Toyota Mirai review
The new Toyota Mirai is a handsome and interesting hydrogen-powered saloon, and an alternative to more conventional battery-electric cars. Refuelling infrastructure is incredibly limited, though
What's not so good
Find out more about the Toyota Mirai
The new Toyota Mirai is the latest version of the Japanese brand’s hydrogen fuel-cell car, this time based on Lexus running gear instead of that of the Toyota Prius.
So, what’s it like? Well, in a lot of ways it’s like Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory – incredibly clever, but it could end up being really annoying to live with.
Mainly, that’s because of what it’s fuelled by. Instead of plugging the car into the mains to top its battery up, you fill it up with liquid hydrogen – just like you would put petrol in a car. Using some impressively complex chemistry, a special fuel cell beneath the Mirai’s bonnet then converts that hydrogen into electricity, which then powers the car’s rear-mounted electric motor.
It’s all exceptionally clever, but there are a couple of problems. For a start, hydrogen isn’t that cheap. On average, it costs about £12 per kilo, and the Mirai can hold 5.6kg of the stuff. As a result, you’ll be spending about £70 to top it up, and that will get you a distance of around 400 miles.
So there’s no massive advantage over a petrol or diesel car when it comes to running costs, then. But the upshot of the Mirai is that the only emissions it produces is water – there are no nasty fumes here.
That said, hydrogen filling stations are about as common as the Apple Watch Hermes. Well, have you ever seen one? The case rests. There are just 11 hydrogen filling stations in the UK at the moment, a fact that has the potential to make long-distance trips a bit of a logistical nightmare.
However, assuming that the sums and filling-station geography all works out, the Mirai is actually a decent car to live with.
For a start, the interior feels robust and well made, although whether it feels classy enough to to justify its £50k-plus price tag is perhaps more open to debate. Nevertheless, Toyotas are known for their bullet-proof reliability, and the Mirai feels like it should live up to this reputation.
The infotainment is fine, too. Toyota’s own operating suite isn’t the most cutting edge software in the world, but the presence of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay means you can just plug your phone in and easily use those systems instead.
The Mirai has three on-board tanks, which can hold up to 5.6kg of liquid hydrogen. That’ll get you 400 miles - just make sure you can always find a filling station.
Getting comfortable in the Mirai is simple, because the seats and steering wheel are both electrically adjustable, and the leather-clad seats themselves feel sumptuously luxurious.
Passenger space up front is good, and there’s decent room for any bits and bobs you want to bring along with you too. There’s a decent-sized cupholder and a large cubby between the seats, but it’s a shame the door bins are a little on the small side. A flat, platform-like wireless chargepad is also available, and there’s a little barrier to stop your smartphone sliding off when you go around a corner.
The Mirai isn’t quite as flash if you’re consigned to the rear seat. That sloping roofline eats into headroom, and even though there are cut-outs in the rooflining for your head it’s still a bit tight. You won’t find much space for your feet under the front seats, either, although kneeroom is at least decent. The middle seat, on the other hand, is practically unusable for adult passengers.
The boot has only 321 litres of space, which isn’t great for such a large car, especially when smaller rivals such as the Volkswagen ID.3 have as much as 380 litres. The ID.3 also has back seats that fold down, while the Toyota doesn’t.
However, the Toyota fights back with how it drives, which is very well indeed. For a start, the performance is genuinely brisk – we timed the car over the 0-60mph sprint in just 7.8 seconds, which is a lot quicker than Toyota suggests.
However, what really stands out is how quiet and refined the Mirai is; there is hardly any wind or road noise to speak of, and the mechanical bits are almost silent.
The Mirai also rides superbly, dealing with bumps and road scars far better than most other electric cars can manage. But don’t think this softly, softly approach means it trips up at the first sign of a corner, because nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s actually quite nimble and keeps its body under tight control.
The steering also helps, because it weights up the faster you go, giving you confidence at speed. In town, it gets lighter to help with parking and general manoeuvrability.
As well as the Mirai drives, the jury’s still out on whether or not it is worth buying or not. If you’re determined to make a statement that you’re ‘a bit different’, and you live a short distance from those somewhat scarce filling stations, then you’ll be getting a great-driving car that isn’t terribly roomy.
If, however, you live farther from a hydrogen station than is practical, then it’s probably best to skip it for now. A conventional electric car will likely better serve your needs, and you can read about our favourite ones here.