- I drove Toyota’s first mass-market electric vehicle, the bZ4X SUV.
- It’s so-so range and slow charging speeds can’t compete with the popular Tesla Model Y.
- But if you don’t plan on taking long trips, the bZ4X may be a perfectly fine choice.
For the longest time, if you wanted an electric car the obvious choice was a Tesla. That’s changing fast.
Toyota, the world’s largest car company by sales, recently rolled out its first mass-market electric vehicle: the bZ4X SUV.
But does it have what it takes to steer buyers away from Tesla’s utterly dominant Model Y? Or is the one-time pioneer of hybrid cars lagging behind the competition?
After driving both models, I’m convinced it’s the latter.
They’re pretty even on price
Let’s start with the basics. The Model Y (which has benefited from several price cuts this year) and the bZ4X are pretty comparable on price.
The Toyota starts at $42,000, while the Tesla clocks in at $46,990. Subtract a $7,500 tax credit which the Tesla qualifies for and you’re left with less than $40,000. There are more expensive, more capable versions of both SUVs, too. All Model Ys have all-wheel drive, while you need to pay around $2,000 extra for that in the bZ4X.
Toyota lent me a bZ4X AWD Limited (the fancier trim option) that would retail for $52,000. The Model Y Long Range I drove costs $49,990.
The Tesla has better range
When it comes to range for your dollar, Tesla has Toyota beat.
The Toyota has an EPA rating of up to 252 miles. Not too shabby. But the all-wheel-drive version I drove returns a skimpy 222. (A second motor driving the front wheels adds weight and sucks up more energy.)
The Model Y Long Range earns a rating of 330 miles, while the base model gets 279. EPA ratings aren’t everything — and they don’t translate perfectly to real-world conditions — but they hint at what you can expect.
The Toyota charges slowly
The so-so range wouldn’t be a big deal if the bZ4X could charge super quickly. But it can’t.
The bZ4X AWD can accept a maximum of 100 kilowatts from a fast-charging station, while the front-wheel-drive models can charge at 150 kilowatts. The Model Y can do more than 200 kilowatts, and owners benefit from seamless charging through Tesla’s Supercharger network. The more kilowatts a vehicle can take in, the faster its battery can be topped up.
Toyota slows charging speeds to preserve the longevity of its battery packs, a spokesperson said. (Repeated fast-charging can wear out a battery quicker.) As I learned on a recent road trip with the bZ4X, that engineering decision can lead to some painfully long pit stops that drag out a long drive.
The Tesla wins out on cargo space
One of the Model Y’s strengths is interior space. Tesla has figured out how to take advantage of electrification to maximize passenger and cargo room.
The Model Y offers up 76.2 cubic feet of cargo space, while the bZ4X comes in at 56.9. And the Tesla’s spacious front trunk (which you don’t get in the bZ4X) might have something to do with it.
There are still a few reasons why you might like a bZ4X
Tesla’s calling card has always been a big touchscreen packed with interesting features. Fun fact: Elon Musk’s Model S debuted with a big touchscreen before the iPad hit Apple store shelves.
If you’re the type who always upgrades to the newest iPhone the instant it comes out, you’ll probably love a Tesla. But if you’re put off by the idea of using a screen for everything instead of regular switches, the bZ4X is a more familiar option. While a Tesla might feel like a spaceship to some, the Toyota is designed not to scare away anybody making the transition from a combustion-engine vehicle.
The quick Model Y is more exciting to drive, but its stiff suspension sometimes makes for a bumpy ride. The Toyota is more comfortable day-to-day.
If you don’t plan to drive long distances or rely on public charging much, the bZ4X may check all your boxes.