In any case, the car does not have a perfect name, because "bZ4X" does not roll off the tongue easily. But there is a certain logic behind it! "bz" stands for "beyond zero" and indicates zero emissions. The 4 indicates the size of the car; in this case medium-sized. The "X" means crossover.
That Toyota's first fully electric car is a crossover is logical. These tall cars with off-road influences are extremely popular. Moreover, these cars are tall, which makes it easy to install batteries in the floor. Toyota has developed a new style for the bZ4X. Yet, the bZ4X is not nearly as radical as electric cars from other brands. The shapes are conservative and the bZ4X is not extremely aerodynamic with features like flush door handles, digital mirrors or other technical tours de force.
And there is a philosophy behind that! Toyota expects the bZ4X to be the first electric car for most buyers. By choosing a modest design Toyota hopes to make the switch as smooth as possible. Moreover, Toyota has had success for decades with the mid-sized RAV4 and with its dimensions and design the bZ4X is a logical continuation of it. This even applies to the technology, as the bZ4X is based on a so-called "e-TNGA" (electric Toyota new global architecture) platform, which is an adapted version of the platform on which the RAV4 is built.
The bZ4X doesn't just look like a conventional car, it is also laid out like one. Some electric cars have a short bonnet because an electric motor is much smaller than an internal combustion engine. Therefore, these cars have a lot of cabin space and little engine space. In the bZ4X, that ratio is roughly the same as in the average car. In the front and back there is enough room for adults, but the bZ4X doesn't break any records when it comes to space or ergonomics.
The interior decoration is also ordinary. Except for one thing! The gauges (speedometer and rev counter) are placed on top of the steering column and that is a new development for Toyota. Gradually, Toyota wants to replace the traditional round steering wheel with a yoke like in an aeroplane. This would give a better view of the instruments, make room for a camera (more about this later) and allow a larger steering angle with less effort. However, this is not yet a reality, so for now the bZ4X comes with a regular round steering wheel.
The bZ4X is the second model to be fitted with Toyota's latest audio, communication and navigation system. The system fucntions properly and can be operated smoothly, logically and easily. However, it does not offer any possibilities that the competition does not. On one point it even falls short: the sat nav cannot automatically plan charging stops when the destination is further away than the battery charge allows. The optional audio system from specialist JBL sounds decent enough, but does not have the refinement or dynamics of a real hifi system.
Under the name "T-Mate" Toyota bundles a series of safety features. Two of them deserve a special mention. The new steering column allowed the installation of a camera that monitors the driver's face. If the driver does not look in the driving direction for too long, a warning sounds. The second function is also based on this camera: when the car turns but the camera detects that the driver has overlooked traffic going straight ahead, the bZ4X will brake automatically to avoid an accident.
Toyota is late with the introduction of a full electric car because the manufacturer spent a lot of time on the life span and reliability of the battery. Moreover, Toyota wanted to retain the familiar character of an internal combustion engine car, including its range. Therefore, the bZ4X is standard equipped with a very large battery (72 kWh) for a range of 400 to 500 km.
However, that isn't necessarily a good thing. This large battery makes the bZ4X more expensive than similar cars from other brands. Those cheaper cars have much smaller batteries. However, experience learns that a range of about 250 km is sufficient for carefree driving. An electric car is not driven to near empty and then refilled to the brim ike a car with an internal combustion engine. Instead, it is recharged wherever it goes so that the battery always remains at a decent level. On long journeys, it is either the bladder or the stomach that asks for a break after 250 km. That break is usually long enough to recharge the battery at a fast charger.
It's not just the battery that's generously proportioned; the engine also has plenty of power, to say the least. The bZ4X delivers 204 hp (217 hp for the four-wheel drive version) and the software makes sure that this is put to good use. Even in eco mode, the bZ4X is downright quick and even brutally fast. This is not only true at traffic lights, but also on the motorway. Because the performance is delivered with great ease, the bZ4X gives the superior feeling that is typical of electric cars. And yet there is one criticism: although the electric motor does its work inaudibly, the sounds of the tyres and driving wind are clearly audible.
As standard, the bZ4X regains energy during braking and coasting. At the push of a button, it is possible to choose to recuperate more energy, causing the car to hold back more when releasing the power pedal. However, this is not enough to drive with one pedal. This is a drawback for drivers who are already familiar with electric driving, but it does lower the threshold for first-time buyers.
Range and charging
Despite the fact that the test driver couldn't regenerate to the max and was seduced by the eager character of the engine, during the test drive he drove more economically than the brochure states (promise: 18.1 kWh / 100 km, test consumption: 16.7 kWh / 100 km). Therefore, the promised range of 436 km (version with large wheels and four-wheel drive) could easily be realised.
Charging can be done at a public charge point (11 kW, 3 phase) or at a fast charger (150 kW). These are good speeds, which is necessary with such a large battery. Unfortunately, the charging socket is on the front. When parking perpendicular to the road, it forces the driver enter nose first, which results in a larger turning circle and less visibility when leaving later.
The bZ4X not only had to have the familiar character of an internal combustion engine car, but it also had to have the "Toyota feel". This means that the car should respond predictably in a wide range of conditions. To achieve that familiar response, front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional.
During this test, the promised Toyota feeling could indeed be experienced. The car allows itself to be driven in a sporty manner when allowed to, but can just as easily forget about it if desired. Moreover, the test car is fitted with the optional four-wheel drive and can even manage quite well off-road. Because the car scores high on all points, it seems to lack character, but in fact the bZ4X is good at everything.
Is the Toyota bZ4X the perfect electric car? The answer to that question is purely personal. Those looking for an exciting or innovative car will not feel attracted to the bZ4X. Toyota has not opted for revolution, but instead for a smooth evolution. In this way it wants to make the transition to electric driving as easy as possible.
The handling, range and space are about the same as those of a similar car with an internal combustion engine. At the same time, the buyer enjoys the tranquillity, superior performance and low cost per kilometre of an electric car. And in doing so, the bZ4X has achieved its goal of making electric driving as common as driving any other Toyota.
- Good handling
- Strong, fast and zero emissions
- As familiar and functional as any Toyota
- Less quiet than other electric cars
- Awkward / dangerous location charging port
- Only available with a very large (and expensive) battery