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2023-2024 Toyota bZ4X LE FWD: A Rather Convincing Winter Test Drive

The 2023-2024 Toyota bZ4X LE FWD | Photo: K.Soltani
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Khatir Soltani
What about performance and range in winter conditions?

•   Auto123 test drives the Toyota bZ4X (front-wheel drive version) in winter conditions.

While winter was still around, we wanted to test out the front-wheel drive LE version of the Toyota bZ4X, which is the entry-level trim of the electric SUV, and priced at $53,025. Our aim was to test the performance of this base model in a winter environment, not least because it's a front-wheel-drive proposition and we wanted to evaluate how it performed on snow and ice.

In opting for the base model, we also wanted to assess value for money, to understand whether any compromises were necessary when putting together the base trim. In other words, do the standard features and equipment meet the expectations of budget-conscious consumers?

Finally, reduced range in colder temperatures is a critical issue for any electric vehicle. Testing this version was the perfect opportunity to measure the impact under real-life conditions, compiling valuable data on the bZ4X's energy efficiency and battery management.

The bZ4X is also available in an all-wheel drive configuration (XLE and XLE Technology).

Take note that the model is returning unchanged for 2024 save a few minor details, so that our test drive, carried out on a 2023 model, is just as relevant for this year’s edition.

See: 2023 Toyota bZ4X First Drive: a Typically Toyota Entry Into the EV Pool

See: 2024 Toyota Lineup in Canada: Models and Changes

Specifications sheet of the 2024 Toyota bZ4X LE FWD

The 2023-2024 Toyota bZ4X, de profil
The 2023-2024 Toyota bZ4X, de profil | Photo: K.Soltani

First impressions
When the mercury plummeted, we expected our electric steed to shiver a little in the breeze. Indeed, the bZ4X is no different from most any other EV. Range flirted timidly with the 250 km mark in below-freezing temperatures. It soon became clear, yet again, that winter is not an EV battery pack’s friend. In summer, when we tested the same version, range hovered around 360 km.

A living room on wheels
On the other hands, when testing both models, we were impressed by the comfort and equipment found in the base version. From the comfort of the heated fabric seats to the two-stage heated steering wheel that magically activates itself to warm numb fingers, it was almost as if we were in a fully equipped Lexus model. You won't find these two (automatic heating) options in many luxury vehicles costing over $80,000.

Control and flexibility on snow
On a typical winter's day, when most seek shelter indoors, we chose to put our Toyota bZ4X to the test in the cold, and just after a generous snowfall to boot. The aim was to test the different driving modes, particularly in a context where the majority of electric vehicles offer either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. Our FWD model promised a distinctive experience.

The 2023-2024 Toyota bZ4X, trois quarts arrière
The 2023-2024 Toyota bZ4X, trois quarts arrière | Photo: K.Soltani

With Snow mode activated, the bZ4X showed appreciable zeal, clinging to the road with great assurance. But beyond that, it was Toyota's regenerative braking system that caught our attention. Although it doesn't bring the vehicle to a complete stop, it makes deceleration much easier, a significant advantage for modulating speed in traffic without constantly using the brake pedal. Unfortunately, using Snow mode disables this feature.

Stubborn about wanting to combine the two, we opted instead for Eco mode+ regenerative braking, to see its impact on driving in the snow. And what a discovery! We noted improved control in response to the snow-covered road, confirming the vehicle's flexibility and adaptability to these conditions. Admittedly, this is a personal preference, but it underlines the importance of personalizing the driving experience and testing your vehicle according to the situation and in a safe manner.

Regenerative braking, you ask?
Toyota's regenerative braking system is designed to slow the vehicle without requiring active pressure on the brake pedal, adopting what is known as “one-pedal driving”. As soon as the driver takes their foot off the gas pedal, the vehicle's electric motor takes on the role of generator, transforming the kinetic energy generated by the vehicle's movement into electricity which is then stored in the battery. This conversion generates a resistance that contributes to the vehicle's deceleration.

This way of decelerating, which is more subtle when compared with traditional braking, ensures a smooth slowdown that is particularly advantageous on slippery surfaces.

Take note that not all regenerative braking modes on different makes of electric vehicle react identically, especially on snowy or icy roads. Experimentation and familiarity with your electric vehicle's reactions are crucial to safe, winter-appropriate driving.

The 2023-2024 Toyota bZ4X, rear
The 2023-2024 Toyota bZ4X, rear | Photo: K.Soltani

The final word
The front-wheel-drive Toyota bZ4X LE is a safe, efficient and convincing vehicle, but its range quickly runs out of steam. With a comfortable interior layout, and offering the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 safety suite, as well as some interesting automated and connected options, this electric SUV is not lacking in assets.

The only hitch is the range, which is poor and a handicap in winter when compared with the competition. Whether in winter or summer, such a vehicle from a brand like Toyota should lead the way and offer a better range.

Competitors of the 2023-2024 Toyota bZ4X

- Ford Mustang Mach-E
- Honda Prologue
- Hyundai Ioniq 5
- Kia EV6
- Nissan Ariya
- Subaru Solterra
- Tesla Model Y
- Volkswagen ID.4

Khatir Soltani
Khatir Soltani
Automotive expert
As a car enthusiast, he tests and compares vehicles from different categories through the eyes of the consumer, ensuring relevant and objective reviews.
  • Over 6 years experience as a car reviewer
  • Over 50 test drives in the last year
  • Involved in discussions with virtually every auto manufacturer in Canada