2023 Toyota bZ4X FWD Limited review by Ben Lewis

It may come as a surprise, but in fact the Japanese manufacturers have been slow to join the full-EV bandwagon. Yes, a loooooong time ago you could get a RAV4 EV, and the Nissan LEAF has been around for a while, but as Kia/Hyundai and the Europeans like BMW has flooded the market with electric choices, Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Subaru have had limited offerings – often times more focusing on hybrid and plug-in hybrid models.

They are slowly coming around though, and one of the most important vehicles is the all-new Toyota bZ4X, which is also sold as the Subaru Solterra. So, is Toyota late to the party, or just in time? Let’s find out!

Familiar, Futuristic, Friendly

Well let’s make that fashionably late – the bZ4X is a beautiful design.

Toyota says it was designed with the theme “hi-tech and emotional” it represents an SUV that would look equally home in the city or out on the trail.

This is a nicely sized vehicle, about 4 inches longer than a RAV4, with a 6-inch longer wheelbase, yet it sits about 2 inches lower.

Up front, the EV esthetic is in full play, a large curved front bumper, and a small grille below. Slim multi-LED projector headlamps sit in blacked-out trim that flows over the fenders for a sporty look.

The profile gives us the most Toyota/Lexus like look. In fact, we’d say it looks more like the new Lexus NX with a small coupe-like greenhouse and sweeping A and C pillars that are very sporty indeed. Those previously-mentioned blacked out fender flares look great, and work with the muscular lines to give an athletic feeling. The perfect finishing touch are the massive 20-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels that look fantastic. No anemic EV vibes here! 

The rear again reminds of the Lexus, with a strong light bar that spans the width of the hatch, and LED taillights that are braced by black trim that flows forward towards the rear fenders. Our tester also had an optional split roof rear spoiler. Honestly, we weren’t feeling it…but hey, it’s optional. You don’t like, you don’t order.

Modern and Spacious

Inside, the ties to Lexus fade, and the bZ is more of a high-tech but value-based player.

Open the door and interior looks spacious and wide, with horizontal lines, a massive center infotainment center with an equally large console between the seats. The SofTex seats (faux leather) look handsome, and we liked the light color that brought some brightness to a slightly somber interior.

Pop into that comfy heated and ventilated front seat, and you’ll see a surprise. Similar to the new Prius the instrument panel sits high on the dash with a low-slung steering wheel, forcing you to look over the wheel, rather than through it.

While this gets rid of needing a heads-up display, we have mixed feelings on it here. On the Prius it feels sporty and feeds your Formula 1 fantasies. But on a taller SUV, we don’t really like the wheel-in-your-lap vibe – we think most buyers of this kind of vehicle would rather have the wheel higher up.

That said, the gauges themselves are served up on a handy 7-inch info display that’s easy to read quickly and gives you key info in a common sense manor. It also appears to be a twin to the one on the Prius Prime we tested.

There’s no argument with a massive 12.3-inch touchscreen that dominates the center console. All the info-tainment is handy and well designed, and touch controls for the climate functions underneath are quick and easy to use. This is one of the best all-in-one systems we’ve seen. Ok, we’d still like a volume knob.

It’s also very advanced, with Over-the-Air updates, Cloud Navigation and Intelligent Assistant – just say “hey Toyota” and you can search for directions, adjust audio controls, change cabin temps and more. Very cool. Our WAZE app looked great on the big screen, and standard Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto make connecting easy.

Under that multi-talented big screen is also a big knob that you push down and rotate to select a gear, while other handy controls, like one-pedal driving, eco/snow mode and around view monitor flank the knob and are easy to reach. Behind the shifter is a handy wireless charger, followed by a nicely sized cupholder. Taking advantage of the EV powertrain, the “floating bridge” console gives you handy extra storage underneath that is close at hand – that’s good, since there’s no glove box on the passenger side.

Speaking of at hand, the bZ features a woven fabric that covers the dash and looks quasi-Swedish. You decide whether or not Toyota made the grade here.

You’ll certainly have no complaints with the spacious rear seats which are large and comfy, and a large cargo hold as well. The rear seats also fold completely flat, giving an excellent cargo bay with plenty of room for all sorts of gear.

 The Electric Glide

Driving the bZ4X is great fun.

While other manufacturers make things confusing with multiple powertrain and battery choices, the bZ is simple. There a front-wheel-drive single motor version like our tester, that serves up 201 horsepower. Opt for all-wheel-drive, and you get a small boost to 215 horsepower. While that sounds a little slim compared to the AWD VW ID4 at 295 horsepower, or AWD Hyundai Ioniq 5 at 320 hp, the performance sure doesn’t feel that way.

Our tester had loads of punch off the line and was quick and responsive up to and blowing past freeway speeds. So much for big numbers! And of course, with the silence that the full EV serves up, it only enhances that creamy flow of torque and power.

The ride is supple and comfy, and the steering has good feel. This is an easy car to zip around town, and the brake pedal feel is excellent, too. An engaging drive – not overly sporty, but not boring either. Kind of Lexus-y to be honest. Nothing wrong there!

While the EPA says our tester would have a range of 242 miles, we found our tester said closer to 218 fully charged. Not sure why that is, but we found that the bZ doled out its power efficiently, and the range was more than plentiful for the daily commute.  

Charging is simple too, with choices of 120V and 240V chargers and DC fast chargers. With a Level 2 charge, a full battery takes 9 hours, while a DC fast charger can add 80 percent charge in just under an hour. Toyota has also teamed up with companies to let you put in a Level 2 charger at home. Nice.

How much for a bZ Bee?

Reasonable! The front-wheel-drive XLE models starts at $42,000, claims a 252-mile range, and with loads of goodies including a standard panoramic roof, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, handsome looks, and state of the art safety, it’s a smart value.

Our luxurious Limited model started at $46,070, and adds goodies like 20-inch alloys, heated and ventilated front seats, projector LED headlights and more. Our tester also enjoyed the optional JBL Premium Audio System ($580), Limited Weather Package, including a Toyota-first Front Radiant Foot and Leg Heater ($350), Special Color Paint ($425), Split Roof Rear Spoiler ($200) and Floor Mats ($269). Add in Destination at $1,215, we rang the bell at $49,739.

We’d say the Hyundai Ioniq 5 is a strong and direct competitor, with great style, better power and range, but comparably equipped, it’s also much pricier at $58,005. Those looking for more of a value play should consider the VW ID.4 with similar performance as the Toyota, but a bit less range. Still at $40,290 it’s a great choice. We think the bZ4X finds a perfect middle ground in the segment.

Great looks, a spacious and tech-filled interior, with a spirited drive. Toyota’s 2023 bZX4 EV SUV is a stunning entry into the electric vehicle marketplace!

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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