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2023 Toyota bZ4x first drive review: The Toyota of electric vehicles

What do you think of when you think about the brand Toyota? Maybe you think about reliability, which the company has long been known for? Maybe you think about how they have some fun cars, like the upcoming GR Corolla, the Toyota Supra, or the GR86? Maybe you think about some its hybrids, like the Toyota Prius or RAV4?

If you’re most people, you think about reliability and predictability. In a lot of ways, going with a Toyota is the safe, practical choice.

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Photo credit: Toyota

In the case of the company’s new EV, the bZ4x, that rings true. The Toyota bZ4x is the Toyota of electric vehicles.

The bZ4x is a compact crossover powered entirely by electricity. There are two versions available, and two different trim levels of each version.

For those in climates where it’s sunshine and sunflowers, a front-wheel drive bZ4x is available with a range of 252 miles. That’s right in the ballpark for many EVs right now.

If you need all-wheel drive performance, there is one available. It makes more power, thanks to two electric motors, but the range drops to 228 miles.

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Photo credit: Toyota

Both variants of the car can be fast charged with a CCS connector, though interestingly the all-wheel drive one peaks at 100 kW while the front-drive one peaks higher, at 150 kW. While Toyota says that battery supplier choices are to blame here, it’s weird to see the lower-trim car have the faster charging rate.

The bZ4x makes do without a front trunk, or frunk, which is becoming more common as more EVs come out. It’s rear storage and rear seat room is a bit less than the Ford Mustang Mach-E or VW ID.4, but should be quite livable as a commuter car or once-in-awhile road tripper.

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Photo credit: Toyota

Inside the cabin there’s a ton of standard features, including an updated version of Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of driver aids, now at version 3.0. TSS 3.0 includes new sensors and cameras, and the updates are noticeable.

In the past, Toyota’s lane keeping system wouldn’t be too aggressive in holding the line. While all of these driver assistance systems require diligence, Toyota’s seemed like it needed more so.

In the bZ4x, lane centering with adaptive cruise is significantly improved. It behaves much more like I expect it to, and much more like some of the company’s closest competition.

Some other cool interior features include a heated leg rest on top spec cars, and optional ventilated front seats. The ventilated seats are a welcomed addition for a car that starts under $50,000 and still rare in the inexpensive EV segment.

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Photo credit: Toyota

Toyota has its new infotainment system in the bZ4x, which debuted on the Tundra. It’s powered by Google’s Android Automotive, though Toyota has added its own flair to it. It has a voice assistant that responds to “Hey, Toyota” and seems to work reasonably well.

There are some features we noticed missing, though, that we’d like to see in future over-the-air software updates. The main thing would be dynamic routing based on charging level. The new Hummer EV, Polestar’s lineup, and Volvo’s cars all now use Android Automotive and Google Maps for navigation, and they’ll take charging level into consideration when routing, and adjust the route to fast chargers when necessary.

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Photo credit: Toyota

The quirkiest item in the interior is the instrument cluster. It sits high up on the dash, above the steering wheel. In fact, to see it fully, some folks will need to lower the steering wheel more than they normally would.

It’s kind of like having a heads up display, without the extra technology and annoyingly-expensive-to-replace special windshield.

It took some getting used to in our brief time behind the wheel, but shouldn’t be too difficult to adapt to for the day-to-day.

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Photo credit: Toyota

Driving the Toyota bZ4x was a pleasant experience. The instant torque of an electric motor is always fun, and while it’s not as quick as a Tesla Model 3 Performance, it’s not a slouch either. You’ll have no problems getting up to highway speeds, merging with traffic, or even scaring your mom with the acceleration.

Once moving, the ride is tuned toward comfort over sports, which is totally fine. It’s quiet inside the cabin, even at higher speeds, with little road noise from the tires.

It’s buttoned up pretty nicely, though we expect the upcoming Lexus variant to really lock down the luxury aspect of driving.

Lastly, we need to talk about its looks. There is cladding around the wheel arches to give it a more rugged look, and there’s even an X-Mode for going off pavement. The bZ4x shares its running gear with the Subaru Solterra, so it’s not surprising some of that tech is in the Toyota.

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Photo credit: Toyota

I think, in some darker colors, it looks pretty solid. I’m also a fan of the red with the black cladding. Some of the whites and silvers don’t appeal to me, even if that’s what the majority of customers buy. But the sharp angles and corners make the car look unique, and take Toyota’s normally subdued design language and spices it up for the future.

The bZ4x will eventually be able nationwide, though the company is focusing on the EV-friendly ZEV states first. Below is a breakdown of pricing.

  • Front-wheel drive, XLE trim: $43,215
  • Front-wheel drive, Limited trim: $47,915
  • All-wheel drive, XLE trim: $45,295
  • All-wheel drive, Limited trim: $49,995

All prices include the $1,215 destination and delivery charge.

While we admit we don’t think the bZ4x is doing anything groundbreaking as Toyota’s first mass market EV, that’s sort of the charm of Toyota. It delivers everything you expect without breaking the bank.

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Photo credit: Toyota

And speaking of pricing, the $50,000 price for a fully loaded trim undercuts a lot of the competition. And, at least for the time being, Toyotas are eligible for the $7,500 federal tax incentive.

We look forward to spending some more time in the bZ4x and really getting to try out its charging, storage capacity, and live with the new infotainment. But the Toyota of EVs is off to a good start.

Written by Chad Kirchner
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