- Toyota bZ4X arrives on the EV scene with big expectations.
- Volkswagen ID.4 and Ford Mustang Mach-E join as two of our favorites.
- The bZ4X may be a case of better late than never, but it's not a top contender.
With the electric age upon us, it's become more difficult for new EVs to stand out when they enter the market. That appears to be the case with the Toyota bZ4X, which showed some missteps in our recent comparison video against the Volkswagen ID.4 and Ford Mustang Mach-E.
We tested each electric vehicle to measure real-world range, performance and overall usability. The results, which you can see for yourself in the video below, point to areas of improvement for the Toyota bZ4X if it hopes to compete with our top-ranked EVs.
For this test, we drove the more affordable, single-motor version of each car. (You can option up to dual-motor, all-wheel-drive versions with more power at additional cost.) Here's a breakdown of the battery packs and electric motors in our test group.
Toyota bZ4X Limited (price as tested: $49,470)
Volkswagen ID.4 1st Edition (price as tested: $41,190)
Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium (price as tested: $61,700)
Clearly, the Toyota bZ4X has the smallest battery pack of the group. Not surprisingly, it also has the lowest estimated range. The considerably cheaper ID.4 has a larger battery pack and significantly more total range. And finally, the Mach-E easily boasts the most range thanks to its optional big battery, though it also has the highest as-tested price.
These EVs are about much more than their batteries. Here are the areas where each vehicle excels and where each one can stand to improve.
First up, the Toyota bZ4X. It's not very exciting to drive due to limited power and lazy handling. The interior is also bland compared to the others in this group, and the seat height combined with a small steering wheel make for an awkward driving position. Toyota seems to have ignored the fact that the plastic center console reflects sunlight directly onto the driver's face too. But a typical strength of Toyotas is ease of use, and on that front, the bZ4X delivers. There's plenty of space inside, and the controls aren't overly complicated. The bZ4X will be comforting to people who are wary of learning to use an electric car.
Next is the Volkswagen ID.4. This EV feels a little more lively thanks to its responsive steering. But it's meant for zippy commuting and nothing too athletic. We also like that the adjustable regenerative braking can slow the ID.4 automatically when you come off the accelerator. The interior size and space are perfect for families, and the seats are at the right height to slide comfortably inside. The ID.4's downfall is in its controls. There are almost no physical buttons inside the ID.4, and the touchscreen can be frustrating to use. It's inconvenient enough that people should seriously consider whether they're OK with it before buying.
Finally, there's the Ford Mustang Mach-E. Driving a Mach-E is an exciting experience. Its substantial power, even in non-GT versions, makes for a lot of fun. The steering isn't exactly drum-tight, and you will notice more body lean than you might expect. But if it's theater you want, this is the EV for you. The interior is full of personality too. There are cool surfaces and panels throughout, and the 15.5-inch touchscreen works wonderfully with Sync 4, the latest Ford operating system. The back seats provide good accessibility even though there's a fashionable sloping roofline. The Mach-E is also the only car in this group with a front trunk, or frunk. Overall, this is a sharp package.
We learned a lot about these EVs by driving them back to back ... to back. If you're in the market, here are the reasons to gravitate toward each one.
The bZ4X is the no-stress EV. You can climb right in and quickly make sense of the controls. It's also supremely easy to drive, if uninspiring. But the hiccups are significant. The front-wheel-drive model we tested underperformed its EPA estimate by 15 miles on the Edmunds EV test loop, logging just 227 miles of range. The bZ4X has character and enough range for the majority of drivers, but with sleepy performance, annoying interior sun glare and no front trunk (frunk), the bZ4X misses opportunities.
The verdict: Toyota's first mass EV checks boxes but doesn't go the extra mile.
The ID.4 is easy to love. It simply works as a family vehicle, with friendly pricing and loads of space inside. It's the right size, it comes with helpful features like standard adaptive cruise control, and it easily surpassed its EPA-estimated range on the Edmunds EV test loop. The problem is that the touchscreen system is especially difficult to use, and it's mind-boggling that Volkswagen decided to overthink something as simple as window controls. There's also no frunk. That's disappointing because the ID.4 is otherwise exactly the kind of comfortable, usable electric crossover that makes sense for lots of people in the market for an EV.
The verdict: If you can make peace with the controls, the ID.4 is a portrait of practicality.
Driving the Mach-E is an adventure. It feels fun and personable, which is something that not all electric vehicles can say. It also does a nice job of accommodating people and their cargo — with a helpful frunk, for instance — and the touchscreen and operating system are our favorites out of this group. The Mach-E we tested is easily the most expensive of these three EVs, so find a lower trim or the standard-sized battery if you're looking to save. But other than perhaps the final sticker price, the Mach-E doesn't make many missteps. It walks the right line between everyday practicality and smile-inducing fun.
The verdict: EVs can be fun, cool and strange. The Mach-E is all three, though at a price.
Toyota's first purpose-built electric vehicle is a big deal given the company's broad appeal and loyal customer base. However, the bZ4X is no world-beater. We recommend either the well-rounded ID.4 or the exuberant Mach-E instead or one of the other electric vehicles that provide more range and value. Check out our full EV rankings to see the latest top-rated options.