Toyota bZ4X: Battery operated and convenient, but with limitations

A name, a program

Behind the name Toyota bZ4X “From the tax code”, there is the first Toyota born to be electric: bZ is in fact the “beyond zero” family (beyond zero, intended as emissions) of 100% electric vehicles, 4 refers to the size and X stands for crossover. 9 cm longer than the Rav4, this current crossover has personality to spare: the shapes are streamlined, with smooth surfaces that flank the sculpted ones and large areas covered with dark plastic. The lights are no less original: those in front are thin and pointed, while behind they protrude on the sides. The price lists will arrive on September 28 and the car will be in dealerships with us between the end of the year and the beginning of 2023, with estimated prices starting at 50,000 euros for the 204 HP front-wheel drive version in the “basic” set-up (already very rich for the safety) and 3,000 more for the 4×4 versions with 218 HP (like the one in the test).

Lights and shadows for the finishes

Inside the Toyota bZ4X we find part of the originality of the exterior, mixed with practical Toyota elements such as the large physical buttons on the center console. Lights and shadows as regards the finishes: the door panels are covered in soft material, there is no lack of elegant surfaces in glossy black and the dashboard covered with “technical” fabric sets the scene. However, some other plastics (for example the black ones on the interior handles) would clash even on a city car. On the other hand, there are many compartments, with those in the doors and in the central console that are capacious. However, none are refrigerated and the right drawer is completely missing: according to the company’s engineers it was “sacrificed” to give more space to the front passenger’s knees.

Furthermore, none of the compartments (not even those of the doors) are lined: rattling objects can make noise while driving. The controls of the “climate” of the Toyota bZ4X: two practical physical levers mounted under the central display, at your fingertips. The latter is responsive and intuitive to use, although it only shows one function at a time (it would have been more practical to combine two or three of your choice). There is no shortage of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but the former only works with the cable. Among other things, there is only one USB socket in front (two others are behind): not much for a family car.

Dashboard to be reviewed

The driving position dominates the scene: the seats of the Toyota bZ4X they are comfortable and widely adjustable, while the dashboard mounted high and at the base of the windshield may not convince. In fact, it is made to be read from above the steering wheel rim and not through the spokes, as per tradition. This means that, to see the instrumentation, the steering wheel must be adjusted low: the tallest ones will find it between their knees while those who are short risk seeing part of the instrumentation hidden. This solution will perhaps become more practical with the optional “by wire” steering, that is, without a physical connection between the steering wheel and rack, arriving in 2023: it will allow you to dynamically vary the gear ratio, allowing at low speed to reverse or tackle a hairpin by turning the steering wheel a few degrees. Thus, a round steering wheel will not be needed but a lower yoke cut at the top, like that of airplanes, will suffice. A solution that has already been shown on the Lexus RZ, which it shares with the Toyota bZ4X the mechanics.

So comfortable, but …

If the space in front is generous, the space in the back is surprising: it is almost like a limousine and the floor is flat. The tall ones will appreciate it in particular, but they will encounter a couple of problems: as on many cars that have a battery in the floor, the distance between the bottom and the seat of the sofa is reduced: just 30 cm. In addition, the space for the head is only adequate: whoever is 190 cm tall touches the ceiling with his head and, by giving up the panoramic roof, earns just one and a half centimeters. The trunk of the Toyota bZ4X half convinces: it is deep but not high (even by lowering the loading surface by only 7 cm), while the double bottom can accommodate the charging cables: useful, given that, unlike many electric cars, under the hood front there is no compartment. In practice, you have 452 liters, which drop to 441 in the richer versions equipped with a subwoofer. Not very little but, just to give an example “at home”, the shorter Rav4 of liters offers 148 more liters (almost all in the double bottom). And the value does not change even in the front-wheel drive bZ4X, without the engine at the rear.

Always up-to-date security

In the absence of the price lists it is not possible to speak of standard equipment but, based on what is offered in countries where the Toyota bZ4X is already on sale, it is likely that the safety equipment will be generous: all the most advanced systems are in fact available, starting with cruise control which works in concert with lane centering (the so-called Level 2 semi-autonomous driving) and not the less common ones are missing. Such as the blind spot monitoring that warns, when stationary, of the approaching of a vehicle (even a bike) when the door is about to be opened. And, thanks to internet updates, these devices will improve over time.

Solar roof

All the Toyota bZ4X they have a 71.4 kWh gross battery (those that are actually usable are a little less, but the house does not declare the value). Toyota guarantees at least 70% of their capacity after 8 years or 160,000 kilometers, and by having an annual check-up carried out on the occasion of servicing, the coverage extends up to 10 years or 1 million kilometers. Taking advantage of the direct current of the super-rapid columns, the car accepts up to 150 kW: for the house, it goes from 10 to 80% about half an hour. Furthermore, all the bZ4X that will arrive in Italy will have a new three-phase charger as standard, which will allow them to absorb up to 11 kW of alternating current (that of the most common wallboxes and columns). In addition, the optional solar panel roof should also arrive in 2023: according to the calculations of the house, in sunny countries it could lead to almost 12 km of free autonomy per day.

What comfort!

Surely the main advantage of the Toyota bZ4X it is ease of driving, combined with comfort: the controls have the right “weight” and the acceleration is decisive and linear (no power “hit”, as we find on other electric ones). In particular, the calibration of the brakes convinces: they are really on point, with a well-modulated and always constant response to the pressure of the pedal. A feature not taken for granted on hybrid and electric, where it is difficult to “mix” the action of the discs with that of energy recovery in slowdowns. Regarding the latter, the one-pedal function is absent, that is the one that sets an engine brake so intense that it stops the car and allows you to drive only by modulating the right pedal; with a key you can however increase it quite a lot.

Absorption quality and, at first impression, also the soundproofing of the Toyota bZ4X; the very windy day of the test, however, does not allow us to give a definitive judgment. Also standard for all 4x4s is the X-Mode function designed for driving on mud and snow. In addition, there is no shortage of those that regulate the speed in descents and climbs on slippery surfaces while the brakes stop the wheel that slips during acceleration, to transfer the motion to the other on the same axis (thus simulating the presence of a differential self-locking).

In our opinion

ADVANTAGES
> Comfort. The car convinces with its absorbency and soundproofing. Never tiring to operate and well calibrated controls.
> Warranty. No other manufacturer offers 10 years of coverage or 1 million kilometers on the battery.
> Motricity. This is one of the few electric that can have its say on slimy bottoms.
> Personality. Modern and original, it is certainly not a car that goes unnoticed.

DEFECTS
> Sofa-bottom distance. The longitudinal space is generous, but the floor is very close to the seat of the sofa: you travel with your knees “in your mouth”. And the taller ones behind graze the ceiling with their heads.
> Finishes. Some plastics are really “poor” and there is no covering of the compartments
> Nothing one-pedal. Nothing to complain about the modulation of the pedal, but the function to drive by modulating the right pedal is missing: it would be comfortable in traffic.
> Driving position. Having to read the dashboard from above the steering wheel forces some to compromise.


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