2023 Toyota BZ4X Review – Falling Short

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Fast Facts

2023 Toyota bZ4X XLE FWD Fast Facts

Single electric motor (201horsepower, 196 lb-ft of torque)
Transmission/Drive Layout
Automatic, front-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPGe
131 city / 107 highway / 119 combined (EPA Rating)
Fuel Economy, Le/100km
1.8 city / 2.2 highway / 2.0 combined (NRCan Rating)
Estimated Range
252 miles/406 kilometers
Base Price
$42,000 (U.S.)
As-Tested Price
$44,409 (U.S.)
Prices include $1,215 destination charge in the United States. Availability in Canada is limited.
2023 toyota bz4x review falling short

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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3 of 46 comments
  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Aug 09, 2023

    This is Toyota phoning it in. This was designed before they got religion regarding BEVs, so hopefully they'll get with the program on future efforts.

    I couldn't figure out what the heck "bZ4x" meant, until I found the Wikipedia article. So bZ stands for "beyond Zero" (emissions), 4 is for the platform size class (4 is RAV4-sized), and "x" is for crossover.

    • Sckid213 Sckid213 on Aug 09, 2023

      bZ4x sounds like an internal build code. They had a chance to introduce an iconic new word to North America that could develop into something with millions in brand value...like "Prius"...and they go with alphanumeric soup.

  • Add Lightness Add Lightness on Aug 10, 2023

    I hope the reduced range for the AWD highlights the foolishness of AWD vs FWD. I already have too many halfshafts in my life to get 2 extra that in reality, will never be needed.

    When will this fad of having twice as much drivetrain, that 95% of drivers will never use, end?

    If you really need AWD to go skiing, there is no need, as the roads will be closed by then.

    I will stick with 4 wheel brakes, good winters and perhaps never used chains if I'm really worried..

  • SCE to AUX A question nobody asks is how Tesla sells so many EVs without charge-at-home incentives.Here are some options for you:[list][*]Tesla drivers don't charge at home; they just squat at Superchargers.[/*][*]Tesla drivers are rich, so they just pay for a $2000 charger installation with the loose change in their pocket.[/*][*]Tesla drivers don't actually drive their cars much; they plug into 110V and only manage about 32 miles/day.[/*][/list]
  • SCE to AUX "Despite the EV segment having enjoyed steady growth over the past several years, sales volumes have remained flatter through 2023."Not so. How can EV sales be increasing and flatter at the same time?https://insideevs.com/news/667516/us-electric-car-sales-2023q1/Tesla and H/K/G are all up for EV sales, as are several other brands.
  • ToolGuy Here is an interesting graphic, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • ToolGuy Nice website you got there (even the glitches have glitches)
  • Namesakeone Actually, per the IIHS ratings, "Acceptable" is second best, not second worst. The ratings are "Good," "Acceptable," "Marginal" and "Poor."