2023 Toyota bZ4X Review and Test Drive

Toyota dives deeper into the electric vehicle movement.

Perry Stern | 
Sep 11, 2023 | 8 min read

2023 Toyota bZ4X in white parked toward the side of a country roadPerry Stern

Toyota is well known for its extensive offering of hybrid vehicles, which started with the Prius more than 25 years ago. But aside from dabbling in electric vehicle (EV) tech with the first-generation RAV4 EV, the automaker has never broadly offered a mainstream EV to anyone who might want one. That changes with the all-new battery-electric 2023 Toyota bZ4X.

Toyota teamed up with Subaru to develop the bZ4X, and Subaru offers a virtual twin of the bZ4X as the Solterra. But because it's a Subaru, it gets standard all-wheel drive (AWD), while the Toyota has standard front-wheel drive (FWD). Similar in size to the Toyota RAV4, the 2023 bZ4X competes against the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Nissan Ariya, Volkswagen ID.4, and, of course, the Subaru Solterra.

Rear three-quarter view of a 2023 Toyota bZ4X in white parked on the side of a country roadPerry Stern

The bZ4X is one of the strangest car names on the market, however, there is a method to the naming madness. According to Toyota, bZ stands for Beyond Zero. This new model will be the first in a series of battery-electric vehicles wearing the bZ moniker, helping Toyota reach its carbon neutrality goal by 2050. The 4X refers to the SUV's position within the broader planned bZ series.

Base prices range from the mid-$40,000s to around $50,000, including the destination charge. For this 2023 Toyota bZ4X review, Toyota gave me a Limited FWD for a week of driving in Redmond, Washington, just outside Seattle. The test car rang up to $49,378, including the $1,350 destination charge.

2023 Toyota bZ4X in white parked in front of a grassy field backed by forestPerry Stern

2023 Toyota bZ4X: The Design

The bZ4X's slim LED headlights flank a solid "grille," giving the EV a clean, simple look up front. In addition, the dark moldings around the fenders provide the appearance of having larger wheels with more ground clearance.

Inside, the bZ4X features soft-touch materials throughout for a premium experience. The dashboard is trimmed in a fabric that feels like furniture upholstery, providing a homey feeling — like being in your living room. The steering wheel gets leather trim, while the seat trim is SofTex, a synthetic product that feels like natural leather.

2023 Toyota bZ4X interior, dashboard, and front seatsPerry Stern

All variants of the bZ4X come standard with a large 12.3-inch multimedia display screen that nicely integrates into the dashboard. While I'd prefer a dedicated volume knob, the volume control buttons at the bottom of the screen are easy enough to use. Thankfully, the climate controls are kept separate for quick and easy access.

The most unusual interior feature is the digital instrumentation display, which Toyota locates near the base of the windshield in front of the driver. The design looks odd, especially in relation to the steering column, and it doesn't work well. Many drivers may find it challenging to find a comfortable steering wheel position that doesn't partially block the view of the display.

2023 Toyota bZ4X interior, digital instrumentation displayPerry Stern

The front seats have excellent padding and modest side bolsters for support and comfort. The seats were heated and cooled in the Limited trim I drove. The bZ4X's rear seat is surprisingly spacious, with good legroom and headroom. The flat floor provides good room for the middle-rear passenger, although the center seat cushion is on the stiff side. Dual USB ports allow rear-seat occupants to keep their devices charged.

As a proper crossover SUV, the bZ4X has a sizable cargo area with a wide hatch opening for easy access. Additional storage below the cargo floor is ideal for storing the portable Level 1 charger. According to Toyota, the cargo volume behind the rear seats is up to 27.7 cubic feet, and it more than doubles up to 56.9 cu-ft with the 60/40-split rear seats folded flat. Unlike some electric vehicles, the bZ4X has no frunk storage under the hood.

2023 Toyota bZ4X interior, navigation displayPerry Stern

2023 Toyota bZ4X: The Technology

The bZ4X's 12.3-inch touchscreen display appears to be an extension of the center console, integrating nicely with the cabin. I found the screen bright and easy to read with good resolution.

Shortcuts to navigation, audio, communication, and vehicle settings are static on the left side of the screen, but these disappear during smartphone mirroring, making it more cumbersome to return to the Toyota menus. In addition, there are no hard buttons for interaction with the infotainment system. Climate controls are kept separate for easy access, with buttons for seat heaters, coolers, and the heated steering wheel. The climate interface is placed below the display screen but integrates into the overall design.

2023 Toyota bZ4X infotainment display with digital onboard assistantPerry Stern

A digital onboard assistant features a conversational voice-recognition technology that does work quite well. You activate the digital assistant via the steering-wheel button or by saying, "Hey, Toyota." When prompted, the system asks, "What would you like to do?" (The voice response sounds like it has some attitude, as if it would rather I didn't bother it.) The natural-language voice interface can quickly access features, set a destination, or tune the audio system. However, Toyota offers this feature as part of the Drive Connect service plan, which requires a paid subscription following a free trial period.

Wireless connectivity to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay comes standard on all trim levels of the bZ4X. I connected my Samsung Galaxy S21 in just a few seconds with Android Auto loading immediately. Once connected, the shortcut icons on the infotainment display include a link to Android Auto.

2023 Toyota bZ4X infotainment system mirroring Android AutoPerry Stern

The bZ4X gets Toyota's latest package of advanced driver-assistance features, Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 (TSS 3.0). The TSS 3.0 collection includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-centering assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, road-sign assist, and automatic high-beam headlights.

I tested out the adaptive cruise control on a multilane highway. The system was simple to set up and worked well. I like that the display always shows the current pace and the set speed, so it is easy to see when the vehicle in front is slowing you down. While this is not a hands-free system, the lane-centering assist does help to keep the car in the lane, but it almost immediately chastises the driver if their hands are not on the wheel.

The 2023 Toyota bZ4X earned Good overall ratings for crash protection from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the standard headlights on the XLE did not meet the requirements to make the bZ4X a Top Safety Pick. The Subaru Solterra earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating with different standard headlights.

2023 Toyota bZ4X under the hoodPerry Stern

2023 Toyota bZ4X: The Drive

The 2023 Toyota bZ4X is the first vehicle built on Toyota's new global architecture (e-TNGA) designed specifically for electric vehicles. The FWD models offer more driving range and better efficiency, which also applies to the XLE trims compared with the Limited trims. The AWD models provide more horsepower and torque.

My bZ4X Limited FWD test vehicle had 201 horsepower and 196 pound-feet of torque, and a 71.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack powered the electric motor. The EPA says it should supply 242 miles of range and average 114 MPGe. However, my experience was not quite as rosy as those estimates. During my drive, the trip computer showed an average consumption of 2.6 miles/kWh, which equates to 88 MPGe.

2023 Toyota bZ4X in white charging at a public stationPerry Stern

However, that wasn't the most disappointing thing. I was shocked at how slowly the bZ4X charged. I plugged the Toyota into a 150-kW Electrify America DC fast charger, but the highest power flow I saw was just 21 kW. At that rate, it would take more than an hour to bring the charge from 60% to 80%. I tried multiple chargers with the same result. Other publications have also experienced this slow-charging issue.

With its slow charge rate, I never got the bZ4X to a full charge, but based on the battery percentage and indicated range, I predict the maximum range at testing time would've been about 183 miles. While the lower range and less-efficient drive could have been due to my driving style, the winter weather was more likely the culprit. Battery-electric vehicles are less efficient when the weather turns cold, and the temperature never climbed above the 30s during my time with the bZ4X.

2023 Toyota bZ4X rear cargo space behind the second row of seatsPerry Stern

Batteries may not provide as many electrons during cold weather, but the vehicle performance remains strong. The bZ4X is peppy with good acceleration thanks to the torquey electric motor. The front wheels want to spin under hard acceleration, but the traction control prevents slippage without sapping power.

Toyota doesn't offer one-pedal driving in the bZ4X, but the driver can select increased regenerative braking, which slows the car when lifting off the throttle. It won't stop the vehicle completely, but it slows it down enough for curves and corners without applying the brakes.

2023 Toyota bZ4X rear seating areaPerry Stern

The Toyota bZ4X is comfortable and quiet when cruising on the highway, with little road or wind noise. As a result, getting to highway speed feels effortless, and the bZ4X can quickly overtake slower vehicles.

Taking this electric Toyota out to my favorite winding roads in the Pacific Northwest, I was surprised at how well it performed. The steering provides good feedback with quick response, and overall the bZ4X handles rather well. With a relatively firm suspension and immediate torque delivering peppy acceleration, I could almost call the bZ4X fun to drive.

2023 Toyota bZ4X in white, front three-quarter viewPerry Stern

Does the 2023 Toyota bZ4X Stand Up to its Competition?

The bZ4X features a spacious cabin with comfortable seating, quality trim materials, and an intuitive infotainment system. In addition, Toyota gives the small crossover the latest advanced driver-assist systems, and power is more than adequate, making this EV quite enjoyable to drive. My particular test example may not have met range, efficiency, and charging expectations, but the bZ4X has enough qualities to make it worthy of consideration.

Rear three-quarter shot of a 2023 Toyota bZ4X parked on the side of a rural roadPerry Stern

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Edited by humans.

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