Toyota Mirai : The future is here

Overview

What is it?

It’s the car we’ll all be driving in several decades time. Well perhaps not this precise one, but you get the idea. Powered by the world’s most advanced hydrogen fuel cell, it’s a fully-fledged production car – yours for £66,000 – although Toyota expects to only sell 100 of them a year in Europe. OK, so the Mirai is a challenging thing to look at, but the low sales expectations are down to the lack of hydrogen filling stations and that sky-high price, rather than any fault with the way it works. At present there are only three stations in the UK capable of topping up your Mirai, although the long-term goal is 65 across the UK by 2020.

Driving

What is it like on the road?

Without going into the full head-scratching detail, the Mirai uses a fuel cell to turn compressed hydrogen into electricity, with water the only byproduct. Said electricity is used to drive a 152bhp front-mounted electric motor, while a battery behind the rear seats soaks up any excess energy from the fuel cell or brake regeneration, before discharging it as extra boost when your right foot asks for it. Think of it as a regular EV with its own onboard powerplant (and less range anxiety).It’s heavy, at 1,850kg, but drives exactly like any other electric car, albeit with a hum from the fuel cell fitted beneath your posterior, and you can ‘charge’ it in three minutes, not 30. It’s quiet, seriously quiet in fact, even on the motorway. Up until around 60mph, when it starts to run out of puff, it reacts instantly to the tiniest throttle movements. Punchy at lower speeds then, but we wouldn’t advise too much high-speed tomfoolery – those skinny front tyres will only cling on up to a point, after which understeer awaits.

On the inside

Layout, finish and space

With a fuel cell, motor, power electronics, battery pack and two carbon-fibre tanks all stuffed under the skin, something had to give – and rear space isn’t as generous as the Mondeo-like proportions (it’s nearly 4.9 metres long!) suggest. It’s only a four-seater, headroom will be an issue for anyone approaching six-foot, while the 361-litre boot is wide, but not very deep – encroached upon by the battery and hydrogen tanks.Up front, though, it’s the most appealing interior we’ve ever seen in a Toyota – all satin-soft leather and where there’s not one of the multiple display screens there’s sophisticated-looking black-panel touch sensitive switches. Upmarket stuff, more like a Lexus interior than a Toyota – but then so it should be with a price tag to match a Range Rover Sport.

Owning

Running costs and reliability

To take the plunge and buy a Mirai you’ll need to be a silicon valley millionaire or a die-hard early adopter, and even then living near one of the three UK stations – in Hendon, Swindon and Heathrow – is a must. So fairly niche then. Assuming you do fit the bill, Toyota is prepared to soften the blow with a lease deal for £750 a month that includes servicing, tyres and all the hydrogen your car can drink.

Verdict

Final thoughts and pick of the range

“Mirai is japanese for future. How very fitting: the fuel cell future has arrived”

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