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2024 Toyota bZ4X: Better late to the EV game than never

Toyota developed its bZ4X electric crossover in collaboration with Subaru, which has it its own variation in the Solterra.

By Keith Morgan

Toyota is rarely – if ever – late to the game in adopting and adapting new technology.

However, in the manufacturer race to please governments and the green lobby with pure electric vehicles, it did not rush to market. It took its time before venturing into this fledgling market segment, which so depends on taxpayer funded consumer rebates. This past year it finally put a toe in the water with the oddly named bZ4X electric crossover.

In the eyes of this observer, the reluctance to leap from the starting blocks was actually typically Toyota in one major way. The Big T likes to get it right from the start and to that end its brains trust members were not just sitting around in the changing room when the starting gun fired.

For years the Japanese brand has pioneered hybrid vehicles and latterly plug-in hybrids, which appeal to commuters keen to cut their gas bills by riding on battery power to and from work. Its top brass have frequently explained how it can get more green value out of rare resources mined for batteries by using them to manufacture many more plugin hybrids than full EVs.

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Hard to argue with that. The move to full electrification is a long and gradual process for consumers too. As mentioned earlier, there are generous rebates for purchasers but they are still beyond the budget of many regular working folks.

Clearly, Toyota figures its time is now and it developed the bZin collaboration with Subaru, which has it its own variation in the Solterra.

Let’s first deal with the elephant in the room. The name. Many column inches and video minutes have been spent commenting on its strangeness but I’ll just clarifying what it stands for. It’s part of what will be Toyota’s bZ sub-brand, which stands for “Beyond Zero” emissions, “4” for its similarly sized RAV 4 sibling and “X” describes it as a compact crossover SUV. Moving on…

Aside from sticker price, there’s another deterrent to purchase. It’s the thorny problem of “range anxiety” – the fear you will run out of gas, so to speak, before you get where you are going. Most manufacturers have made major gains in that area during the past couple of years. And the bZ’s range will undoubtedly ease that fear.

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It comes in two configurations. Front-wheel-drive models feature a 200-horsepower motor and offers an all-electric driving range of 406 kilometres. The all-wheel-drive model has a peak output of 214 hp generated by two motors, delivering a 367 km of range.

Charge times vary but the Level 2 charger frequently found in condo buildings and public areas should give a full charge in around nine hours. The fast chargers installed at gas stations will recharge to 80 per cent in around an hour. Those times are marginally slower than some competitor models but if that worries you then you are perhaps being a little picky!

Toyota says the bZ4X can hit 100 km/h from a standstill in about seven seconds. An hour on the busy freeway certainly proved that was no idle boast. But for me, the rapid acceleration characteristics of ALL EVs induce a yawn. Not the biggest driver of sales, I suspect.

Did my fave route around the curvy corners in rural Mission. A1 roadholding at posted speed limits.

The bZ is described as a Compact but it shares the big butt style of many rivals. Parking at the supermarket is no challenge but there was a lot off beeping as I backed into my limited condo building stall.

I’m more of a sucker for the quietness of EVs rather than the drive. Concert auditorium quality sound. Unless, of course, you drive the rough surfaced US freeways on our side of the continent. Then it’s turn up the heavy metal.

Pleasing infotainment system. Responded well to my voice commands.

Small family friendly in providing five seats, as long as its 3 kiddies in the back. Decent cargo space for groceries and smelly sports gear.

The FWD LE-Trim starts at $50,050 before fees and taxes. The XLE all-wheel-drive adds five thou to that and includes a panoramic sunroof, wireless smartphone charging and parking sensors. Finally, the top-of-the-line XLE Technology Package equipped model rises $62,640, adding a JBL stereo system, advanced parking aids, a digital key, an around-view camera monitor, 20-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, plus … plus.

The bZ attracts B.C. and Federal rebates of up to $9,000.

A good first effort from Toyota. Don’t take my word for it: you can test drive the bZ at the Vancouver International Auto Show along with a dozen or more other EVs.