2023 Toyota BZ4X Review: Radically Different But Underachieving

The BZ4X is Toyota’s attempt to move its EV sales ‘beyond zero’ and, this time, it is available in all 50 States

Someone must have told Toyota that electric vehicles are supposed to be different. For its first dedicated EV, the company applied that lesson with blacked-out fenders, a fabric-upholstered dashboard, an inscrutable gear selector, and an alphabet-soup name.

The result is the 2023 Toyota bZ4X — the “bZ” standing for a new all-electric “beyond zero” subbrand. At the same time, the bZ4X is more “normal” than many other leading EVs. It focuses on a smooth, quiet ride over explosive power and sporty handling. And despite its quirks, the Toyota’s interior is more plush than ultramodern.

Priced from $42,000 before a $7,500 federal tax credit, the bZ4X is a front-wheel-drive-based crossover that slots between the compact and mid-size segments. Toyota co-developed it with Subaru, which will sell a near-clone of the bZ4X as the Solterra. We just spent a week in a preproduction bZ4X to see how it fits into the fast-growing electric crossover segment.

2023 Toyota BZ4X Performance and Capability

2023 Toyota BZ4X Review: Radically Different But Underachieving
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If you’re used to a gasoline car, the bZ4X drives beautifully. If you’re comparing it with another EV at this price range, it’s a bit of a snoozer

On the road, the bZ4X is the Camry of its class. And we mean a modern Camry — one that still prioritizes a smooth and quiet ride, yet a vehicle that also handles with composure.

Its ride is comfortable yet composed, and it handles nimbly through without exuberance. What’s more, the bZ4X’s all-electric operation gives it a smoothness and hushed character that a gas-powered Camry could only dream of. The heavy batteries under the floor also lower its center of gravity, particularly for an SUV.

The front-wheel-drive bZ4X has a single electric motor that produces 201 horsepower and 196 pound-feet of torque. Like other EVs along with Toyota hybrids, the bZ4X achieves all-wheel drive via a second motor, and it pushes total output to 214 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque.

According to Toyota, the front-drive bZ4X reaches 60 mph in 7.1 seconds while the AWD model cuts that run to 6.5 seconds. Most EVs are more ferocious, at least with optionally upgraded powertrains. But particularly given the near-silent operation and instantaneous torque off the line, the bZ4X feels more effortless than all but the quickest and best-sounding gas cars.

That’s a recurring theme: If you’re used to a gasoline car, the bZ4X drives beautifully. If you’re comparing it with another EV at this price range, it’s a bit of a snoozer. But if you’re looking for a smooth, relaxing driving experience from an electric vehicle, it delivers commendably.

One exception to this pattern is the bZ4X’s all-wheel-drive system — and it’s good news. Toyota co-developed the vehicle with Subaru, and the latter company was responsible for the AWD. That means the bZ4X lives up to Subaru’s standards for solid performance in snow and mud.

It also includes Subaru’s X-Mode system of selectable driving modes, including snow/dirt and snow/mud, which can simulate a limited-slip differential. The vehicle also includes hill-descent control and a healthy ground clearance of 8.1 inches.

Performance
Trim XLE XLE AWD Limited Limited AWD
Horsepower 201 hp 214 hp 201 hp 214 hp
Torque [lb-ft] 196 lb-ft 248 lb-ft 196 lb-ft 248 lb-ft
Battery Capacity 71.4 kWh 72.8 kWh 71.4 kWh 72.8 kWh
Mileage/Range 252 Miles 228 Miles 242 Miles 222 Miles
AC Level 2 charging time at 240V at 32A ~9.5 Hours ~9.5 Hours ~9.5 Hours ~9.5 Hours
DC Fast Charging time (from Low Battery Light to 80%, in ideal conditions) ~30 MIN (With 150 KW or above DCFC) ~60 MIN (With 100 KW or above DCFC) ~30 MIN (With 150 KW or above DCFC) ~60 MIN (With 100 KW or above DCFC)

Range and Charging

2023 Toyota BZ4X Review: Radically Different But Underachieving
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On a public fast charger, you can get from a 20 percent charge to 80 percent (about 135 miles, depending on the trim level) in about an hour

The bZ4X’s range and mileage vary by trim level; none is dismal, but none is incredible for a $40,000-plus EV. The base front-wheel-drive XLE can travel an EPA-estimated 252 miles per charge while averaging 119 MPGe. The front drive Limited goes 242 miles at 114 MPGe.

All-wheel drive brings a slightly bigger battery but more power and weight; the AWD XLE has a 228-mile range and 104 MPGe and the AWD Limited, like our test vehicle, is rated at 222 miles and 102 MPGe. We didn’t run our test vehicle to zero, but here’s our experience with its range: On its first full charge, our bZ4X estimated it could go 224 miles; 121 miles later, it estimated that 106 miles remained (which would have been a 227-mile total range).

When we charged it up again, it estimated 211 miles of total range; after 83 miles, it said 132 miles were left, for a total of 215 miles. And our mileage per drive ranged from 88 MPGe to 148 MPGe. Like other EVs, the bZ4X does better at lower speeds and stop-and-go conditions than on the open highway.

Charging takes about nine hours on a 240-volt home charger or public charging station, representing about 25 miles of charge per hour. On a public fast charger, you can get from a 20 percent charge to 80 percent (about 135 miles, depending on the trim level) in about an hour. The Hyundai, Kia, and Tesla have faster maximum charging speeds, but only Tesla has a nationwide network of extra-fast charging stations all across the country.

Toyota provides a year of free charging at EVgo stations; the company reports more than 850 fast chargers in more than 30 states, compared with nearly 1,400 Tesla Superchargers distributed across all 50 states. Toyota warns that charging speeds can fall in cold weather; we only tested the vehicle in mild conditions, and we’re not sure if this caveat means the bZ4X fares worse than its competitors when the mercury drops or that Toyota is merely more upfront about a widespread issue.

Exterior Design

2023 Toyota BZ4X Review: Radically Different But Underachieving
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At first glance, the bZ4X is an unusual-looking SUV. An empty grille-less front end is decorated only with a strip of black plastic between the slim headlights. And the fenders are blacked-out, wrapping all the way around the headlamps. Around the back, black trim dips down from the taillights toward the wheel wells. Get the bZ4X in black (the only color that doesn’t cost $425 extra), and these design elements basically disappear. What’s left is a Toyota RAV4 that looks a little lower and a little longer.

Measuring 184.6 inches long, 73.2 inches wide, and 65.0 inches tall, the bZ4X is nearly identically sized to the rival Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, and Ford Mustang Mach-E; slightly bigger than a Volkswagen ID.4; and slightly smaller than a Tesla Model Y. It’s also slightly longer than a Toyota RAV4, the same width, but not quite as tall.

2023 Toyota BZ4X Review: Radically Different But Underachieving
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Exterior Colors
Color Price
Standard Black $0
Optional Supersonic Red / With Black Roof $425 / $925
Heavy Metal / With Black Roof $425 / $925
Elemental Silver Metallic / With Black Roof $425 / $925
Wind Chill Pearl / With Black Roof $425 / $925
Exterior Dimensions
Length 184.6 in
Width 73.2 in
Height 65.0 in
Wheelbase 112.2 in
Ground Clearance 8.1 in
Curb Weight 4,226 lbs

Interior Quality and Technology

2023 Toyota BZ4X Review: Radically Different But Underachieving
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We wish Toyota had bucked the trend toward EVs having insufferable control layouts, but the bZ4X offers no relief from similarly frustrating rivals

Inside, the bZ4X doesn’t look anything like an SUV. A digital gauge cluster sits up high and well forward of the driver, and the small, curved dashboard is decorated with fabric and piano-black plastic. A 12.3-inch touchscreen is at the center, above some touch-sensitive climate controls, a few hard buttons, and a wonky gear selector.

Opinions will differ, but we found it uncommonly unintuitive even in today’s world of unnecessary complications: Press down and then turn to the right for Drive, or press down and turn to the left for Reverse. It’s just one of several ergonomic quirks.

We also wished for more physical buttons and knobs, disliked needing to constantly switch menus on the infotainment system (there should be enough screen real estate to show multiple views at once), and had trouble seeing the gauge cluster past the top of the steering wheel. At least, the interior is nicely finished.

2023 Toyota BZ4X Review: Radically Different But Underachieving
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2023 Toyota BZ4X Review: Radically Different But Underachieving
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The bZ4X seats five passengers comfortably on plushly upholstered seats. The front seats are supportive, and while we wish the backseat were higher off the floor, there’s enough legroom that you can avoid sitting knees-up. The seating position feels more like a sedan’s than a high SUV’s, but there’s better rear visibility than you’d find in a Tesla Model Y. Also, just like the Tesla, as well as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, no rear windshield wiper is available.

As for storage, the cabin has a decent-sized center console bin and an open area between the front seats below the floating center console. However, unlike many EVs, there’s no “frunk” under the bZ4X’s hood, and Toyota doesn’t even provide a glovebox.

Cargo capacity comes to 27.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat on most models, while opting for the upgraded JBL sound system (like on our test vehicle) cuts that figure to 25.8 cubic feet. That’s nearly identical to the Ioniq 5. Toyota doesn’t publish its cargo volume with the rear seat folded, but we’d expect it to be similar to the Ioniq 5 again: 59.3 cubic feet. That’s less than a taller RAV4 but in line with the bZ4X’s direct competitors.

Interior Dimensions
Seating Capacity 5
Headroom (front) 38.6 in
Headroom (rear) 37.1 in
Legroom (front) 42.1 in
Legroom (rear) 35.3 in
Shoulder room (front) 57.8 in
Shoulder room (rear) 56.0 in
Cargo Room 27.7 cu-ft

2023 Toyota BZ4X Price and Availability

2023 Toyota BZ4X Review: Radically Different But Underachieving
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Price
Trim XLE XLE AWD Limited Limited AWD
Price $42,000 $44,505 $46,700 $49,205

The 2023 bZ4X is available in a choice of two trim levels: XLE and Limited. The XLE starts at $42,000 (plus a $1,215 destination charge), and it’s already well-equipped with a host of features and safety kit that includes

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • 12.3-inch touchscreen with GPS navigation
  • Panoramic glass roof
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers
  • Wireless smartphone charger

Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are a worthwhile $500 option since they let you warm up without heating the entire cabin — which can cut into your range in an EV.

The Limited ($46,700) adds

  • Optional heaters along with leatherette upholstery
  • Power-adjustable driver’s seat
  • Ventilated front seats
  • Power liftgate
  • Surround-view parking camera
  • 20-inch wheels instead of the standard 18-inchers

You also get the ability to use your smartphone as a vehicle key. You can add heated rear seats and radiant heat for the front seats’ lower-leg area for $350, and for another $580, you can upgrade from a six-speaker Toyota-branded stereo to a nine-speaker JBL. AWD adds $2,080 to either trim level’s price tag.

For now, the bZ4X qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit. But Toyota has already sold nearly 200,000 plug-in vehicles — nearly all plug-in hybrids — the current trigger for the incentive to be phased out. It’s projected to be cut in half to $3,750 this fall, then cut in half again to $1,875 in spring 2023, then eliminated entirely starting in fall 2023. Tesla and General Motors EVs already fail to qualify for this incentive, but other competitors have this important caveat to their sticker prices.

Main Competition

2023 Toyota BZ4X Review: Radically Different But Underachieving
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You can find a lot of stunning EVs these days. Crossovers like the Tesla Model Y offer incredible range and performance, albeit at ever-increasing price tags. The Ford Mustang Mach-E, Volkswagen ID.4, Hyundai Ioniq 5,, and Kia EV6 pair lively performance with three entirely different takes on eye-catching styling.

By contrast, the 2023 Toyota bZ4X brings mild-mannered competence in a moderately funky two-tone wrapper. It’s a smooth operator, even by EV standards — driving like a luxury vehicle, just not a luxury performance vehicle.

Toyota missed its chance to entirely make the bZ4X, as the EV for people who want something simple. This crossover’s control layout is anything but user-friendly. And even though it trails the competition for maximum range and charging speeds, Toyota isn’t selling the bZ4X at a discount to anything but Tesla.

Viewed in isolation, the bZ4X combines a high-end driving experience, a usefully roomy interior, zero tailpipe emissions, and low operating costs for about $35,000 after tax incentives. In that context, it’s a winner.

Now folks aren’t going to lust after Toyota’s first bZ Series vehicle, i.e the bZ4X. And the competition delivers more for the money in notable ways. We’re not surprised that Toyota only plans to sell 7,000 of these EVs in the U.S. this year.

But for combining a mild yet polished driving experience, a roomy interior, and 200-plus miles of all-electric driving, the bZ4X will make the right customer happy. We just think they’d be even happier with a stereo-volume knob and a rear windshield wiper.

Brady Holt
About the author

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