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First drive: Toyota BZ4X

Date: 26 July 2022   |   Author: Sean Keywood

Toyota has finally produced a pure EV - was it worth the wait?
Standard equipment:
18in alloy wheels, LED headlights, LED DRLs and tail lights, automatic headlights and high beam, power-adjustable heated door mirrors, 8in infotainment display, 7in driver display, wireless Apple Carplay and wired Android Auto connectivity, reversing camera, smart entry and start, climate control with remote functionality, pre-collision system with intersection turn assist, emergency steering assist, intelligent adaptive cruise control, lane trace assist, lane departure alert, road sign assist with speed limiter, emergency driving stop system, proactive driving assist, downhill assist control, tyre pressure monitoring system.
Electric: 204hp, 218hp
Equipment grades:
Pure, Motion, Vision, Premiere Edition.
Single-speed automatic

Over the years Toyota's approach to electrified cars has set it apart from other manufacturers. When hybrids first arrived around a quarter of a century ago it was a trailblazer, with its Prius the first real mainstream petrol-electric success story, and the technology subsequently rolled out to most of the firm's current range. It has dabbled in hydrogen fuel cell technology too. However, Toyota has for a long time resisted the arrival of pure battery electric cars, arguing that hybrids with their smaller, lighter and cheaper batteries were a better solution, and it therefore allowed most of its competitors to get a head start in the pure EV market.

Now, however, Toyota's attitude has shifted, and it has finally produced its first battery EV. The BZ4X (surely one of the least catchy names ever given to a car - Toyota says it stands for Beyond Zero mid-size crossover) is, unsurprisingly, an SUV, taking full account of current market trends. The first of a planned series of models to be built on a new, dedicated EV platform, In terms of size it's longer than, but not as tall as, Toyota's existing hybrid Rav4.

Where some EV designers exploit the lack of combustion engine gearbox and powertrain components to provide greater interior space, with the BZ4X Toyota has taken a different approach, at least at the front of the cabin. From the driver's seat you feel quite hemmed in, like you're in a fighter plane cockpit, with a high, floating centre console (sitting above a storage area) cocooning you. The airplane theme is continued by the appearance of the driver display screen, which sits above the steering wheel in a rare instance of another manufacturer emulating Peugeot's i-Cockpit set-up - making the driver look over rather than through the wheel to read the instruments. At 7in, the driver display is smaller than the 10 or 12in units common with rivals, but in fairness it has all the information you need, including sat-nav instructions (although not a full map), and of course since this is an EV it's not like a rev counter is required. The 12.3in central infotainment screen fitted to our premiere edition-spec test car is more in line with the expected size, reasonably responsive, and well designed with separate climate controls underneath. The interior features some decent synthetic leather and glossy plastic materials, and an interesting sort of bathmat-type material where a glovebox would normally be (it's a curious omission), but there are scratchier plastics lower down, and it does feel a bit gloomy.

Step into the back seats and there's an interesting contrast to the front, as that sense of wide-open EV space reappears after all, with very impressive legroom, although taller adults might be a little tight for headroom with the panoramic roof fitted as standard to premiere edition cars. On the move, we were surprised to find that the BZ4X's steering felt relatively heavy - not necessarily a bad thing, but combined with the wheel's small size (to facilitate that high-mounted driver display) this makes you expect a sporty driving experience, which isn't really on offer. The car doesn't roll around too much in corners, but it feels its weight when turning in and the steering isn't communicative - it's a car that feels much happier cruising along than charging along a B-road. Ride quality is fairly well resolved, with a good level of comfort, although 20in alloy wheels (lower-spec BZ4Xs have 18s) can thump into potholes around town. We also noticed a fair bit of wind noise penetrating the cabin at speed - although in fairness it was a pretty windy day when we drove the BZ4X, so perhaps this wouldn't be such an issue in calmer conditions. A less excusable irritation is the driver monitoring system, which issues a warning when it thinks you aren't paying attention to the road - sensible in principle, but we found it overly sensitive, sounding off at one point when we were just glancing at the sat-nav screen and road signs approaching a tricky junction.

The BZ4X is available with a choice of two electric powertrains - a 204hp front-wheel drive, powered by a single motor, or the dual-motor 218hp all-wheel drive we tested, which offers strong acceleration in the usual immediate EV way - although its peak power output is a chunk behind those offered by rivals. Both BZ4X powertrain options come with a 71.1kWh battery, offering an official WLTP range of 317 miles with the FWD version, or up to 286 miles with AWD. 

Although those big wheels cut the figure for premiere edition spec to just 257 miles - quite a price to pay for the aesthetic appeal (regular range-topping vision spec, with the same wheels, achieves 259 miles). Speaking of prices to pay, as tested the BZ4X doesn't look great value compared with its rivals. The equivalent Skoda Enyaq iV is cheaper and more powerful, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 only slightly more expensive and much more powerful, and both offer longer battery ranges. Overall, more modest, longer-ranged versions of the BZ4X would be more compelling fleet options - although not by enough to beat the best alternatives.

Toyota BZ4X AWD Premiere Edition 

P11D: £51,495

Residual value: 45.7% 

Depreciation: £27,929

Fuel: £4,417

Service, maintenance and repair: £2,759

Cost per mile: 58.50p

Range: 257 miles

CO2 (BIK %): 0g/km (2%)  

BIK 20/40% a month: £17/£34

Luggage capacity: 452 litres

Engine size/power: 204hp and 109hp electric motors with 71.4kWh battery


  • Interesting interior
  • Lots of rear legroom
  • Generally comfortable
  • Bigger wheels spoil range
  • Not cheap
  • Rivals more powerful