2023 Toyota BZ4X Review – Falling Short
2023 Toyota bZ4X XLE FWD Fast Facts
When it comes to reviews, the 2023 Toyota bZ4X has taken it on its oddly-shaped chin. And, as I found out, for good reason.
That’s a shame because had this car been done right, it could’ve easily worked as affordable EV transport.
Instead, it’s a weird package that has pricing that is considered affordable relative to the average transaction price, but still not "cheap.” And while it’s not a total penalty box to drive, it’s not redeeming enough from behind the wheel to justify the cost.
Compare the bZ to the brand’s own re-done Prius – the new Prius has flaws but it’s generally packaged much better. Yes, the bZ is an EV and the Prius is not, but overall, the latter is a more intriguing proposition than the former.
I’ll admit that when I first slid behind the wheel of the bZ, I was apprehensive about its driving dynamics, based on the reviews I read. I was actually pleasantly surprised – while this car is not really, in any way, fun to drive, it’s fine for around-town commuting. I didn’t hate life while just heading to the grocery store. If I was forced to drive this car for three-to-five years, I’d perhaps be a bit bored, but I’d take heart knowing that one can do way worse.
Again, that’s in terms of basic competency. You won’t want to push this thing in terms of cornering. You get instant EV torque – yay – but other EVs feel swifter when it comes to passing. Still, some of the hate for this car’s driving dynamics seemed overblown.
The bZ4X is available in two trim flavors, XLE and Limited, and with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. My test unit was an XLE with front-wheel drive, meaning the electric motor on board was good for 201 horsepower and 196 lb-ft of torque. The juice comes from a lithium-ion battery pack with a 71.4-kWh capacity. Toyota promises a range of up to 252 miles for this configuration.
Charging is listed at about 9 hours from “low to full” on a Level 2 charger.
I suspect most of the brickbats tossed the bZ’s way have to do with its ugly-duckling styling – and with Toyota choosing to market what is essentially a tall wagon as an SUV.
It’s a weird-looking vehicle, though beauty, in this case, is the eye of the beholder based on where the beholder is standing in relation to the vehicle. The front-three-quarter and straight-on views aren’t terrible. It’s the truncated roof life and way too busy rear area that complicate things visually, and not in a good way.
The interior layout is less objectionable than the exterior duds, though Toyota has gone a bit too space-age with the instrument cluster. The infotainment screen, which occupies 12.3 inches of space in the center stack, is nicely integrated and uses Toyota’s newer – and much, much improved – infotainment system. The bad news is that Toyota has moved some functions to said system, instead of providing buttons. The good news is that some basic audio and climate controls remain of the physical variety.
The base price for the front-wheel-drive XLE I tested started at $42,000 and came with standard features like a Level 1 charging cord, 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio, wireless device charging, and a panoramic sunroof. Options were limited to heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, carpeted floor mats, and the Supersonic Red paint.
Toyota’s SafetySense 3.0 advanced driver-aid system is standard and includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, automatic high beams, and road-sign assist. Other standard safety ninnies included a rearview camera and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
Total price? $44,409.
The bZ4X isn’t exactly a terrible vehicle. I’d heard whispers among my fellow keyboard warriors about how bad it is, and I found those reports to be a bit exaggerated. That said, key competitors offer a better overall experience. Upper bZ4X trims also struggle with range – a top-trim bZ4X has only 222 miles of range. The 252 miles available with the XLE FWD are acceptable, at least.
Yet “not being terrible” isn’t good enough, not as other EVs enter the scene that are more attractive, offer better interior packaging, and are more fun to drive. Oh, and also offer a better range with all-wheel drive.
The bZ4X is far from the dregs of the market. It has a few good things going for it. But it still falls short of what Toyota needs it to be.
[Images © 2023 Tim Healey/TTAC.com]
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- ToolGuy Here is an interesting graphic, if you're into that sort of thing.
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