toyota bZ4X boot
  • Toyota bZ4X dials

By Tom Wiltshire

Bauer Automotive staff writer; enjoys Peugeots, naturally-aspirated diesels, column shifts and steel wheels

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