Toyota bZ3X previewed by the ‘bZ Compact SUV’ concept [Update]

  • Toyota bZ3X could be the C-HR's pure-electric alternative
  • Should slot below the Toyota bZ4X to take on the Kona EV, Niro EV & Chevrolet Equinox EV
  • Unlikely to be launched before mid-decade

Update: ‘Toyota bZ3X Design’ section updated and ‘Toyota bZ3 sedan ready for the Chinese market’ and ‘TopElectricSUV says’ sections added.

The Toyota bZ4X will reach its first customers in the USA soon. It will establish 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) lineup.

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 internal 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

New Toyota bZ Compact SUV (LA Auto Show 2022) rear three quarter live image
The new Toyota bZ Compact SUV revealed on November 16, 2022, features a gray paint and new wheels among other changes. It has a charging flap on both front quarter panels, which is also new. Image Source: Toyota

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 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 Akio 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.

New Toyota bZ Compact SUV (LA Auto Show 2022) interior dashboard live image
The interior of the Toyota bZ3X would borrow from the bZ Compact SUV concept, with an overall cabin size beating the Toyota C-HR crossover. Image – Toyota

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.

Toyota bZ3X platform & 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 or the upcoming E3 platform which is being developed exclusively for European PHEVs, EVs, and hybrids.

Toyota e-TNGA Subaru EV platform fixed components
The Toyota e-TNGA platform supports front-, rear- or all-wheel drive layouts, and battery and electric motors of different capacities. Image: Toyota/Subaru

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 European 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. Instead, the E3 platform will combine modules from e-TNGA with the GA-C compact platform, and Toyota’s manufacturing units can not only start quickly adapting to making EVs but also have the flexibility of common assembly lines for electric cars and combustion vehicles.

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.

Toyota Arene software

Toyota Motor Corporation will have a full team for in-house software development. Woven Planet, a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation, is developing a vehicle software platform called Arene. TMC will separate hardware from the software for this vehicle software platform to make its development more productive. This move will improve quality and reduce development lead time, too. TMC says that Arene will help it commercialize new ideas and quickly deliver them to its customers. It’s probably talking about rolling out new features that existing customers can purchase and enable in their EVs with OTA updates. Woven Planet says that it wants to make TMC’s models the most programmable vehicles in the global market with Arene.

Autonomous driving

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.

Release Date & Rivals

Toyota bZ Compact SUV concept which previews a Toyota bZ3X like vehicle
The Toyota bZ3X would be smaller than the bZ4X, but its muscular arches and stretched wheelbase would give it unique proportions. Image: Noriaki Mitsuhashi/N-RAK PHOTO AGENCY

The bZ compact SUV (pictured above) at the Toyota press conference in December 2021 had door and window cutouts, reasonably-sized wheels, and wing mirrors that look ready for production, indicating that Toyota could have signed off on its design, which potentially indicates a commercial launch mid-decade.

The bZ3X looks like it will have rivals in the 2025 Nissan Leaf replacement, Renault Megane E-Tech, Hyundai Kona EV, Chevrolet Equinox EV and perhaps even the VW ID.3, with prices starting north of USD 30,000. We should know more about the progress of the bZ3X in 2023.

Toyota bZ3 sedan ready for the Chinese market

Toyota bZ3 front three quarter
The Toyota bZ3 is a pure-electric alternative to the Corolla in China. Image Source: Toyota

Meanwhile, the Toyota bZ3 has arrived as the second production bZ model. Designed and developed exclusively for China, it’s a Corolla-like compact sedan. The coupe-styled electric sedan will be available in two variants, one with 181 horsepower and a 321-mile range and one with 241 horsepower and a 383-mile range. It will likely go on sale by December 2022 and compete with the likes of BYD Seal and Xpeng P5.

TopElectricSUV says

The Toyota bZ3X would be a compact EV smaller but swankier than the bZ4 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