Toyota has proved it is still perfectly acceptable to be fashionably late to the party with the arrival of its first fully electrified vehicle. It’s called the bZ4X and is a full-sized SUV that offers impressive performance, a very decent driving range and a wealth of on-board tech.
The goodPrice, driving range, handling , tech and passenger space
The badThat name!
Toyota bZ4X – First Drive (2022)
It almost beggars belief that Toyota is only now launching its first fully electrified model – after all this is the company that has decades of hybrid know-how under its belt and has been a pioneer in developing cleaner vehicles.
But the timing may have been perfectly planned as the rather curiously named bZ4X is an electric SUV that can confidently cope with off-road challenges and the demand for electrified SUVs is growing at quite a pace right now.
If the name looks confusing it is easily explained. The ‘bZ’ stands for Beyond Zero which is Toyota’s sub brand name for its battery-powered vehicles. The ‘4’ refers to the vehicle size – so it is mid-size, and ‘X’ means it’s a crossover.
At launch the five-door bZ4X is on sale in trim levels called Pure, Motion and Vision, plus a special limited launch Premier Edition that is available exclusively online. Prices range from £41,950 to £51,550 and customers can select from front or all-wheel drive technology.
The bZ4X cars with front-wheel drive feature a single 150kW front-mounted eAxle that produces 201bhp and 266Nm of torque. When it comes to performance, they can sprint from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds and max out at a limited 100mph while offering a driving range between charges of 317 miles.
The AWD models have front and rear 80kW eAxles with a combined output of 215bhp and 337Nm of torque. The 0-62mph sprint time is quicker at 6.9 seconds while the top speed stays the same at 100mph. The driving range is slightly less at 286 miles, but this version gains X-MODE off-road settings for confident driving in more testing conditions.
A new architecture called eTNGA has been created for the bZ4X and this will be the platform for all Toyota EVs moving forward as it can be adapted for all shapes and sizes.
One key feature is the positioning of the battery pack which is integrated into the chassis. This means it does not impact upon passenger or storage space and also helps deliver a lower sense of gravity during driving.
There’s no denying the fact that the bZ4X has a strong road presence with a bold design that simply cannot be ignored. The front end boasts a new brand-defining ‘hammerhead’ shape with signature slim LED headlights and daytime running lights. We tested the high-end Premier Edition model and it also featured a panoramic roof, rear privacy glass, a satin plated lower grille, shark fin antenna, fog lights and 20-inch alloys.
Moving inside, the interior is upmarket, clutter-free and very generously equipped, especially inside our range-topper with black synthetic leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch Toyota Smart Connect multimedia display (Pure models feature an eight-inch multimedia set-up), an upgraded eight-speaker JBL premium sound system and full navigation.
Other features include Apple CarPlay (wireless) and Android Auto (wired) smartphone connectivity, Bluetooth, a wireless smartphone charger, voice assistant, three USB connections, a DAB radio, plus a seven-inch colour tft driver display that can be configured according to taste and preference.
There is a neat dial instead of a conventional shift lever, an attractive woven texture covering on the dashboard, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outer rear seats, a heated three-spoke steering wheel, along with ambient lighting.
When put to the test, the bZ4X is quick out the blocks and there is always ample power on tap for sharp bursts of pace to overtake slower vehicles. With its low centre of gravity, the SUV is perfectly grounded with excellent grip into tighter corners and no sign of any body sway.
It eats up motorway miles for fun cruising effortlessly at higher speeds and it’s also deceptively agile in busier city centre settings where the raft of parking assist systems, along with impressive all-round visibility, are a real bonus.
There are driving modes called Eco and Normal that slightly alter the reactions of the car and the regenerative braking system captures energy that would otherwise be lost and this helps to boost the battery levels.
Special mention to the refinement standards within the bZ4X too. Barely a sound filters through into the cabin thanks to thickened glass, a widened gap between the mirrors and three-quarter front panels, along with top quality insulation measures. And despite riding on 20-inch alloy wheels, the test car was beautifully unruffled with all unexpected bumps and dips smoothed out along the way.
We also put the vehicle through its paces off-road with the AWD’s X MODE activated for tougher terrain. The bZ4X climbed ridiculously steep hills and descended again with fully controlled grip. It clambered over obstacles and proved it has a wading depth of up to 500mm.
Another feather in the bZ4X’s cap is its spacious cabin with ample room in the back for adults to sit comfortably – even with the front seats pushed well back. As well as its off-roading ability, it can tow a trailer weighing up to 750kg so will be ideal for family getaways.
Rather strangely, there is no glovebox to tuck away bits and pieces, but there is a massive storage compartment beneath the centre console that can swallow 20 litres of kit. In addition, you can make use of the deep door pockets with double bottle sections, front and rear cup holders, a charging pad with slightly transparent cover, a cubby box, plus seat back pockets.
The boot, accessed via a powered tailgate, has a double floor and can swallow 452 litres of kit – a limit that can be increased further by lowering the 60:40 split-folding rear seats. Unlike some pure EVs there is no frunk (front trunk) for added storage.
When it comes to charging, the bZ4X can be boosted to 80 per cent in 30 minutes via a 150kW fast charger. A full charge using a 230V/32A supply will take approximately nine-and-a-half hours. And it’s worth noting that by the end of this year, an 11kW three-phase on-board charger will replace the initial 6.6kW unit.
A MyT App can be used for all manner of functions too, such as tracking the car, checking charge levels, planning navigation routes and getting service reminders.
And although the vehicle has yet to be tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating, it boasts a wealth of features to protect occupants, other road users and help prevent accidents happening in the first place.
It has the latest generation of Toyota Safety Sense which offers a number of preventative systems including a comprehensive pre-collision system with intersection turn assist and emergency steering assist.
All models benefit from intelligent adaptive cruise control, lane trace assist, lane departure alert, automatic high beam or automatic high beam system, a full suite of airbags, hill start assist, eCall, downhill assist control, road sign assist with speed limiter, emergency driving stop system and plenty more besides. Blind spot monitor and safe exit assist are standard features on all vehicles apart from entry-level Pure trim level.
And there are no fears about the battery being damaged as it is protected by a strong aluminium cover and the voltage, current and temperature of the battery cells are constantly monitored. If any abnormal heat generation is detected, controls are automatically triggered to mitigate the issue.
All in all, the bZ4X is a most impressive all-rounder that lives up to the high expectations that Toyota would make an instant impact when it finally entered the BEV race. We look forward to the next chapter with plenty of new models on the horizon as the company drives towards its carbon neutral target.