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First drive: 2022 Toyota bZ4X. Image by Toyota.

First drive: 2022 Toyota bZ4X
Believe it or not, this is Toyota’s first battery-electric car. But is the oddly-named bZ4X worth the wait?

   



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2022 Toyota bZ4X

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Despite pioneering the hybrid car, Toyota has been slow where electric power is concerned. In fact, the hydrogen-powered Mirai is already into its second generation as this, the first battery-electric Toyota arrives. It's called the bZ4X (don't ask) and it's a mid-size family SUV designed to take on the Skoda Enyaq and VW ID.4. But does it have enough to compete with such competent rivals?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2022 Toyota bZ4X Premiere Edition X-Mode AWD
Price: bZ4X from £41,950, Premiere Edition from £51,550
Motor: electric motor on each axle
Transmission: one-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Battery: 71.4kWh lithium-ion
Power: 218hp
Torque: 337Nm
Emissions: 0g/km
Economy/Range: 257 miles
0-62mph: 6.9 seconds
Top speed: 100mph
Boot space: 452 litres

Styling

The bZ4X is designed to look futuristic, and it succeeds to a point, although the look isn't entirely Toyota-ish. There's something a little more Lexus-esque about the sharp creases and narrow lights, while there are echoes of the Subaru Outback in the wheel arch cladding. Although perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise when the bZ4X is part of a joint venture with Subaru. The overall image isn't ugly, but nor is it pretty. In fact, compared with the striking Kia EV6 and the sci-fi Hyundai Ioniq 5, it looks a bit... conservative.

Interior

As with the bZ4X exterior, the cabin is designed to look futuristic, but it isn’t too in-your-face. There’s certainly some spaceship vibes with the digital instrument cluster housing, but otherwise it’s relatively conventional. The instrument display isn’t that big, but there’s a fairly sizeable touchscreen included as standard.

That new screen is considerably better than most of Toyota’s touchscreens, which have generally been pretty poor. The new system isn’t perfect, but it’s so much better than the system in the Corolla and RAV4 that we can’t spend too long finding fault with it. Instead, we’ll look at the build quality, which is typically Japanese – by which we mean the materials are occasionally sketchy, but the way they have been fitted together is exemplary. It isn’t especially premium, but it’s very solid overall.

Practicality

The bZ4X has a 452-litre boot, making it slightly smaller than that of the Skoda Enyaq and Volkswagen ID.4. That said, it's still in the same ballpark as petrol-powered family SUVs including the Nissan Qashqai and VW T-Roc. That means there's more than enough space in the boot for most customers, and there's even more space in the rear seats. There, only the very tallest customers will find headroom tight, but most will be sufficiently comfortable and all will have plenty of legroom.

Performance

Under the futuristic skin, the bZ4X comes with a choice of two drive systems, with a 204hp single-motor option representing the entry-level version. Alternatively, there’s a twin-motor option with 218hp and four-wheel drive, providing a little more traction and performance, although both are pretty brisk when you put your foot down. The front-drive option gives you a 7.5-second sprint to 62mph, while the all-wheel-drive alternative takes 6.9 seconds to manage the same feat.

More important to most customers, however, is range. The most frugal model – the front-wheel-drive car in basic Pure trim – will manage 317 miles on a single charge, while the thirstiest – the four-wheel-drive Premiere Edition – cuts that to 257 miles. It’s respectable, but hardly class-leading.

Ride & Handling

Despite the power, there's nothing sporty about the bZ4X driving experience. The car feels safe, rather than exciting; secure, rather than agile. There isn't too much body roll, thanks to the low centre of gravity, but the steering response is less involving than it initially appears and that saps any fun from the drive. Still, it's easy enough to steer about, and the electric motor makes it quite good at soundlessly zipping through traffic.

Refinement is one of its key attributes, and the ride comfort is equally impressive. It's excellent at motorway speeds, although the weight of those batteries will drag it down into potholes around town, and that makes it slightly less composed. It isn't jarring, but you notice the bumps more.

Choose an all-wheel-drive bZ4X and you get a little off-road capability, too. There's 177mm of ground clearance and a waterproof battery pack, which means the bZ4X can wade through up to 500mm of water. Of course, few owners will ever use that kind of capability, but it's nice to know the car can do it.

Value

The bZ4X starts at just under £44,000, which makes it about £2,000 more expensive than the basic Skoda Enyaq and about £7,000 costlier than the basic VW ID.4. But once you look at a more comparable ID.4, the bZ4X stacks up well in terms of equipment, price and power, but it still lags behind in terms of practicality and range. Unsurprisingly, the Skoda Enyaq is cheaper across the board.

However, it's worth remembering Toyota will offer the bZ4X with a warranty that can last up to 10 years if you maintain the car at a Toyota dealer or service centre. That's quite some peace of mind, especially for those worried about going all-electric.

Verdict

The bZ4X is a solid choice for families, and although the battery range is slightly lacking, boot space is tight compared with rivals, and the looks may be challenging for some, it has plenty going for it. The modern interior and comfortable ride will appeal to plenty, as will the availability of all-wheel drive and the promise of Toyota's legendary reliability. For our money, though, we'd stick with the Skoda Enyaq.



James Fossdyke - 4 Aug 2022



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2022 Toyota bZ4X. Image by Toyota.2022 Toyota bZ4X. Image by Toyota.2022 Toyota bZ4X. Image by Toyota.2022 Toyota bZ4X. Image by Toyota.







 

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