Considering it was a hybrid pioneer back in the 1990s with the Prius, it’s taken Toyota a while to bring its first EV to market.
A little longer, lower and wider than a RAV4, the bZ4X SUV has been co-developed with Subaru (its version is called the Solterra) and it’s available with front or four-wheel drive.
Your choice of drive will have an impact on performance and range. The FWD version (201bhp) offers up to 317 miles of range and a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds, while the 4×4 option (214bhp) has a lower range of about 286 miles, but is quicker (6.9 seconds).
But before we go any further, let’s deal with the car’s initial stumbling block – how did it get a name like the bZ4X?
Well, the bZ4X is the first model in Toyota’s ‘Beyond Zero’ family of zero emission battery electric vehicles, while the ‘4’ references the size of the car (mid-sized) and ‘X’ denotes it’s a 4×4 crossover/SUV. Simple, but it doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, does it?
Anyway, the distinctive bZ4X looks like a sleeker, more futuristic RAV4 at first glance. Get up closer and the design is more complex with an emphasis on aerodynamics in order to reduce drag and maximise range.
And it’s not just its looks that stand out from the crowd. Toyota is going big on peace of mind, also offering the bZ4X via a new, all-inclusive monthly leasing scheme that covers the vehicle, maintenance, wall box charger and access to connected services.
Meanwhile, the battery is supported by an optional extended care programme for owners, guaranteeing battery capacity of 70% after 10 years or 1,000,000km (620,000 miles) driven.
The bZ4X also benefits from Toyota’s standard Relax warranty which covers your vehicle for 10 years (up to 100,000 miles), provided your car is serviced by a Toyota dealer.
Toyota has kept things simple too. The bZ4X is only available with a 71.4kWh battery pack, which can be charged from 0-80% in around 30 minutes using a rapid 150kWh charger.
Four trims are offered, including entry-level ‘Pure’, which comes with goodies such as 18-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera and smart entry.
‘Motion’ models look sportier thanks to big 20-inch alloy wheels, tinted windows and roof spoiler, while kit includes heated seats, wireless phone charging and a panoramic glass roof.
‘Vision’ is next up with standard equipment that includes heated and cooled front seats, a digital key that means you can open and start the car with your phone and synthetic leather upholstery.
We tested the range-topping ‘Premier Edition’ model which comes with four-wheel drive as standard, plus a nine-speaker JBL sound system.
Inside the bz4X there’s a real sense of space and light combined with excellent visibility. The biggest surprise is the new driver-focused set-up with a low steering wheel and a 7.0-inch digital display which sits directly in the driver’s forward eyeline. Not quite as radical as Peugeot’s i-Cockpit, but still a change which works surprisingly well once you get used to it.
Then there’s the big 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen in the centre console, which is slick and features crisp graphics. Thankfully Toyota has kept some of the traditional buttons too, so there’s less need to take your eyes off the road while you swipe through menus to access key functions.
Build quality is good, but the plastics used high up in the cabin are on the hard side, while the driver’s instrument binnacle structure is a little flimsy.
On the plus side, there’s stacks of space in the back for passengers, while the boot has a useful 452-litre luggage capacity, though sadly there’s no space for a frunk in the ‘engine bay’ to store your cables.
The first thing you notice on the road is the smooth ride and the refinement inside the cabin.
Just like all EVs, there’s plenty of instant torque available. The acceleration isn’t gut-wrenching like some other EVs, but then this is no performance SUV and it’s at its best cruising along in near-silence.
No complaints about grip and traction either, while body lean in more challenging corners is well controlled.
The bZ4X is easy to drive and Toyota has tried to make it as simple as possible with its automatic brake regeneration (a system that recharges the battery by harvesting power otherwise wasted during deceleration). You can’t adjust the regen settings manually (as is more often the case), though weirdly, the Subaru Solterra includes just such a feature.
Our test car came equipped with the X-Mode four-wheel drive system which has settings for snow/mud; deep snow and mud and Grip Control for tougher off-road driving (below 6mph), so it should be able to cope on those few days of the year when extreme weather makes the headlines.
We went through various exercises to test its off-road capability and it passed with flying colours. Few bZ4X owners will ever experience it, but there’s a hill-descent control and low-speed crawl function, and it can wade through a depth of 500mm.
Two gripes are worth a mention. There’s no glovebox and far more annoyingly, no rear wiper, which isn’t ideal for those long motorway journey driven during filthy weather.
Rivals include everything from the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Skoda Enyaq iV, Kia EV6 and Audi Q4 e-tron to the Tesla Model Y, Volkswagen ID.4 and Ford Mustang Mach-E.