New 2021 Toyota Mirai review
The second-generation Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car is improved in every area, but it’s not enough to overcome the £49,995 starting price and the cost of refuelling it
- Silent town driving
- Luxurious cabin
- Limited rear head room
- Hydrogen infrastructure
- Price of refuelling
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Toyota launched the first-generation Mirai back in 2015 – a purpose-built hydrogen fuel cell vehicle with one eye set firmly on the future rather than any kind of big-number sales targets. Six years later and Toyota has launched an all-new version – and it’s a much more serious contender than what came before.
Toyota calls it a holistic approach to electrification. While the Mirai isn’t an electric car in the conventional sense, it feels broadly similar to many mainstream EVs in the way it drives. The big difference is range and refuelling time – if you’ve got the means to do so, you can fill the Mirai in around five minutes, returning a range of roughly 400 miles.
But therein lies this car’s biggest issue, as hydrogen infrastructure in the UK remains sparse, with just a handful of stations nationwide. This would make driving a car like the Mirai from London to Cornwall incredibly difficult; you can’t just plug it in overnight if you run out of fuel. But, if you live near a pump and it fits your lifestyle, should you consider one over a similarly-priced electric car?
The first thing you notice when you lay eyes on the Mirai is how much more cohesive the design is. Style is subjective, but this second-generation model has more in common with an Audi A7 than it does the upright and slightly frumpy original. The same is true inside; the new Mirai feels much more luxurious – you sit lower, and the plush materials and widescreen infotainment system give it plenty of upmarket appeal.
That infotainment setup is still hampered by Toyota’s clunky interface and dated graphics, but thankfully it is now compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which come as standard across the range. This allows you to access the contents of your mobile phone – including mapping, media and calls – without ever needing the in-built menus. Elsewhere, the separate climate controls are easy to access and while the digital dials are clear, they’re lacking a little in functionality.
Push the starter button and you’re greeted by the sound of silence. In fact, this sense of calm continues right up to motorway speeds – the new Mirai is incredibly quiet and refined, plus the compliant suspension gives it a ride quality more akin to a modern Mercedes than an eco-friendly family car.
But, thankfully, that comfort doesn’t come at the expense of the rest of the driving experience. It’s no sports car by any stretch of the imagination, but it handles neatly with plenty of control and accurate steering. The brakes are good, too; the Mirai isn’t plagued by the inconsistent pedal feel present in so many modern electric cars. The trade off is that there is little in the way of regenerative braking, even in the gearbox’s ‘B’ mode.
This latest Mirai is 12% more powerful than the car it replaces, and while 172bhp may not sound like much, the nature of the car’s power delivery means it’s not lacking in straight-line performance. It won’t bend your mind like the fastest EVs, but it’s certainly quick enough for general commuting and even the odd impromptu overtake.
As well as being more powerful, the new Mirai is also a bit bigger than the old car. In theory that should work wonders for space and practicality, but in reality there’s not a huge amount of room inside for rear-seat passengers. There is a recess in the roof to improve head space, but taller adults will struggle to get truly comfortable. The boot is also compromised by the saloon-style opening and shallow load bay.
Then there’s the cost of buying and running a Mirai. Prices for the entry-level Design cars start at £49,995, with top-spec models costing an eye-watering £64,995. Every model gets a generous level of standard kit, including 19-inch alloy wheels, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, 14-speaker JBL stereo and heated front seats.
Toyota expects the Design Plus (£53,995) to be the most popular, thanks to its synthetic leather seats, panoramic rear-view camera and extra safety features. Top-spec models gain 20-inch wheels, ventilated leather seats, a digital rear-view mirror and a panoramic roof among other items. Quality is excellent throughout.
But once you’ve stomached the high purchase price, the cost of fuelling the Mirai will be on par with an electric car, right? Unfortunately not; hydrogen currently retails for around £10 per kilo, meaning the Mirai’s 5.6kg tanks will cost more than £50 to fill. For a range of around 400 miles, that’s closer to a conventional petrol or diesel car than an electric one – even if you don’t take advantage of off-peak domestic electricity.
Of course, the fact it emits only water means that it’s applicable for the very lowest company car rates; Toyota claims the Mirai is better than net zero, in fact – removing harmful SO2 and NOx pollutants from the air as it drives. It’s exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge, but the high list prices mean every Mirai misses out on the Government’s plug-in car grant.
The strides Toyota has made between old and new are significant, but the limitations remain. It’s a shame, because in isolation the Mirai is a talented all-rounder. It’s sleek looks, premium interior, and luxurious, cosseting driving experience make it feel almost as if it should have an upmarket Lexus badge on the nose – rather than the humble Toyota emblem.
For the time being, a comparable electric car will still be cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, and for many, much easier to live with.