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First Drive

First Drive: Toyota Mirai

The story: Toyota is one of the major voices pushing Hydrogen fuel cell technology, and this is a second generation of its Mirai fuel cell car, offering huge improvements versus its first Mirai as part of Toyota’s aim for a tenfold increase in sales.
Key rival:Hyundai Nexo
Efficiency:Range 400 miles
On sale:Now

It takes a lot of work to be a pioneer, but Toyota has certainly earned the title for its work on hydrogen fuel cell technology. This is the second generation of the Mirai fuel cell car, and has been released before all bar Hyundai have even got far enough to build a single hydrogen car for sale in the UK.

Hydrogen has the advantage of clean water being the only tailpipe emissions, and Toyota claims the Mirai actually cleans air as it passes through the car, so has a positive impact on local air quality; indeed, the brand describes the Mirai as a negative-emissions vehicle.

First Drive - May 2021 - Toyota Mirai - Image 6The disadvantage is the sparsity of filling stations, with only around 15 nationwide and around 200 across Europe.

Toyota calls its new Mirai a “real signal of intent”, with across-the-board improvements to its new model, especially in the range, with a third fuel tank added to give the car a capacity of around 400 miles, 30% up on the previous model. It also gets a power boost of 10%, taking it to 128kW or 172hp.

The sleek, low Mirai could easily be mistaken for a Lexus, and the better styling, along with increasing awareness of the technology and better infrastructure, is expected to drive a tenfold increase in global volume to around 30,000 cars per year. Also driving that is the directive from Toyota head office that the new Mirai needs to be priced 20% lower than the first model to increase accessibility.

That Lexus link is backed up by the Mirai using the Lexus LS luxury saloon’s platform, which means the new car gets a 140mm increase in its wheelbase, as well as being 70mm wider and 65mm lower than its Prius-like predecessor. It’s also now rear-wheel drive rather than front.

The cabin has a cockpit feel when you slide in, thanks partially to the low stance but also with the way the dash curves away. There’s plenty of nice leather and a big touchscreen system that seems to be better for usability than Toyota’s regular set-up.First Drive - May 2021 - Toyota Mirai - Image 6

The packaging of the fuel tanks does mean that the boot is quite a small, although it is square. The rear seats don’t fold to allow for longer loads, either, but that’s about it in terms of practicality issues; rear passengers get nicely sculpted seats and reasonable legroom, although not as much as might be expected from the sheer length of the car, while the front seats are big and comfortable.

To drive, it feels like something tailored to the US market, in that it has a large luxury feel to it, apart from the really lumpy ride quality that’s surprising in what you’d expect to be a comfy car. It doesn’t thump over big bumps, but every ripple is communicated. Otherwise it’s very similar to driving an EV, with strong similarities in the way the technology works, which means a strong turn of pace off the line. But sharp handling is not in its repertoire.

The cuts in pricing mean the entry of three specs is now less than £50,000, rising to £64,995 for the top-spec model, which is crammed with every piece of possible equipment.

paul barker

The verdict

Clever car is a new step for hydrogen fuel cell models, and it looks great, is very well equipped and is cheaper than before, but the driving experience isn’t the greatest.