Toyota bZ4X long-term test: report 1

Toyota has long been at the vanguard of hybrid technology, but the bZ4X is its first modern electric car. We're seeing what it's like to live with...

Toyota bZ4X by railway arch

The car Toyota bZ4X AWD Vision Run by Allan Muir, managing editor

Why we’re running it To see whether this all-new electric SUV has what it takes to justify choosing it over established rivals

Needs to Be practical, comfortable and good to drive in everyday use, and deliver a long enough range to make light work of motorway journeys

Mileage 391 List price £54,950 Target Price £52,242 Price as tested £56,125 Test range 205 miles Official range 259 miles Options fitted Scarlet Flare pearlescent paint (£965), Essential Protection Pack (£210) 

28 October 2023 –  Cautiously optimistic

While some car makers have been churning out new electric vehicles (EVs) as though their lives depend on it, Toyota has taken a more circumspect approach so far, warning that battery power might not be the holy grail when it comes to slashing carbon emissions. And the Japanese brand might have a point, given the slump in demand for EVs in the UK (and elsewhere) this year and the Government’s decision to delay the planned ban on new petrol and diesel cars by five years, until 2035.

Toyota bZ4X front cornering

That doesn’t mean Toyota is sitting on its hands, though; we know it’s working on several all-new electric models that promise much longer ranges than anything currently possible. In the meantime, we have the Toyota bZ4X – its first battery-powered EV for Europe. And when I say ‘we’, I mean I’ve got one as my next company car.

The bZ4X is a rival for electric SUVs such as the Nissan Ariya, Skoda Enyaq iV and Tesla Model Y. It’s available in either front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive guise, the latter getting an extra electric motor to drive the rear wheels, plus a bit more power (215bhp versus 201bhp). All versions have a battery with a 64kWh usable capacity – a bit smaller than what you’ll find in most of its rivals. As a result, the bZ4X’s official range is 317 miles in entry-level FWD guise, or 259 miles in the top-spec AWD Vision model I’ve gone for.

Toyota bZ4X home charging

The latter figure (which is likely to be closer to 200 miles in real-world use) isn’t all that impressive in the context of similar-priced or cheaper rivals that can officially travel for more than 300 miles between charges, but I know from previous experience that this should be sufficient for my daily driving, plus the occasional long journey. Most of my charging will be done overnight at home, but a 10-80% top-up can be dispensed with in around half an hour if I can find a public rapid charger that can dole out energy at the bZ4X’s peak rate of 150kW.

In range-topping Vision trim, my bZ4X is generously equipped, coming with heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, keyless entry, a foot-operated electric tailgate, adaptive cruise control and a panoramic glass roof. You can opt not to have the latter and save £540. The seats are upholstered in light grey synthetic leather; this looks smart, but I understand it’s no longer available, black now being the only option.

Toyota bZ4X 2022 interior steering wheel detail

In addition, I’ve chosen Scarlet Red pearlescent paint (£965) and the Essential Protection Pack (£210), which adds a rubber boot liner and neat little hard plastic mudflaps behind the wheels.

In this spec, I think my bZ4X looks quite handsome, with its high, shark-like nose and large, angular plastic wheel arch surrounds. You might think that having so much black cladding all over the car (including along the side sills and across the lower parts of the bumpers) would make it look cheap, but that’s not how I see it; if anything, the bZ4X exudes robustness, inside and out, with a better-than-average likelihood of shrugging off minor knocks.

Toyota bZ4X water splash

That hardiness might come in handy at times, because the bZ4X – unlike most of its rivals – has some genuine off-road ability. As well as having four-wheel drive, it has an ‘X-Mode’ that allows you to tailor it electronically to find maximum traction on various types of terrain, and its ability to maintain a set crawling speed automatically (off-road cruise control, if you like) can come in especially handy when going up or down a steep hill. 

So far, I’m really impressed with my bZ4X. The seats and ride are exceptionally comfortable, it handles well and the interior is more eclectic than you might expect. A soft, woven material covers the dashboard, and there’s a neat digital instrument panel that’s viewed over the top of a small steering wheel (as in most Peugeots). As long as the range doesn’t fall short of my expectations, the bZ4X and I should be very compatible.

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