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Range and oomph (but not in the same model) – Toyota bZ4X review

A short while ago, I attended the local launch of Toyota’s (almost) first all-electric vehicle (there was an electric RAV in ‘97 and again in 2012), the BZ4X. It was good to test it out for the day, but how would it fare under a week’s scrutiny? Toyota gave me both the 2WD Pure and AWD Motion to test – game on.

Toyota proudly claims that the BZ4X represents their vision of the future, and it all starts with the nameplate. Let’s break it down: the “B” stands for Beyond, the “Z” represents zero emissions, the “4” signifies the vehicle size, and the “X” indicates its crossover nature.

Toyota bZ4X review NZ

In New Zealand we have two models, the Pure, a two-wheel drive variant, and the Motion, which boasts all-wheel drive. Both come with the same 71.4 kWh battery,  however, with more specs and an extra motor, the Pure claims to have an extra 50km more range (485km vs 535km) – or does it?

Toyota bZ4X review NZ

My first week was spent with the Pure variant and as it turned out, my son had a football game in Cambridge, around 150km from home, so it was a great opportunity to test out the EV SUV’s range.

The Pure may well be classed as the lesser spec’d of the two models, but believe me, it doesn’t feel that way. It still comes with a modern cabin, complete with premium finishes and seats bathed in all-black fabric with synthetic leather accents. The infotainment screen is still 12.3-inches and a 7-inch colour instrument cluster. With one motor powering the front wheels, it did lack a little in the off the mark oomph, but still fast enough to raise some eyebrows.

Toyota bZ4X review NZ

I picked the Pure up with 100% charge which the bZ4X claimed would be good for 442km, not exactly the brochure’s 535km but more than enough for a weekly commute. The first part of my week’s review had me toodling (yes it’s a real word) around the neighbourhood, doing inane chores and ‘normal life’ stuff and in all fairness, the EV SUV excelled. It was spacious and comfortable, easy to park and offered 441L of boot space for whatever. 

I guess more importantly, it excelled in the range department too. I travelled 220km using only 202km of forecasted range. Perfect, or so I thought. With an hour to kill, I fully charged the SUV back up to 100% the night before the trip to Cambridge and the instrument cluster informed me that I’d be good for 433km – or there and back with ease. Alas, it was not. 

Toyota bZ4X review NZ

Now admittedly, the bypass’s 110km/h made light work of the drive south, however, it also chewed through the range too. By the time we got back to the north side of Hamilton, the screen told me I’d used 191km of range to travel 163km, which by my calculation (with no accidents or roadworks) would have got me home with around 50km left. Of course the main thing is ‘got me home’ but call me old fashioned, for convenience and peace of mind, I still chose to top up at the Bombays.

Toyota bZ4X review NZ

Removing range from the equation (after all, around 400km is more than ample for regular use), the bZ4X is a very accomplished SUV. Co-developed with Subaru, it shares their adventurous attitude, has all the latest technologies and an EV platform that’s been specifically designed for electric vehicles.

Toyota bZ4X review NZ

Stepping into the Motion variant does elevate the experience. The grille-less appearance around the nose, ‘four-eye’ stylish headlights, distinctive daytime running lights (DRLs) and vents aiding in aerodynamics are the same across both models, however, the Motion boasts 20-inch wheels (Pure comes with 18s), it has a split panoramic roof that provides plenty of light to the cabin, a large roofline spoiler that looks like two fangs, and the interior trim that comes with leather, a JBL stereo and a transparent vehicle view for the reversing camera.

Toyota bZ4X review NZ

Along with the extra motor, the BZ4X Motion also comes with Subaru’s X mode, meaning that at the flick of a switch it has the ability to tackle all manner off-road terrains (not just soft roading) and gives you the confidence to really go and explore NZ. 

Toyota bZ4X review NZ

There is certainly more acceleration in the Motion, both from a standing start (0 to 100 km/h in just 6.9 seconds) and when looking to overtake. Yes this comes at a range cost, but the thrill outweighs the need to charge.

The bZ4x name may be somewhat unfamiliar, however, the Toyota SUV EV feels surprisingly familiar once you get behind the wheel. The low down weight means that the bZ4X is more than competent in the corners and the suspension has been fine-tuned, giving it a softer and smoother ride compared to its Subaru counterpart.

Toyota bZ4X review NZ

Toyota may be a little late to embrace the BEV market (although they are cutting emissions elsewhere for sure) but the bZ4X is worth the wait. It’s an all-electric crossover that retains the brand’s appeal and familiar features and is a great balance between modernity and practicality. Your only issue now is the choice of oomph or range, we’ll leave that up to you.

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