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Driven: 2023 Toyota bZ4X review

Picture of Chris Teague

Chris Teague

Toyota was slow to develop and release electric models, instead pushing forward with hybrids and alternative fuels like hydrogen. The automaker finally launched the first in its series of “beyond Zero” vehicles in late 2022 for the 2023 model year with the bZ4X. Toyota developed the EV alongside Subaru, which markets its variant under the Solterra name. There’s also a related Lexus model, the upcoming RZ. Though the three share much of their underlying engineering, they carry unique designs and attitudes that follow their respective brands’ profiles.

The 2023 model year is the bZ4X’s first on sale, and Toyota offers the SUV in two configurations. The base XLE trim starts at $42,000, while the upgraded Limited model starts at $46,700 before destination charges. Rear- or all-wheel drive is available, and the bZ’s range estimates reach 252 miles on a charge in the most efficient XLE front-drive variant. While the automaker has a significant U.S. manufacturing footprint, the bZ4X is built in Japan, making it ineligible for EV tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act.

Front-drive bZ4X models get 201 horsepower and a 71.4-kWh battery, while the all-wheel drive variants get two electric motors making 214 horsepower. The modest on-paper specs lead to a driving experience that neither thrills nor bores, a common theme in Toyota’s catalog. As Toyota’s first mass-market EV, the vehicle faithfully carries the brand’s ethos to the electric age, but it’s fair to question whether the bZ can stand up to intense competition from Korean brands and others, it’s a vehicle that will please Toyota’s faithful buyers. 

2023 toyota bZ4X review

2023 Toyota bZ4X review

The bZ4X offers five seats across two rows and a unique interior design. There’s a good deal of space in the front, and the seats are nicely padded, but the high center console can make the front buckets feel more cramped than they are. Toyota didn’t bother with heavy bolstering or sporty seat designs, instead sticking with a middle-of-the road look and feel for the front buckets. My Limited test model came with synthetic leather, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a six-way manually adjustable passenger seat. The lower XLE trim gets fabric and synthetic leather, and both feel nicer than expected, even without genuine hides.

Outward visibility is good, and the eight-way driver’s seat offers a decent level of adjustability to find a comfortable driving position. At the same time, Toyota installed a unique gauge cluster display, and with my preferred seating position, the steering wheel almost wholly obscured the vehicle’s speed and other vital information. It’s also difficult to reach into the back seat from the front, as the center console is huge, so parents might have difficulty dealing with kids in the back seat in some situations.

Another knock comes with the gear shift dial, which is highly confusing to use at first and requires a bit of time to get used to. While all automakers have taken liberties with reinventing the shifter, this is a particularly egregious design that doesn’t serve much purpose. Additionally, Toyota employed shiny “piano black” plastic on the center console and dash, which quickly attracts fingerprints and dust, making the cabin look dirty in the sunlight. One upside is the dash design, which comes covered in a unique fabric that looks great and helps soak up interior noise.

The rear bench is spacious enough to comfortably accommodate adults, but there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about its shape or comfort. It’s decently padded and has a reasonable amount of support, but the bench is far more comfortable with two across instead of the advertised three. However, the extra person can squeeze in without too much difficulty in a pinch.

2023 Toyota bZ4X Interior Features and Tech

Toyota’s infotainment systems were once considered its weakest point, as they were clunky, hard to use, and not all that responsive. The automaker took those criticisms to heart, creating a far more advanced and feature-rich system that has rolled out in recent years. The bZ4X gets the new interface, which uses an anchor menu on the left side with commonly used functions, such as music, phone, vehicle settings, and smartphone connectivity. The only physical controls for the system are for volume and power on/off, but the on-screen controls do a good enough job without being overly distracting.

Menus are clearly labeled and intuitive, and the more responsive system makes interacting with the vehicle a breeze while driving. Having said that, the interface for SiriusXM radio could use some work, as there’s no immediately apparent method for just scrolling through radio stations. Instead, Toyota opted to group the stations by genre, but it’s not as easy as seeing all stations in a list.

The system brings excellent features otherwise, including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, SiriusXM, HD radio, navigation, wireless charging, a digital key system, and more. The aforementioned 7-inch “multi-information display” takes the place of a conventional gauge cluster but can be challenging to see for some drivers, depending on the seat and steering wheel positions. It’s simpler than some modern digital gauge clusters and offers a focused view of the vehicle’s speed and charge conditions, but it doesn’t bring the customizable map and other graphic views that many others do.

2023 toyota bZ4X review

Driving the 2023 Toyota bZ4X

The base bZ4X has a 201-horsepower electric motor and 71.4-kWh battery, while the all-wheel drive variant gets two motors with a combined 214 horsepower and a 72.8-kWh battery pack. Neither setup delivers a particularly thrilling driving experience, but the all-wheel drive model has more power, better acceleration, and more grip. Power delivery is buttery smooth, and the bZ4X is easily one of the more refined EVs to drive of any currently available mass-market models. Electric vehicles are typically very quiet in operation, and the bZ4X takes it to the next level with a cocooning experience that legitimately separates passengers from the noisy world outside.

That same attitude mostly translates to the bZ4X’s ride quality, which is surprisingly comfortable over various road conditions. My Limited test vehicle came with 20-inch wheels, which harshed the ride at times with low-profile tires, but the SUV is notably composed and comfortable. There’s no one-pedal driving mode here, so the brakes are required to stop the vehicle, but the bZ’s smooth ride should be enough to make up for that shortcoming for most people.

Range and charging are two areas where the bZ4X needs a bit more scrutiny. The XLE trim delivers a claimed 252 miles on a charge, which falls to 228 miles with all-wheel drive. The larger-wheeled Limited trim delivers 242 miles with FWD and 222 with AWD. Those are decent numbers, but the SUV’s charging speeds leave much to be desired. It takes about an hour to charge to 80 percent on a 50-kW charger and up to half an hour on a 150-kW charger. Charging can take considerably longer in cooler weather, as I never saw speeds exceed 27 kW on the (only!) 50 kW EVGo charger in my small Maine town. Toyota’s charging logic also limits the speeds as the battery gets closer to full, and speeds drop considerably after 80 percent and then again after 90 percent.

2023 toyota bZ4X review

Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 comes standard, bringing a generous suite of advanced driver aids. The list includes adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist with lane departure warnings, automatic high beams, road sign recognition, and more. The bZ also gets blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, front and rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera. The Limited trim is available with a panoramic surround-view monitoring system. The bZ4X missed a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Still, it earned a “Good” score in the agency’s updated side-crash test, which uses significantly more impact force than prior assessments.

Though it also earned five stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the bZ4X experienced a recall early in its life that caused a significant production delay while Toyota and Subaru worked out a fix. An issue with the vehicle’s hub bolts could loosen, causing the wheel to detach, even after a few miles of use. The automaker worked through that issue, and the SUV has not had another recall since.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much cargo space does the 2023 Toyota bZ4X have?

The bZ4X’s cargo space is not as generous as that of some rivals. It offers 38.8 cubic feet with the rear seats upright and 56.1 cubic feet with the bench folded flat. The space is wide and easy to load, thanks to the SUV’s ride height, and Toyota offers a power liftgate.

Does the 2023 Toyota bZ4X get good gas mileage?

The bZ4X offers up to 252 miles of range, which isn’t bad but far off the targets the Tesla Model Y and others set. Similarly, its efficiency estimates range from 102 MPGe in the least efficient Limited model to 119 MPGe in the XLE front-wheel drive trim.

Is the 2023 Toyota bZ4X safe?

The IIHS did not award a Top Safety Pick for 2023, but the NHTSA gave the bZ4X five stars overall. Toyota also equips a long list of standard safety tech, including Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, blind spot monitoring, and more.

How much is the 2023 Toyota bZ4X?

The bZ4X XLE costs $42,000, and the uprated Limited is $46,700. Toyota offers a few options that add to the price, and a $1,350 destination charge applies.

2023 toyota bZ4X review
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT available early fall 2021. (Closed course. Professional driver. Do not attempt.)

What are the 2023 Toyota bZ4X competitors?

Competitors to the 2023 Toyota bZ4 include the Subaru Solterra, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Model Y, Hyundai Ioniq 5, and Kia EV6.

Final Verdict

The bZ4X is a reasonably solid maiden effort from Toyota. It brings a good deal of tech, a comfortable interior, and a refined driving experience, making it a pleasure to live with, especially in town. Yes, there is too much glossy black plastic in the cabin, and yes, the SUV could charge faster, but for most people – especially Toyota fans – it’s good enough.

That said, the competition is too good to ignore. The Kia EV6 is more engaging to drive, charges faster, and has a more comfortable interior, while the Tesla Model Y offers a significantly longer range. The Tesla is also eligible for federal tax credits that add to its appeal. At more than $50,000 all-in, the bZ4X Limited runs into strong headwinds from the Kia and others, offering more range and advanced charging technologies. 

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