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Toyota bZ4X 2023 Is Joining The EV Crowd

Image Source: BigPixel Photo / Shutterstock

The 2023 Toyota bZ4X lacks some of the technology luster of its rivals, but it’s efficient, well-equipped, and easy to live with. The bZ4X is a fully electric SUV that offers more than 250 miles of range in some versions, seating for five, available all-wheel drive, and the ground clearance for modest off-roading. Alternatives include the Volkswagen ID.4, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Tesla Model Y, and Ford Mustang Mach-E, along with the closely related Subaru Solterra.

On the outside, the bZ4X reads a bit like a Prius crossover wearing too much Subaru Wilderness cladding, although some will appreciate the nouveau-Prius layout inside. The bZ4X is distinctive and overall generically attractive. The front end, and in particular the crisp leading edge of the hoodline, and the thin, sharply styled headlights, is an exception to that. Two huge pieces of glossy black cladding flow from the headlamps and frame the wheel wells, with a much larger patch of cladding around the front wheels than around the rear wheels, yielding an odd sense of proportion, as if the front wheels are larger than the rears. We’d like to see this design without the cladding.

The bZ4X is quick enough, and it trades off some sharpness for an easygoing ride and trail chops. Put simply, the bZ4X doesn’t make all the performance poses flaunted by the latest electric crossovers. The dedicated off-road mode, called X-Mode, is borrowed from Subaru, so it has plenty of outdoorsy credibility that’s rare in this cohort. The bZ4X is able to go comfortably where the pavement ends and the surfaces turn slippery while retaining its docile handling and good ride quality, which fits the mission well.

There are two different layouts for the bZ4X, a single-motor, front-wheel-drive version making 201 hp and 196 lb-ft, and a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive version making 214 hp and 248 lb-ft. The single-motor version has a 71.4-kwh pack loaded with Panasonic cells, and the dual-motor version uses a 72.8-kwh pack incorporating CATL cells. Counterintuitively, the front-drive version gets what Toyota considers the superior pack, enabled for faster charging.

At a curb weight of up to 4,464 lb, the AWD bZ4X is about 800 lb heavier than the gasoline RAV4 crossover. You might not know that because the torquey motor system gives it a quiet punch and the low-mounted battery pack gives it an almost nimble feel. Although built on a dedicated EV platform, the bZ4X is laid out like other compact sedans and crossovers, with a four-wheel independent suspension, struts in front, and four-wheel disc brakes and electric power steering. The steering is precise, although the turning circle of 40.0 feet is larger than other compact vehicles. Ride quality is on the soft side, and handling is tuned to be easy and predictable, not downright sporty.

Suitably, the bZ4X doesn’t have a Sport mode. There are Eco and Normal, plus a regenerative boost mode that permits something close to the one-pedal driving you’ll find in other EVs, although you’ll need to apply the brakes in the last few feet. A Hold button turns off the idle creep when you lift off the brake pedal, keeping stationary until you again press the accelerator.
The bZ4X doesn’t charge at the road-trip rate of other rival models (just 100 kw for AWD versions), but well-coordinated brake regen, a pleasant ride, and overall refinement will more than make up for it. The bZ4X is one of the few electric crossovers good for some trail driving off-pavement. Its EPA-rated 119 MPGe trails only the Tesla Model Y in electric crossover efficiency on pavement.

The dual-motor all-wheel-drive versions of the bZ4X underscore a different philosophy than some other models in this competitive set, as they’re less about added traction than much-improved performance. Subaru’s X-Mode is included in all-wheel-drive versions of the bZ4X, and it allows a different torque distribution plus a little more wheelspin when you need it for snow, dirt, or mud. In single-motor front-wheel-drive form, the bZ4X can dash to 60 mph in a Toyota-official 7.1 seconds, while the dual-motor version takes 6.5 seconds. It isn’t as brisk as other electric vehicles, but it’s quicker and quieter than rival gas models.

The bZ4X is the most efficient SUV with a focused off-road mode. The 2023 Toyota bZ4X earns a range of up to 252 miles. Compared to the latest batch of electric SUVs, the bZ4X is one of the most efficient. Toyota anticipates 119 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) combined for the front-wheel-drive XLE, or 114 MPGe for the heavier Limited. Dual-motor all-wheel-drive versions earn 104 and 102 MPGe in XLE and Limited, respectively. In terms of range, that means an estimated 252 or 242 miles in front-wheel-drive form (XLE and Limited, respectively), or 228 or 222 miles for the AWD versions of those two.

There’s a battery difference between the two models. Front-wheel-drive versions of the bZ4X have a 71.4-kwh battery pack, while AWD versions are rated at 72.8 kwh. The former can fast-charge at up to 150 kw, while the latter charges at up to 100 kw. Toyota balks at providing 10%-to-80% times, as you’ll find from other brands, but it says you can recover 90 miles of range in about 30 minutes. In either case, its 6.6-kw onboard charging hardware means you can bring the bZ4X from zero back to full with a Level 2 (240-volt) home charger in about 9 hours.

The bZ4X debuts next-level safety hardware and features. The 2023 Toyota bZ4X is built on a new “e” version of the Toyota TNGA platform shared with the Subaru Solterra and upcoming Lexus RZ 450e. The IIHS has begun crash testing but as of this writing only partially complete with its testing, so it has not been awarded a Top Safety Pick rating which we expect in the future. The NHTSA has not crash tested a bZ4X yet.

The bZ4X is the first model to debut the company’s Toyota Safety System (TSS) 3.0, which has a a wider detection range paired with a new camera system to improve lane recognition and cyclist detection to its pre-collision functions. Automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors are all standard, as is a new system that warns exiting occupants of vehicles approaching from behind. Limited versions of the bZ4X also include a surround-view camera system with bird’s-eye view.

Inside, the Toyota bZ4X channels a cockpit layout with a chiseled, sci-fi spin. It’s asymmetrical, of course, with an instrument screen pushed forward to the base of the windshield. The interior’s like a Prius gone Outback, which isn’t far from the target. Up close, we don’t at all mind the bevy of physical buttons, but there’s just too much glossy piano black and smudgeable surfaces here.

The bZ4X’s front-seat layout makes some questionable choices. While the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Volkswagen ID.4 go for an open, airy layout, the bZ4X feels rather confining in front due to the center-console layout. Although the design packs some storage down below and puts some controls close, it doesn’t show off some of the best flexibilities of EVs.

Once you adapt to first impressions, it gets better. The bZ4X’s front seats are quite good for taller drivers, and this 6-foot-6 editor was able to fit fine in back, with the front seat still adjusted nearly all the way back. There are 42.1 inches of front leg room and 35.3 inches of rear leg room, along with 27.2 cubic feet of cargo space. There’s no frunk, but a useful two-tiered cargo area mostly makes up for it—and a nice, flat-folding rear seatback.

The recessed placement of the 7.0-inch instrument display makes it challenging to set the steering wheel in a position that doesn’t obstruct the display. Another layout choice that doesn’t make much sense is that Toyota has again redesigned the shifter, opting with a twist-and-press affair that takes some getting used to and brings no tactile or functional advantage. Cabin comfort and quiet is a bZ4X strength, with low (Lexus-like) levels of wind noise and road noise at 75 mph.

The bZ4X’s feature set doesn’t wow, but there’s nothing big missing in its cabin tech. Although the technology in the Toyota bZ4X isn’t intuitive, a complete list of connectivity options, connected services, and cabin comforts give this model extra points for value and technology. Although it’s not missing anything big, there isn’t much room to add options and extras.

All versions of the 2023 bZ4X include a 7.0-inch multi-information screen far ahead of the driver, plus a sharp-looking 12.3-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash. While the touchscreen’s menu system is hardly simple, it’s compatible with wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. The bZ4X also takes care of your phone with a great little storage compartment in the console that includes wireless charging. There’s one larger USB-A port in the center console as well as four other USB-C ports.

The base XLE in front-wheel-drive form is $43,215 before any incentives. We’d add the $500 Weather Package to get front heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Here, the bZ4X makes its strongest argument on value and efficiency, and as you move up the model line you lose track of both of those strengths. The top bZ4X Limited with all-wheel drive costs $49,995. Optioned up with two-tone paint and a black roof, plus a top Limited Weather Package (radiant heat, JBL nine-speaker sound, and a split roof rear spoiler), the bZ4X costs $52,050.

At the end of the day, the new 2023 Toyota bZ4X might just be the first EV you want. It’s affordable price point, great safety tech and value with Toyota reliability make it a great small crossover EV for first time buyers. With the bZ4X Toyota has struck the veritable sweet-spot by offering its first competitive family EV. It does everything you’d want with Toyota refinement and reliability.

Image Source: BigPixel Photo / Shutterstock

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