Review: Toyota bZ4X
This exemplar of electric motoring is Toyota’s bZ4X. Yes, that’s bZ4X. It starts Toyota’s electric “beyond zero” range of zero emission vehicles. The 4 signifies its size, the X means crossover. Many more are coming, some using the modular platform of the bZ4X. The lithium-ion battery has a warranty to retain 70 per cent capacity for 10 years or 620,000 miles, with an annual check.
I did like it, from the brand’s new hammerhead face to the finned tail and the general heft. There is an abundance of black protective cladding which announces its higher ground clearance and all-road potential.
Think of an electric re-imagining of Toyota’s RAV4 after it has had a make-over at a Lexus design lab in California. It is lower than the RAV4, on a longer wheelbase.
It costs more, obviously (from £45,710) and can’t get near the maximum 3500kg towing rating for the RAV4. Towing is one of the things electric vehicles are weak on, both for weight and for battery range depletion. The bZ4X does offer all-wheel-drive and is one of the first electric all-roaders, so it will haul your one horse trailer or small caravan through slippery bits.
The heavy battery pack is integrated in the floor and adds to rigidity while keeping the centre of gravity low. It is a two-ton car but did not feel heavy on bends. Ventilated disc brakes and double wishbone rear suspension help here.
It is sized for a family. There is comfortably room for five, and space behind the seats for large suitcases or two mountain bikes in bits. The seats fold flat in a 1/3 and 2/3 split. There is storage space under the back deck for the expensive charging cables and things you may wish to keep out of sight. The luggage cover folds neatly to pack away.
The main instrument display is set forward, high up and easily seen, making a head-up display unnecessary. The rotary gear selector is below the central stack, left for reverse, right for drive, tap for park. The fascia is covered with a soft woven textile. Practical and smart and ergonomic.
What we noticed was the car’s quietness. There is thicker glass in the side windows to eliminate outside noises and there is a full length under tray. Tyre noise from the hefty Yokohama Advan tyres was remarkably muffled but we were aware of road rumble.
Choose from three trim levels: Pure, Motion and Vision with front wheel drive using a 150kw/201bhp motor. Motion and Vision are offered with all wheel drive, using an 80kw motor for each end. Pure has 18-inch alloy wheels, a multimedia system with an eight-inch display, a reversing camera, smart entry and start and a climate control system that lets owners warm up or cool their car before getting in. Just beware this will take precious battery levels.
Motion adds a large central touchscreen, powered heated front seats with a nicer seat fabric and a wireless charging tray.
The Vision grade is at the top of the regular model line-up with a prestige specification that includes 20-inch alloys, rear parking sensors and braking intervention. As with the bZ4X Motion, front-wheel drive and X-MODE AWD drive versions are available.
We were sent the Motion AWD, with the 20-inch wheels. Cold winter weather (testing was in January) takes a toll on electric vehicle battery range.
Toyota quotes 286 miles, at four miles per kilowatt hour.
We saw 2.3 to 2.8 miles per kWh and much lower range predictions. We were paying 79p per kWh on a commercial Osprey charger. One sample debit card bill was £16 for a gain of 58 miles. Charging would be much cheaper at home on a domestic tariff. I pay 20p/kWh but am among the millions who can’t have a charger under planning laws.
Finally, full marks for the calamity prevention system which warns of traffic coming from behind when you open the door and advises “please proceed paying attention to the bicycle lane”