Decent range, well-built, capable off-road, competent in every area
No real USP to make it stand out
What is it?
This is the bZ4X, Toyota’s first attempt at a pure electric vehicle, and mild irritant for fast typers. It’s a car that’s been co-developed between Toyota and Subaru, Toyota doing most of the hardware. Subaru's sister car is the Solterra, but the Toyota prices begin lower, because it offers front-wheel drive as well as four-wheel drive. The Subaru is 4WD, twin-motor only.
In basic terms this is yet another pure electric, five-seat, mid-sized SUV that sticks its pointy nose into one of the biggest market segments; you’re looking at competition for the Audi Q4 e-Tron, the VW ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Skoda Enyaq to name but four. It's somewhere between the hugely popular Kia Niro EV and EV6.
It's based on Toyota's new eTNGA platform of manufacturer Meccano. It's the company's first serious adventure in electric after the half-hearted Lexus UX300e. The bZ bit stands for ‘beyond zero’. And yep, that includes hydrogen too.
There’s due to be some 15 new zero-emissions cars from Toyota before 2025, including seven for Europe, and they’ll range from small to large SUVs and a variety of other bodystyles. You can add many Lexuses too. The ‘4’ in the bZ4X’s name is the size indicator, by the way: rather than four-wheel drive, there’s both FWD and AWD in the car’s line-up from the start.
Everyone asks about range…
The bZ4X ticks all the boxes for entry without startling you with any one statistic. Its battery is 71.4kWh, somewhere in the middle of rivals. The WLTP range is 317 miles for the base FWD version on small wheels, down to 257 miles for 4WD and top-spec equipment with 20-inch wheels. The 0-62mph time is either 7.5 or 6.9 seconds, two- or four-wheel drive.
The front-wheel drive version has a single 201bhp motor. It's 214bhp for the all-wheel drive version with a motor for each axle. That's the one we've driven. They're permanent-magnet motors, which use rare-earth metals but if well designed are good for efficiency at low to medium speeds versus the all-coil motors some rivals use now.
The looks, perhaps. It's really very striking styling, with lots of angles and funky plastic wheel-arches that add some visual drama to what is, after all, a fairly normal set of exterior dimensions. There’s only so far you can go with the basic shape of a mid-sized SUV, but Toyota/Subaru have done a decent job of making it look at least a little bit different.
Of particular note is the fact that all the forward-facing sensors have been concealed away into the little black plastic moustache at the front; it’s neat and effective. After all, some cars look like they’ve run over a set of security cameras and got them stuck fast in their lower grilles.
Beyond that, few shocks. The bZ4X seems to be a bit of a box-ticker in terms of hitting all the right notes without hitting any high ones. The battery is of a decent size (although there’s only one option at the moment, Toyota saying it would provide more if demand presented itself), the space on offer generous but not startling, the performance adequate. It rides and steers with competence and precision. The interior is nice, and operates quickly and efficiently, and there’s a decent lick of tech. That includes loads of active-safety kit.
All aboard the ownership!
The other thing of note about the bZ4X is the way you might own it. Because this might sway you. Toyota is offering a proper one-stop-shop ownership/leasing deal, where you pay for a package. And that will include home charging wallbox provision, aggregated charging (meaning one monthly bill even if you've used many public chargers from many networks), servicing, even insurance.
It’s not new, this idea, but Toyota has taken it seriously, including the provision of a stupendous 1,000,000km (620,000 mile) battery warranty. They did learn something from making long-life batteries in all those Uber Priuses then.
What's the verdict?
There’s a lot to like with the bZ4X. It’s an extremely competent, well-built example of the breed, that looks really quite striking. It's decently roomy, and decent to drive, and goes a decent distance on a medium-sized battery (which means it's efficient). But that's the thing: it's good, but in most ways not outstanding. And there's lots of competition. The thing that might sway you is trust in Toyota to make a reliable, durable car, and to stand by it.