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Toyota bZ Compact SUV Concept continues trek ‘beyond zero’

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Though Toyota has lagged in joining the EV bandwagon, it’s making a good faith effort to continue the trek toward five all-new electric vehicles within the bZ sub-brand. We saw the bZ4X go into production this year, and now we see a new bZ Compact SUV Concept, which was revealed at the 2022 LA Auto Show.

Because this is still very much in the conceptual phase, we don’t have a lot of details just yet, but here’s what we do know.

Is this a yoke?

Looking at the interior photos of the bZ Compact SUV Concept, we see a lot of simple clean lines as well as two large horizontal screens for gauges and infotainment. It has no buttons or dials on the dash for HVAC and audio, and it has a unique-looking gearshift lever. Then there’s a yoke. We heard rumors the bZ4X was intended to have a yoke, but at the last minute it came to the U.S. with a bulbous wheel instead.

Though we didn’t feel like the wheel hindered our gauge cluster visibility, a lot of people did. So, we’ll be curious to see if a yoke makes it to production this time around.

bZ4X styling

From the side, the bZ Compact SUV Concept looks a lot like the larger bZ4X with chunky cladding and larger wheels. But the lighting signatures take more of a cue from the recently revealed Toyota Prius with angry slashes at the front and a singular light bar at the back.

Regardless, from the exterior, we see the Toyota family resemblance to the newer vehicles.

Eco-friendly stuff

Though the production model may not see the stark minimalist interior design we see on the concept, it’s highly likely the materials used will see the light of day in the production version. Because EV. Since this is still early stages, we don’t have a lot of details here either. Toyota simply states the vehicles utilize sustainable materials, like the plant-based seating surfaces.

In-car assistant

The most interesting bit of information in the scant release, however, is the introduction of an in-car personal assistant called “Yui.” Toyota obliquely says it (he/she/they?) connects the driver and passengers with vehicle. I’m not sure how this will be any different than the digital assistant that currently resides within the new Toyota infotainment system. Except maybe it now has a name?

One further bit of information Toyota drops about Yui is that it can respond to requests from both front and rear passengers, and it will use audio and visual lighting cues that move around the cabin as it responds.

The bottom line on the bZ Compact SUV Concept

I have to imagine the next EV Toyota pushes out will be a compact SUV. And since we know “bZ” stands for “beyond zero,” the number denotes the size of the vehicle and the last letter denotes shape of the vehicle, I’m going to make a prediction that the smaller-than-the-bZ4X production model will be called the bZ3X.

While the exterior of the future bZ3X seems close to production ready, the interior will probably look a lot more like the bZ4X. Plus, we anticipate it will get more than bZ4X’s 250-mile range. But the question remains: Yoke or no yoke?

Comment below with your thoughts.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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