Update: ‘Production’ and ‘Price & Release date’ sections updated.
The Toyota bZ4X reached its first customers in the U.S. last year. It has started establishing the ‘bZ’ EV branding for Toyota, which has big plans for EVs (bZ or Beyond Zero signifies the aim of wanting to be a carbon-neutral carmaker).
At an event held on December 14, 2021, in Japan, Toyota presented 16 new Toyota and Lexus pure EVs, with an ambition to bring them to market in a few years. It announced plans to launch 30 EVs in passenger and commercial segments by 2030, with a further aim to achieve global sales of 3.5 million EVs per year by that year.
Toyota bZ3X Design
On the TES bZ3X render
Above is TopElectricSUV’s render created to shed light on what the production bZ3X might end up like. Our design draws inspiration from the bZ compact SUV concept, originally showcased at the company’s event on December 14, 2021, and then in an updated avatar on November 16, 2022, and the bZ4X. The render features 4-part LED headlamps housed between the C-shaped LED DRLs, and a charging flap on the fender.
It depicts a version of the lower air dam that would channel air to cool the battery—it’s reminiscent of the bZ4X with its horizontal slats. The concept has muscular hips, but that’s unlikely to make it to production, so just like the bZ4X, the rear door is flattened in our image. Moreover, the illustration showcases pull-type door handles, conventional rearview mirrors, parking sensors, roof antenna, registration plate, and a tow hook cap. The coupe-like swooping roofline is inspired by the Toyota concept as well, but the rear is redeveloped for a production-car feel.
On the bZ Compact SUV Concept
As part of expanding the bZ lineup, the Japanese carmaker would look at a Toyota bZ3X, in addition to moving sizes larger (and smaller), similar to VW’s strategy with the ID series of EVs. The confirmation came from Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s then-president, who said “we are expanding the bZ series line-up” at the December 14 event, highlighting the 4 model lineup of ‘bZ’ badged concepts.
Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) may have teased the design of the Toyota bZ3X with the bZ Compact SUV. The bZ compact SUV carries design traits seen on the production bZ4X, but with its coupe-style roof and a fastback-like rear, it stands out from the boxier bZ4X and is visibly smaller in dimensions. In the words of Toyoda, the bZ compact SUV has a “beautiful silhouette,” and the styling “invites you to want to get in and go for a drive.”
Toyota bZ vehicles make a design statement
Toyota’s Senior Design General Manager, Simon Humphries, spoke with Automotive News to discuss the design of the bZ models. He said that the Toyota bZ EVs have to look such that they are immediately recognizable as models designed as EVs from the outset and built on a dedicated EV platform. They need to make a statement, the design boss added.
The Toyota bZ series models will have a more aerodynamic top hat than comparable Toyota ICE models, but they might not ride any lower. Until solid-state battery technology is ready and widely deployable, TMC will rely on lithium-ion battery packs that take up a lot of space and raise the floor. Designers will work around that and can cleverly make the bZ EVs seem lower, though. Consider the hammerhead shark-inspired shape that runs from the bZ4X’s hood to the top of its headlamps and gives it a sleek silhouette. The same model’s steeply-raked pillars are another noteworthy example here.
The Toyota bZ3X will likely feature a comfort and space-focused interior that’s a little cleaner and more practical than conventional Toyotas. Expect the dashboard to be slim and low set, giving the driver and passenger a sense of openness and good forward visibility. A panoramic roof would enhance the sense of openness. Toyota will likely use low-impact, sustainable materials like recycled PET and synthetic leather for the upholstery, trim, and carpet in the bZ3X.
A digital instrument cluster, which we hope is a 12.3-inch unit with multiple visual modes like in the 2023 Highlander, will likely be mounted above the line of the steering wheel. In the driver’s forward eyeline, it would need minimal eye movement from the driver, leading to lesser distraction. As for the steering, we expect two options: a rack-and-pinion electric power steering and a yoke with the One Motion Grip steer-by-wire system.
The infotainment system of the bZ3X should come with an 8-inch or 12.3-inch touchscreen, depending on the equipment line the customer selects. It should feature various connected car functions, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, dual Bluetooth phone connectivity, and more. A tray-type center console may house the gear selector, AC, music, trunk release, and other controls, and a Qi wireless charging pad. Expect many small and medium storage spaces spread across the cabin, easily accessible to all the occupants.
Toyota bZ3X Specifications
While Toyota has not announced details about the bZ compact SUV, given its dimensions and positioning, the logical conclusion is that the bZ3X could either ride on the e-TNGA platform.
The bZ3X may come in single-motor FWD and dual-motor AWD variants, with the latter featuring an X-Mode usable in two or more off-road modes (including Snow/Dirt and Snow/Mud). The Snow/Dirt off-road modes would allow more grip on slippery and dirt roads. The Snow/Mud mode that brakes the spinning wheels for producing an LSD effect and provides additional traction would be useful on unpaved and bumpy roads as well as snow-clad softer road surfaces.
Toyota wants its overseas manufacturing plants to start churning out EVs and PHEVs, which comes with a limitation as these plants will need to be re-tooled for e-TNGA, resulting in significant downtimes and capital investment. But then there are also advantages of cost savings and speedier product rollout compared to a newly developed platform.
|Aspect||Toyota bZ3X Specification (Expected)|
|System Power||210+ hp|
|Energy Storage Capacity||Up to ~73 kWh|
|EPA-est. Range||Up to ~275 miles|
Toyota Safety Sense 3.0
The Toyota bZ3X will likely feature Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 (TSS 3), the company’s latest safety suite. Toyota says that TSS 3.0 offers improved safety because of the expansion of the detection range of the mm-wave radar and monocular camera. The company has enhanced all the functions and added new functions, too. Pre-Collision System, for example, now offers Low-Light Cyclist Detection, Daytime Motorcyclist Detection, and Guardrail Detection. Lane recognition now functions better while in Lane Tracing Assist mode.
Further into the lifecycle, the Toyota bZ3X should feature several new driving assistant systems, which may allow autonomous driving. Toyota has chosen ZF and Mobileye, an Intel company, to develop advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) for its future models.
ZF and Mobileye will work together to produce advanced camera technology integrated with the latter’s radar technology in the ADAS of future Toyota models. Mobileye’s EyeQ4 SoC and ZF’s Gen 21 mid-range radar technology together will be used to interpret the surrounding environment to prevent and mitigate collisions.
Gen 21 is a 77 GHz front radar that enables L2/L2 + autonomous driving functions. It has been designed to meet 2022+ Euro NCAP 5-star safety ratings. It can be used at low speeds to assist in pedestrian detection to AEB and other support systems and at high speeds for systems like adaptive cruise control.
Toyota is likely to manufacture the bZ3X for most markets in Japan, and in China for domestic sales. The company hasn’t revealed plans for the U.S. If they decide to offer the bZ3X in the U.S., it’s unlikely they will manufacture it in North America, given its potentially limited sales appeal in this region.
Toyota is committed to making EVs in the U.S. The company plans to start assembling an all-new, three-row electric SUV at its Georgetown, Kentucky plant in 2025. However, if it were to build an electric SUV in the U.S. that’s smaller than the RAV4, a Corolla Cross-like EV would be a more strategic choice than a C-HR-like EV.
The battery packs for the EVs built at the Georgetown plant will likely come from Toyota’s lithium-ion battery plant in Greensboro-Randolph Megasite in Liberty, North Carolina, where production will begin in 2025. The battery plant will have two production lines supporting EVs.
According to a report Nikkei released on February 21, 2023, Toyota wants to build 10,000 EVs per month at the Georgetown plant by the end of 2025, which means it’s aiming for an annual production capacity of 120,000 units for EVs. From 2026, the company aims to nearly double its annual EV production capacity in the U.S. to 200,000 units.
Price & Release date
The Toyota bZ3X could be revealed in 2024, and if launched in the U.S., will likely cost under USD 40,000. It should rival the 2025 Nissan Leaf replacement, Renault Megane E-Tech, Kia Niro EV, Hyundai Kona EV, Chevrolet Equinox EV, Fisker PEAR, and the VW ID.3 SUV. Internationally, Toyota is already promoting the bZ Compact SUV to build the hype. On September 20, 2023, the company showed the show car’s rear-end in a teaser-like clip on Facebook.
The Toyota bZ3X would be a compact EV smaller but swankier than the bZ4X SUV. If launched in the U.S., the SUV would create a unique proposition in its segment with its part-coupe body. Essentially a successor to the C-HR, it could be an attractive choice for young customers who aspire for a carbon-neutral daily driver but not necessarily with plenty of space in the rear seats or a big cargo area.
Featured Image: TopElectricSUV’s render of the bZ3X crossover