Toyota bB 1st generation 11


Why bB?

Picture of 2 custom Toyota bB carsI hope you’re as much of a fan of boxy car styling as I am.  You’ll need to be for this car.  It even has box in its name – bB stands for black box.  I know what you’re thinking – black box because the cars in the marketing material were black and as cars go it is fairly boxy.  Oh no, it’s way deeper than that:  black box represents the infinite possibilities of the unknown.  Toyota’s words, not mine!

Back to the more superficial colour issue, if black isn’t your thing, the bB is available in a range of other very good colours.

A quick note for grammar fiends: the lower case b followed by uppercase B is how the name is written on the car itself.

The first generation bB

The Toyota bB is a fun, practical box car that was originally aimed at the younger car buying population in Japan.  Toyota describe it as a ‘tall wagon.’

This review is about the first generation bB produced between 2000 and 2005.  The second generation brought with it a substantial rounding of the bB’s boxy origins, which I don’t feel was a positive move.  Like I said, I love boxy cars!

It is based on the same platform as the Yaris and comes with 1.3 or 1.5 litre petrol engines.  A brief styling note: you’ll notice the central speedometer placement in common with the Yaris, thankfully in old school analogue format rather than the Yaris’ digital speed readout and rev counter reminiscent of a Corvette from the 80s.

Transmission is 4 speed automatic across the range, with the gear shift lever on the steering column.

If you live in an area prone to snow, mud or sand, you’ll be pleased to know the 1.5 litre version of the bB is available with front and 4 wheel drive.  I appreciate there isn’t great off road potential due to the ground clearance, but it may be a useful feature to have all the same.

The 1.3 litre engine (2NZ-FE) produces 88 hp, with the 1.5 litre (1NZ-FE) producing 110 hp.  Both engines are 4 cylinder, 16 valve units with VVTi and chain driven camshafts.  So no worries about a cambelt breaking.

Toyota bB trim levels and equipment

Picture of a Toyota bB with the boot open showing air suspensionI think the interior would be best described as functional rather than plush or luxurious, but there is a fairly good level of equipment as standard for a car of this size and price point.  It is certainly a spacious cabin given the overall size of the car.  The rear seats fold down and then forwards to make a large boot space if required.

The trim levels go as follows, in ascending order of cost when new.  The ‘S’ trim levels are only available with the 1.3 litre engine in 2WD format:

  • S – cheapest.
  • SW
  • SX
  • Z
  • ZX – most expensive.

It is difficult to give precise details of the equipment you can expect at each level.  Many items were optional, giving a range of equipment levels within each trim level.  Generally things like the leather steering wheel, sunroof, driving lights & spoilers will be the preserve of the higher trim levels.

Safety

  • Driver and passenger airbags.
  • ABS.
  • Seatbelt pre-tensioners.

Bling

  • 15 inch alloy wheels.
  • Front and rear spoilers.
  • Leather steering wheel.
  • Front fog / driving lights (I know these should probably go under safety but on a car like this they’re more for show, aren’t they)?

Comfort

  • Sunroof.
  • Air conditioning.
  • Central locking.
  • Electric mirrors.
  • Electric windows.

The Toyota bB really captured the imagination of car modifiers, so you will see plenty of modification options for this car, and plenty of modified cars.  If this isn’t your thing, there are plenty of pristine unmodified examples available as well.

Open deck?

Picture of the front view of a yellow Toyota bB Open Deck

Toyota bB Open Deck Tennen-Gas (Own work)GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

I can’t write about the bB without mentioning the open deck model, which for some represents the pinnacle of the bB range.

In this fine beast the passenger cabin stops after the rear seats.  What would have been the boot is an open area with cool roof bars that extend down into the load area.

I’m not finished yet – let’s talk about the doors!

  • Asymmetric rear suicide door?  Oh yes.
  • Rear window of passenger compartment opens out as a tailgate?  Certainly.
  • Rear seat folds out into open deck area to form a (sort of) bed, with a 2nd option of rear seat base flipping up to form back rest for open air seating looking out of the back of the car?  Of course.

A brief mention of the 2nd generation Toyota bB

Picture of a 2nd generation Toyota bBI’ve already mentioned this looks like the 1st generation but with the corners rounded off.  The 2nd generation bB was available in the UK, rebadged as a Daihatsu Materia.  It was only available with the 1.5 litre engine, but with a choice of manual or automatic transmission.  No 4WD option though.  I think this 2nd iteration has lost a lot of the coolness of the original bB, which is why I’ve made the 1st generation the main focus of this review.

Toyota bB common problems

As you might expect from Toyota, these seem to be few and far between.  Some people report premature wearing out of wheel bearings and water pumps, but that’s about it.

Make sure you look after the oil and change it regularly to avoid any problems with the timing chain.

Final thoughts

Picture of the rear view of a yellow Toyota bB Open Deck

Toyota bB Open Deck Tennen-Gas (Own work)GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

This is a car you’ll likely be interested in for looks, practicality and reliability rather than outright driving pleasure.  Although of course there is a certain pleasure to be had from driving something different.

My choice?  A black, dark blue or dark purple 1.5 litre front wheel drive bB.  I’d find it hard to pass up a good Open Deck though.  Especially in yellow.

Also consider…

Honda and Nissan have similarly boxy offerings in the form of the Honda Mobilio Spike and the Nissan Cube or Cubic (which is a 7 seater version of the Cube).

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11 thoughts on “Toyota bB 1st generation

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Flora,

      Sorry to hear you need a windscreen for your bB. I would try your local Toyota dealer first. They are usually very helpful with parts for imported Toyotas, in my experience. Their prices might not be the cheapest, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to get the windscreen if you’re struggling to find one. Another option would be to look at JP car parts. Once you’ve followed this link, choose the right model code for your bB and then navigate to the parts diagram page with the screen. This will tell you the part number you’re after. You could then ask them for a quote and also use the part number to compare prices with other local suppliers. Finally I’ve read good reviews of Uroglas so you could try them.

      Good luck with your search for a windscreen.
      Andrew

  • Clair honnor

    Like you, I love my 2002 bB. I have had it since 2009 and have had no problems with it. I am having trouble finding a drivers side window replacement after it was smashed (gggrrrrr). Any ideas of where I can get one? Thanks, clair

    You can message me on Facebook if that’s easier.

  • Charmaine

    love my bB!! Have a 2002 model for the past 8 years and the left rear hub has been changed twice and needs another change. Currently seeking an engine with difficulty. Any ideas on the best online store to get an engine (2nz)? Thanks

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Charmaine

      Sorry to hear you need an engine for your bB, I’ve sent you an email about it.

      Andrew

  • Sumit

    Same here Charmaine.

    I need to change to rear’s left hub as it’s making a loud noise.

    But how long I can drive on the noisy one as i am planning to change it next week

    i drive 200 KM in a week.

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Sumit

      Very difficult to give you an accurate answer, especially without seeing the car. Is there any play in the bearing or is it just noisy? When you drive, does it get hot?

      If there is play, it could affect the operation of the rear brakes so would be best not to drive much further on it. Similarly if it gets hot.

      However if it just has a rumble, it should be good for a little bit longer. Still wise to change it as soon as you can though.

      Cheers
      Andrew

  • John Blagburn

    I bought my bB (an “entry level” 1.3) as a direct result of my reading the comments about the 1st gen bB on this very site! It’s a very late 1st gen car, built August 2005, registered in its native Japan January ’06 and after viewing one locally and failing to enjoy so much the long stroke 1500cc engine (that one with an LPG conversion), I travelled over 280 miles south on something called a “train??” to buy my 2NZ engined version as I much prefer the free spinning nature of a short stroke motor and am enjoying the space in the boot that comes with not having to find space for a gas tank.
    Thanks for the inspiration, I love the thing to bits and to think; had I not come here I could have ended up spending more than twice the money on a UK Daihatsu Materia which – fine car though that was – just wasn’t as comfortable for my needs with its all too “normal” floor change and hand-operated parking brake. As it is, visits to the petrol station now take longer thanks to the curiousity that the bB generates up here, where I believe that mine is the most Northern bB on the English side of the border, but I never fail to be amazed by just how good these bBs actually are, especially as the thing handles like a Yaris yet is significantly taller, never fails to manage at worst 37mpg around town and high 40s/low 50s on a run and has quite the hottest heater ever found in any car I’ve owned – a remarkable feat given how large the interior is.
    To anyone who has concerns about importing from Japan, buying any Japanese car from an importer or via a yahoo.jp proxy agent or specifically about the bB ownership experience, I say just do it!
    Oh, and as part of my reason for going tall is that I’m living with a musculo-skeletal condition that affects my mobility, I’m no longer able to service my own cars so imagine my joy at discovering that the local Toyota dealership (many thanks to Hodgson’s, down in the Newcastle area) was not only willing to take on the servicing for me, but was also able to supply parts such as the gearbox filter at far & away the lowest prices, even compared to some specialists. My only previous experience with an import fell flat on its face when I approached a UK dealer for parts..
    Did I mention that I love my bB? 😉

    Oh, and regarding the poster who needs a windscreen for their bB, I just bought some parts from an Essex-based eBay member who currently has a bB that he’s parting out so it may be worth looking him up and asking, though removing a bonded screen isn’t a job that the general breaking trade is always geared up for, so maybe it would be best to get a new screen from a car glazing specialist, the screens are available and even if it has to come from the USA via Rock Auto in Wisconsin (Scion xB parts are among the things they provide), could be in the UK within four working days of your placing an order. One of the most impressive things about imported Toyotas is that the parts tend to be less of a challenge to obtain than they’d be for many other brands.

    • Andrew Post author

      John, thank you so much for taking the time to write all of this up. Really great information – I’m glad you love your bB 🙂

  • Rakesh

    Hey dude, Toyota BB (2007, 104000kms, 1500 cc) vs Nissan Cube (2004, 91000 kms, 1300 cc) which one should I buy?

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Rakesh

      Depends on the condition / colour / a whole host of other things! That Cube will be a 1.4 BTW, there isn’t a 1.3 in the 2004 model year. Both qualify for the cheaper road tax as they are under 1549 cc.

      I’m guessing you’re happy with the looks of both / either of them? If the Cube has CVT transmission I’d avoid it (have a read of the review here).

      The bB may well be more reliable, but it depends on how important that is to you as to whether it should influence your decision. The bB is based on the Yaris / Vitz and the Cube on the Micra / March, if that gives you any more insight?

      Good luck with your decision!

      Andrew