Saturday, May 21, 2022
First Reviews 2023 Toyota BZ4X First Drive Review: Toyobaru Goes Electric

2023 Toyota BZ4X First Drive Review: Toyobaru Goes Electric

  • New 2023 Toyota BZ4X is first EV from Toyota

  • It shares many of its components with the Subaru Solterra

  • It has 406 kilometres of range (253 miles)

The 2023 Toyota BZ4X is Toyota’s first electric vehicle and I had a chance to get behind the wheel a few weeks ago in California.

Toyota is back in the EV game and this time it’s with a proper crossover built to compete with the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and other new electric-dedicated platforms in the business. Toyota has been up there in terms of reliability in the automotive business for years. But it seems that no automaker is safe from the rapid turn of events in electrification. And even Toyota with all its hybrid experience has had recent expensive cable corrosion problems with its RAV4 Hybrid.

Toyota bZ4X review

Just like the Subaru BRZ and the Toyota 86, the Toyota BZ4X and the Subaru Solterra were co-developed through an alliance between Subaru and Toyota. The latter likes to describe this newcomer as encompassing the reliability and efficiency of a Toyota, paired with off-road capabilities and driving dynamics of a Subaru.

Hence, the new BZ4X is surprisingly conservative in terms of specifications when compared to the competition, which is very Toyota-like.

Toyota bZ4X review

The BZ4X is available in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations – this differs from the Ioniq5, for example, which is available in RWD and AWD configurations. The FWD BZ4X delivers 200 horsepower and 196 lb-ft using a 71.4 kWh battery pack. Maximum range for this configuration is rated at 406 kilometres.

The all-wheel drive BZ4X uses a marginally more powerful battery of 72.8 kWh and two motors. It boasts and output of 214 horsepower and 124 lb-ft per motor and the total range sits at 367 kilometres.

Toyota bZ4X review

This “Toyobaru” platform isn’t a top contender in terms of charging speeds either. While the IONIQ5 and the EV6 can pull 220 kW out of 350 kW chargers, the BZ4X tops at 150 kW. When questioned about this lower charging capacity, Toyota underlined that this aims at keeping the battery lifespan and degradation to a minimum. The BZ4X’s battery should only lose 10% of its capacity after 10 years. We’ll have to take their word for it, but that’s another example of the will to keep things reliable

Toyota bZ4X review

Life Inside the Toyota BZ4X

Inside, the 2023 BZ4X styling is dominated by piano-black plastic, along with a mix of digital and analog commands and a fabric-like dashboard covering. There’s a clever smartphone charging box in the centre console that is partly translucent, a cool gadget that keeps the area clear and clean.

Toyota bZ4X review

Base models get an 8-inch screen, but a 12.3-inch unit is available as an option. The interface has been updated but it’s still not as intuitive as it should be, some basic controls are complicated to operate. And just like its new Lexus NX models, Toyota threw in a voice assistant, letting drivers accomplish select tasks by saying “Hey Toyota.”

In terms of comfort and visibility, the BZ4X delivers. While one could think the slanted rear could impair visibility, it’s really not the case.  The position of the instrument cluster is closer to the windshield and further from the driver, which could be bothersome depending on how your vision in trained while driving. Toyota gave the BZ4X a standard heat pump on all trims – an efficient piece of HVAC equipment that is often offered exclusively on upper trims with other automakers. It can save a lot on energy during the cold winter months. The BZ4X also gives front occupants radiant heaters to warm up cold feet faster.

Toyota bZ4X review

The cargo volume behind the rear seating area is surprisingly ample on paper with 784 litres. However, the slated roofline of the BZ4X cuts in and may not be as vertical friendly as the RAV4. But still impressive for the size. Let’s underline too that the BZ4X is 5 mm lower than the RAV4, but its wheelbase is 160 mm longer.

Classic Crossover Driving Dynamics

As you can probably imagine, the Toyota BZ4X/Solterra clearly don’t have the same mission as the old 86/BRZ collaboration in terms of driving dynamics, and that’s understandable given its target market. However, our BZ4X tester could still handle itself quite well. Special mention goes to the steering that showed precision on winding Californian roads we threw it on. It uses some technologies from Subaru like an electric version of X-Mode.

Toyota bZ4X review

Like all-electric cars, the BZ4X delivers full torque instantly. While the 200-ish horsepower could feel limited when swiftly accelerating on the highway, it is still enough for day-to-day driving to carry the weight of the vehicle.

We could blame the Toyota BZ4X for being underpowered compared to its rivals, but the reality is that it offers enough for its application and target market. We could also say that its level 3 charging speed is lower than some if its rivals as well, but the reality is that in the dead of winter it doesn’t matter because it’s the car that controls the charge.

Toyota bZ4X review

This first contact with the BZ4X was quite intriguing. It is conservative, but Toyota wants to keep its reliability reputation and protect it, even 10 years down the road. The Toyota BZ4X starts at $44,990, which makes it eligible for full federal and provincial subsidies in Quebec. But that’ll get you a front-wheel-drive model. To acquire an all-wheel-drive model, it starts at $54,990.

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Louis-Philippe Dubé
Louis-Philippe Dubé has been contributing at MotorIllustrated.com for over a year, and for the NetMedia360 network for nearly three years now. His passion for everything automotive comes from a career as a mechanic, but also from the family vehicle collection that includes a 996 Porsche Turbo and a 2004 Ford GT. We've been bugging him to drive the GT, but he hasn't responded. Send L-P an email

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