2023 Toyota BZ4X Review: Bad name, decent EV

The most eccentric parts of the BZ4X are all front-loading, literally and figuratively, the vehicle becomes more and more normal as it passes beyond the first impression. The concave front bumper gives the BZ4X a bird-like look (it also picks up as many insects as birds), while the off-color fenders bleed all the way to the front, as if no one changed the sensitivity Photoshop Fill tool. It may look pretty strange in the photo, but everything actually gels pretty well.

The strangeness continues when the door is opened. The interior of the BZ4X features an instrument cluster pushed into a HUD-like position, a long fabric-covered dashboard, and an aggressive Blob Dinnadian center console that stands up to fit a huge infotainment display. It’s also bold for Toyota. It’s a very funky layout for the driver, but it’s not difficult to get used to. Hold the bumper car-sized handle and point it at what your navel and Bob feel like uncle.

I love to use textured fabrics for the dashboard and the synthetic leather seats feel comfortable, but there is a great deal of hard plastic throughout. The glossy black finish of the center console is annoying even in direct sunlight. Because it tries to make a hole in the retina. Sunglasses must be included with every purchase.

Glossy center console with shift dial

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Glossy center console with shift dial

If I have run for public office, I will campaign with a promise to ban highly reflective materials from the cabin of my car.

Andrew Krok / CNET

As you would expect from an SUV with the Toyota badge, the BZ4X offers practicality in spades. The door pockets are deep and voluminous, and the same is true for the huge undertray under the shifter. The wireless charger has its own space, which is convenient because the storage space under the central armrest is surprisingly limited. The back seats provide solid headroom and excellent leg room. Moving further back, the 27.7 cubic foot cargo area is quite large and has no protrusions that prevent loading and unloading.Although it’s enough storage for the family and more than you get from Hyundai Ioniq 5 (27.2 cubic feet) or Kia EV6 (24.4 cubic feet), Toyota lags behind Ford Mustang Mach-E (29.7 cubic feet) and Volkswagen ID 4 (30.3 cubic feet).

When the BZ4X hits the road, all its eccentricity disappears into the background. Thanks to the low center of gravity, the right amount of damping and the tire sidewalls, the BZ4X’s ride quality is almost Lexus-smooth, with a pleasing Venza hybrid crossover right there. The visibility is good and the external noise is suppressed, but it is not completely eliminated. Sure, the steering isn’t lively, but it’s responsive enough and the small diameter of the wheels makes it comfortable. The throttle is easy to operate and I’m grateful to be able to raise the regenerative brake, but I wish I could use the true one-pedal mode. Currently, it is up to you to drop the last 5mph.

I don’t understand why people think Frank is of some sort given in EV. They still need a lot of components to work and those parts have to go somewhere. Rather do they eat in the cabin space?

Andrew Krok / CNET

In its most kitted form, the BZ4X provides all-wheel drive from two electric motors, one for each axle, producing a net of 214 horsepower and 248 pound-foot torque. These numbers aren’t exactly off the page, but Toyota’s momentary electric torque means that passing and other operations are easy to perform. Switching to EV eco mode will slow down the throttle response a bit, but I don’t want it anymore, so that’s the preferred mode for me.

The BZ4X’s electric heart is on the small side, so you need to get all the efficiency out of the battery. The AWD model gets a pack of 72.8kWh. This corresponds to a small EPA estimate of 228 miles for XLE trim and 222 miles for Limited. A single-motor front-wheel drive configuration is available in both trims, with outputs as low as 201hp and 196lb-ft, but with a range boosted to 252 miles (XLE) or 242 (limited).

Like most other EVs, Toyota provides a wealth of data on charging and efficiency and is built into the infotainment system.

Andrew Krok / CNET

From my time holding the steering wheel, I would say the AWD estimates are fairly comparable. The on-board computer shows an overall efficiency of about 3.5 miles per kilowatt hour for what I achieved with the Hyundai Ioniq 5. The result is a reading of approximately 2.0 miles per kWh. Again, that’s about what I got with the Ioniq 5, but Toyota’s little battery means a bit of range of anxiety on longer trips.

When it’s time to recharge, I’m left again seeking a little more vibrancy. The chemistry of the BZ4X’s AWD battery only accepts less than 100 kW DC fast charge than other competitors offer. Moving to an FWD configuration will change the chemistry of the battery, which can consume up to 150kW in its guise. It’s close to what you’ll find from Ford or Volkswagen, but it’s inferior to the sibling twins from Hyundai and Kia, which powers an 800-volt architecture and boosts maximum charge rates to 225kW. When charging at home via a Level 2 wall box, it takes about 11 hours from empty to full. When you get home from work, just plug it in and you’re all set by morning.

The BZ4X may have all the ports needed for DC fast charging, but its architecture can’t handle most of the ultra-fast speeds currently seen.

Andrew Krok / CNET

Thankfully, the Toyota BZ4X’s Cabin Tech feels a bit more cutting edge than power hardware. Hongkin’s 12.3-inch widescreen display runs the latest version of Toyota’s infotainment system. It was developed in-house and is also included in the new Tundra pickups, the new Lexus NX and RZ. The menu structure may take some getting used to, but it’s a great system with a smart layout and Google Maps integration. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but can be run through the only USB-A data port on the center console. Otherwise, each row will have a pair of power-only USB-C ports. I thought the high mount gauge display would take some getting used to, but it has less hair than the normal HUD height, so you can easily see all the important parts without distraction.

The 2023 Toyota BZ4X may be a size between the RAV4 and the Highlander, but its pricing starts a bit higher. The front-wheel drive base XLE returns $ 43,215, including the destination $ 1,215, and Limited steps up to $ 47,915. That is the case with 1-motor FWD. Adding a dual motor AWD will add about $ 2,000 to both trims. My tester loads pretty well outside the door for $ 52,050. This includes a heated backseat and heat pump for $ 350, a JBL audio upgrade for $ 580, a spoiler for $ 200, and white paint for $ 425. In fact, all colors that aren’t black cost extra and it’s stupid.

Don’t let the funky first impression confuse you. The 2023 Toyota BZ4X focuses on practicality and comfort that makes the entire package feel like a Toyota with an electric powertrain, rather than the EV with the Toyota badge. It feels exactly like you would expect, it will go a very long way for Toyota Die Hard. I wish it had a battery that could go a very long way.

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