2023 Toyota bZ4X Is What Happens When A Carmaker Doesn’t Want To Sell EVs


Summary

  • Toyota created the bZ4X out of necessity, not passion.
  • This SUV lacks an inspiring design, energy efficiency, and charging performance.
  • Facing competition like the Volkswagen ID.4, the bZ4X falls short as an non-competitive EV.



When it comes to your choice of electric vehicles (EVs), you’ve got the ones that come from carmakers that want to sell EVs, and those that sell them because they have to.

Drive a few miles behind the wheel of a Tesla Model 3 or a Hyundai IONIQ 6, and you’ll quickly discover a vehicle that was created by a carmaker that cared. This is usually translated through competitive range, impressive efficiency, quick charging times and compelling driving dynamics. In other words, they’re fun to drive and easy to live with.

Dig deeper within the carmaker behind these cars, and you’ll see actual investments to remain relevant in the EV space, like dedicated platforms to improve manufacturing efficiency, advanced battery conditioning systems, the development of new battery chemistries, and a user-friendly public charging network, all with the goal of easing the ownership experience.


And then, there are models like the bZ4X, an electric vehicle that seems to exist solely because Toyota was asked to build it. I kid you not, no matter how much I tried to give Toyota a chance with this thing, I couldn’t see why anyone would even consider buying a bZ4X over something else in this price bracket. It’s a terrible EV.

2024 Toyota bZ4X Front Three Quarter
2023 Toyota bZ4X FWD

The bZ4X is Toyota’s first serious attempt in the electric vehicle (EV) space. In terms of general build quality, interior space and pricing, it’s very competitive, but lackluster range, bad efficiency, and slow charging times reveal a vehicle that’s lagging behind the competition. 

Pros
  • Great paint and build quality.
  • Always smooth and comfortable.
  • Segment-rivaling cargo space and interior volume.
Cons
  • Disappointing range and energy consumption.
  • Lower than average charging speeds.
  • Uninspiring styling.

The Toyota bZ4X pictured here a 2023 model loaned to us in February 2024. Toyota Canada did not have a 2024 model-year at its disposal. Changes this year include a charging cable that can now connect to a 120-volt or a 240-volt power source, a display screen with charging info and a revised battery-temperature management system for improved cold-weather fast charging. For detailed insight into testing procedures and data collection, please review our
methodology policy
.


2023 Toyota bZ4X First Impressions


We all know Toyota has been very vocal about its view on electric vehicles. Ironically, while Toyota is the carmaker that makes the wildest claims about EVs, it can’t seem to deliver a truly competitive electric model. At least, not yet. But I’ll get back to all that later.

The bZ4X looks… fine. I personally can’t find a single angle on this thing that’s inspiring. It’s basically a block with the same roofline as the last-generation C-HR, making it look sort of weird and without a personality. This is definitely not as inspiring to look at as an IONIQ 5 or even a Ford Mustang Mach-E.

I will say that the Nautical Blue paint of my example was well applied, looked rich and helped hide the otherwise goofy blacked out body cladding on the car’s front and rear fenders. It’s worth underlying how well put together this SUV is, demonstrating Toyota’s expected standard for quality and reliability.


Exterior Dimensions

Length

184.6 in.

Width

73.2 in.

Height

65 in.

Wheelbase

112.2 in.

Front Track

63 in.

Rear Track

63.4 in.

Curb Weight

4,266 lb.

Driving Impressions And Performance

2024 Toyota bZ4X Front Three Quarter

In terms of driving dynamics, the bZ4X honestly drives the way that it looks, which means it’s not particularly quick off the line, handles kind of like a box, but always exhibits refined road manners all while being generally smooth over road imperfections and always quite inside.


Mind you, I was driving a single motor, front-wheel drive model, which generates significantly less output than its all-wheel drive twin. Powered by a slightly smaller capacity, 63.4-kWh usable (versus 65.5 kWh) liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery, this version puts down 201 horsepower and 196 lb-ft of torque.

2024 Toyota bZ4X Front Compartment

Gun the accelerator pedal, and the bZ4X smoothly glides forward in a non-dramatic fashion. It never feels sporty, and doesn’t exhibit the same kind of spirited performance as a rear-wheel driven Hyundai IONIQ 5, for instance. The steering is vague, and entering a corner fast with it won’t reveal anything dynamic. Then again, this was never this vehicle’s original promise. As a laid back apparatus to get you from point A to point B, the bZ4X gets the job done, without outdoing itself.


Performance Specifications

Battery Type

Liquid-Cooled Lithium-Ion

Usable Battery Capacity

63.4 KWH

Electric Motor Type

Permanent-Magnet Synchronous AC

Level Two Home Charging Rate

6.6 KW

Level 3 Fast Charging Rate

150 KW

Horsepower

201 HP

Torque

196 LB-FT

0-60 MPH

6.7 Seconds

Top Speed

104 MPH

Towing Rating

NA


2023 Toyota bZ4X Energy Consumption, Range And Charging

2024 Toyota bZ4X Front Section

Unfortunately, this is where things started falling apart for the bZ4X. If you’ve been following my EV reviews on this site, or even my older stuff at other outlets, you’re well aware that, over time, I have collected extensive hands-on experience testing electric vehicles in all types of situations.

The fact that I live in the province of Quebec – a part of the world known for its early EV adoption – has allowed me to have access to a wide range of different models to review, but also a generous and robust public charging grid and, perhaps more importantly, very cold weather.

2024 Toyota bZ4X Side Profile


When I picked up the bZ4X from Toyota Canada’s media relations department in Montreal, outdoor temperatures oscillated around 41 degrees Farenheit (5 degrees Celsius). The car had a 70% charge, with an estimated range projection of only 106 miles. Keep in mind that, according to the EPA, the bZ4X will cover 252 miles on a full charge, in ideal conditions.

Although I live about 93 miles east of Montreal, I’ve often picked up EVs with a 60 or even 50% charge and made it home in winter no sweat. But not in the bZ4X. For some odd reason, at a 75 MPH/h cruising speed, it would consume its electricity at the rate of 74.8 MPGe, significantly higher than the EPA’s claims. This also meant that I had to pull over to a fast-charging station to give it a bit more juice.

2024 Toyota bZ4X Rear Section


That’s when things went from bad to worse. The bad weather led to downright unacceptable charging performance. On paper, the front-wheel-driven bZ4X accepts a 150-kW fast charging rate (versus 100 kW for the AWD), but when I connected it to a 175-kW unit, the best I got was a 26-kW pull. For a whole 13 minutes. The images below show detailed charging information, with a graph, from the Electric Circuit‘s mobile app.

2024 Toyota bZ4X Charging Rate 001

Now, I want to specify that during fast charging, all EVs generally start off slow in the cold and speed up after a while. In some models, however, you can manually pre-heat (or pre-condition) the battery, so it performs better in the cold. But not in the bZ4X. At least, not the 2023 model.


2024 Toyota bZ4X Charging Rate 002

A second attempt once the battery had warmed up didn’t give me better results. In fact, charging performance was even lower, down at a turtle-slow 13 kW, and stayed that way up until the end of my charging cycle. Luckily, I didn’t need much to get home, so after nine minutes, I was back on the road.

I’ve seen bad winter charging performance from pretty much all EVs. This stuff will happen. But I’ve never seen anything this bad.

2024 Toyota bZ4X Charging Rate 003


Energy Consumption Data

City

Highway

Combined

EPA Rated Energy Consumption

131 MPG

107 MPG

119 MPG

Energy Consumption As Tested

74.8 MPG

Interior Design And Comfort

Charging, range and energy consumption issues aside, I will say that the bZ4X is a damn fine Toyota. It’s just not a good EV. What I mean by this is the moment you strap yourself inside its spacious cabin, you get what you expect from this carmaker: a supremely well put-together vehicle, solid-feeling materials and a general sense of quality, something you won’t get from, say, an early production Tesla Model Y.


2024 Toyota bZ4X Drive Selector

There are, however, a few ergonomic pitfalls I couldn’t quite get my head around. That cockpit-style instrument cluster, for instance, definitely gives the bZ4X a cool, futuristic look, but just like when I drove the new Toyota Prius which has a similar setup, my tall frame somehow caused the steering wheel to constantly block the information that was in front of me. I also don’t get why carmakers overengineer their gear selectors. The bZ4X’s is uselessly complicated.

2024 Toyota bZ4X Rear Seats-1


Sitting between a Hyundai IONIQ 5 and a Volkswagen ID.4 in terms of exterior dimensions, the bZ4X is spacious and comfortable, even in the back. That upright, boxy shape leads to an easily accessible rear seating area. Leg and headroom are also fantastic, allowing even a 6-foot tall adult to sit behind another 6-foot tall adult.

Interior Dimensions

Front

Rear

Headroom

38.6 in.

37.1 in.

Shoulder Room

57.8 in.

56.0 in.

Hip Room

54.4 in.

44.8 in.

Legroom

42.1 in.

35.3 in.

Technology And Ease Of Use


Except for the vision issue I was having with the instrument cluster, the bZ4X’s technology is generally easy to grasp, comprehend and operate. I’m also happy to report that Toyota’s infotainment systems are no longer the penalty boxes they once were. In the bZ4X, graphic quality is on par with the industry’s best, the interface is quick to react, and it’s generally easy to get your way around it.

However, I was somewhat disappointed to not find too many tools to monitor the vehicle’s energy consumption, efficiency and charging. Again, the 2023 model apparently corrects that, and I’ll need to give a try to assess the changes, but in the one I was driving, the information and customization options felt scarce compared to other EVs out there.

Cargo And Storage Space

2024 Toyota bZ4X Cargo Space


Although larger than an IONIQ 5, the bZ4X’s total cargo space – with the rear seat folded flat – is strangely lower than its main South-Korean rival (59.3 cu-ft). It’s also considerably smaller back there than in a Volkswagen ID.4 (64.2 cu-ft). However, with the rear seat in place, the bZ4X has a tad more cargo volume than the IONIQ 5 (27.2 cu-ft), but remains smaller than the Volkswagen (30.3 cu-ft).

Minimum Cargo Capacity (All Seats In Place)

27.7 cu-ft

Cargo Capacity Rear Seat Folded Down

56.9 cu-ft

How The 2023 Toyota bZ4X Compares To Its Competition

2024 Toyota bZ4X Headlights


The Toyota bZ4X faces several rivals. Toyota placed this thing within the hottest EV segment of the hour, the compact crossover category. That’s where you’ll find highly competitive vehicles like the Tesla Model Y, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Hyundai IONIQ 5/Kia EV6 twins, the Nissan Ariya and the Volkswagen ID.4.

However, since the Volkswagen ID.4 has a similar price bracket as the bZ4X and prioritizes a casual driving experience and superior build quality over straight line performance and handling, it seems like the natural direct competitor for Toyota’s battery-powered crossover.

2023 Toyota bZ4X Versus 2024 Volkswagen ID.4

2023 Volkswagen ID.4
Volkswagen

We’ve already established that the ID.4 offers more cargo space, and when analyzing interior dimensions, both vehicles are nearly identical. The ID.4 will, however, grant you a tad more rear leg and headroom.


On paper, the two-wheel drive bZ4X offers more range; 252 miles versus 209. Horsepower for both models is nearly identical, but the ID.4 puts down a bit more instant torque at 229 lb-ft versus the bZ4X’s 196. It’s also possible to opt for a larger-capacity battery on the rear-wheel drive ID.4, cranking horsepower and range up to 282 horsepower, and 263 miles.

A front 3/4 exterior shot of the Volkswagen ID.4
Volkswagen

Where the Volkswagen ID.4 has the Toyota bZ4X beat is in charging times. For starters, you’ll get a more powerful, 11-kWh onboard charger for level 2 home charging, which significantly reduces charge times. Fast charging is about the same; 140 kW versus 150, but I’ve fast charged with an ID.4 in the cold, more than once, and it returned much better charging performance. You can also tow up to 2,200 pounds with an ID.4, while Toyota doesn’t claim a tow rating for the bZ4X.


Related
2024 Volkswagen ID.4: A Comprehensive Guide To Trims And Features

Get the full scoop on the 2024 Volkswagen ID.4’s trims and features for your next car decision.

You Can Get A Better EV Elsewhere

2024 Toyota bZ4X Rear Three Quarter

As I was driving and charging this thing, it always felt like Toyota basically doesn’t care about being competitive in this space. The bZ4X feels like a compliance car.

What’s particularly alarming about this vehicle is that although the automotive press hasn’t been very kind to it so far, sales are still doing well. For reference, Toyota has already managed to ship a little over 9,000 of them in the US last year. In heavily subsidized regions of North America, like Quebec, the bZ4X outsold the Hyundai IONIQ 5 in 2023, with an impressive (for that market) 2,865 units sold.


2024 Toyota bZ4X Front Logo

It therefore seems like no matter what Toyota sells, whether it’s good or bad, its logo alone will attract consumers into showrooms.

But how long can Toyota bank on its reputation until consumers finally take notice? The EV world is an entirely different race. If Toyota doesn’t take electrification seriously, and fast, it could rapidly wake up to an industry it can no longer compete against.



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