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Toyota arrives at the electric crossover party late – but on good form. Just don't expect fireworks

Yes, I know it’s named after a mid-1980s microcomputer but bear with: the Toyota bZ4X is a bit more modern. ‘BZ’ means beyond zero, so it’s a battery-electric car; ‘4’ refers roughly to the size - it’s similar to the Toyota RAV4; and ‘X’ means it’s an SUV/crossover, because what self-respecting new EV isn’t?

Toyota’s latest sits on a bespoke BEV platform called eTNGA, related to the TNGA one but, no surprise, reserved for battery-electric vehicles. You’ll know the outline: big battery beneath the floor and motors at either end, with MacPherson struts at the front and trailing arm suspension at the rear.

It will be the basis for Toyota EVs of between 4.3 metres and five-and-a-bit metres long. There’ll be another platform for smaller BEVs, which Toyota has perhaps belatedly thrown its considerable weight behind, some 25 years after it first started electrifying family saloons.

The 4.7-metre long, five-seat bZ4X can be had with either front- or four-wheel drive. This is the latter, which means it gets a 107.5bhp motor at each end for a 215bhp total, and pricing from £48,350 to £51,550.

The 2WD car has a single 201bhp motor at the front and prices from £41,950 to £47,650.

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Both have the same size battery, of 71.4kWh (usable capacity tbc), which will fast charge at up to 150kW. The on-board slow charger is 6.6kW now, though bZ4Xs will get a standard 11kW one instead around the end of the year.

The 4WD version’s range on the WLTP cycle is 257-286 miles, depending on the variant (2WD cars muster 277-317 miles), but as is usually the way, you won’t see that much. Toyota’s reckoning, and what the estimated range gauge aboard says, is more like 210 miles in the 4x4.

The performance figures and size and battery put this on a close par with the Volkswagen ID 4, and whatever range you get will come down to which is more efficient. Toyota says it’ll be the bZ4X. VW’s engineers probably say something different.

Inside, the bZ4X has a spacious and airy cabin, with a 452-litre boot beneath the luggage cover, and split/fold rear seats. There’s loads of knee room in the rear for a car of this length and a low-set fascia at the front. There are some scratchy plastics and a thin fabric on the dash, around which is lots of storage but no glovebox, weirdly.

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There are lots of buttons in addition to the touchscreen, though, including on a small steering wheel that has shades of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit, meaning you have to look over it at the instruments it has partially obscured. As of next year, a by-wire steering set-up will be optional, with an aircraft-style yolk instead of a wheel, variable ratio and a maximum 150deg rotation, making instruments easier to see. I wonder if this answers questions nobody has asked but we’ll see. It might be amazing, it might not be.

To drive, the bZ4X is – if you’ll forgive what I think is an underused term where so much of the world thinks everything is either awful or fantastic – fine.

From a 4x4-ing perspective, there’s hill-descent control, low-speed crawl control, more axle articulation than anyone will ever ask and a 500mm wade depth. On the road, where it’ll spend rather more of its time, there are two states of deceleration – reasonably heavy or coasting, but in either it creeps from a standstill like a conventional internally combusted auto.

It’s smooth to step-off, with a calm, quiet ride, adequate body control and relaxed steering. There are hints of dynamism here and there and EVs have a very low centre of gravity so roll is contained nicely. It’s all very tidy and Toyota is a company with lots of driving enthusiasts – the chief engineer for the bZ4X also engineered the Lexus LFA supercar’s launch control.

But at the end of it all this is a 2060kg SUV, so we’re talking shades of beige. But that’s fine – people in general, and Toyota owners in particular, don’t mind beige.

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