Technology

Toyota bZX4 test drive – how good is Toyota’s first electric car?

You may have seen the recent headlines about the 2023 Toyota bZ4X. This is the first battery electric vehicle from a Japanese manufacturer. Unfortunately, some cars had to be recalled due to the possibility that the wheels could fall off. What… not really.

The failure appears to be related to the hub bolts, which can come loose after low mileage use. Toyota plans to solve the problem by recalling 2,700 vehicles, the lion’s share of which are models intended for the European market. In fact, 2,200 vehicles are on the other side of the Atlantic, of which only 260 vehicles are being recalled in the US. The remainder consists of 10 vehicles destined for the Canadian market and 110 vehicles for Japan.

It’s a disappointing start to what is otherwise a great, albeit slightly quirky, car from Toyota – though it’s pretty late for the EV party. The bZ4X also faces stiff competition, landing in the ever-popular off-road territory. It is led by models such as the Hyundai IONIQ 5 and Kia EV6, just two of the key models in this growing sector. Since he just drove a Nissan Ariya EV, he too could be a key competitor.

Toyota bZ4X offers an exciting offer

toyota bz4x

(Image credit: Rob Klimo/Tom’s Guide)

Recently, I had a chance to ride a Toyota bZ4X on various roads in Denmark. In addition to road testing, I tried the additional charms of a massive SUV, including some neat off-road capabilities that give this EV some extra magic. It’s a bit like the Toyota RAV4, but with the addition of electrical noise.

This off-road stuff isn’t new, and neither is the party gimmick. The Toyota bZ4X performed well in the controlled race series. I was pleasantly surprised and the brand new dedicated battery powered TNGA platform it sits on shows real promise for future models.

In terms of appearance, Toyota did a good job on the exterior. The bZ4X looks best from the front, while the plastic wheel arch moldings that dominate the profile draw attention from the side. However, there are some cool looking alloys and the rear has a nice line of angles. Choose the right color, like red or blue, and the thing will really explode. Subtler hues, including gray, also work quite well if that’s more to your liking.

toyota bz4x

(Image credit: Rob Klimo/Tom’s Guide)

The interior is also interesting. Of greatest interest is the driver’s seat. Many commentators who have seen the view from behind the wheel, myself included, found it quite difficult to get into a vantage point from which to get a proper view of the 7-inch digital display in front of the steering wheel. It’s hard to do it right.

Oddly enough, you feel this setup would work best with a yoke steering wheel. Unsurprisingly, the suspension option has been toned down, as is the case with Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus and its upcoming RZ EV. Personally, I think the idea of ​​steering is crazy, but people at Tesla don’t, so maybe that’s the way of the future for Toyota and Lexus.

However, in its current form, the combination of a futuristic instrument panel and a traditional round steering wheel does not seem to be completely coordinated.

toyota bz4x

(Image credit: Rob Klimo/Tom’s Guide)

Elsewhere on the center console is the main 12.3-inch infotainment screen, which holds all the usual stuff. Some real real buttons also add a tangible touch to the dashboard control area. The best thing about the interior is that it can be easily wiped clean which, if you have kids, might be the best part of everything. There is also a lot of space, including a very roomy trunk.

Toyota bZ4X has spicy performance

Once you’re in a comfortable seat, the Toyota bZ4X delivers excellent road performance. I had a chance to test a twin-motor all-wheel drive model with a 71.4 kWh battery and a good output of 215 hp.

The big difference with this model is the extra torque, which goes up to 248 lb-ft. However, this limits range a bit, dropping to 228 miles as opposed to 252 for the single-engine, front-wheel-drive variant.

toyota bz4x

(Image credit: Rob Klimo/Tom’s Guide)

What really surprised me is that I turned on X-Mode. This switchable option allows you to tackle uneven or unpredictable surfaces and also allows the vehicle to navigate up to 500 millimeters (19.6 inches) of surface water without feeling the need to worry.

Likewise, Toyota has developed handy tools to help you cope with adverse weather conditions, including Hill Descent Assist and Traction Control.

I tried these options on an artificial track and everything worked very well, although electric cars can be notoriously tricky in less than ideal conditions. Snow, ice and lots of water, combined with the instantaneous torque generated by the electric motors, can be a problem in inclement weather.

Based on what I’ve tried with the bZ4X, this set of tricks could be Toyota’s masterstroke. Especially if you live in sticks.

Toyota has a great future

toyota bz4x

(Image credit: Rob Klimo/Tom’s Guide)

There are a lot of good things about the Toyota bZ4X and a few not-so-good things. Aside from the recall, which I’m sure Toyota will look into to ensure this doesn’t happen again, I think the Toyota bZ4X is pretty good overall.

However, the name seems to irritate some people and it is a bit awkward. However, there is some logic to this, because if you parse it, the Toyota bZ4X stands for Beyond Zero, just like Toyota’s plans for greener vehicles.

Meanwhile, part of the 4X moniker refers to the size. Since this is a relatively small crossover, smaller and larger models with variations in numbering may subsequently appear. It makes sense when you break it down like this

Another minor point is that in the States people say Z as Zee, whereas in Europe they tend to say Zed. Will it add to the confusion? Who knows. All I know is that bZ4X has a chore to print.

There’s more to catch up

toyota bz4x

(Image credit: Rob Klimo/Tom’s Guide)

Since this is a Toyota, you can expect value: a base front-wheel-drive car starts at $42,000. However, take a car from the top of the range and you’ll be looking for around $50,000.

Toyota may have done the right thing by stepping back and weighing what the competition is doing before releasing the bZ4X, but it does make it play catch-up to some degree. And many competitors can match it on pricing.

While I love it, I still wonder if the Hyundai IONIQ 5 or Kia EV6 could be a better choice. And that’s before you even thought about heading towards Tesla.

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