Second-generation Mirai saloon proves there’s a future for hydrogen power, thinks Martyn Collins.
SECTOR Executive PRICE £49,995-£64,995 RANGE 400 miles FUEL 0.75kg/100km
This Mirai might be Toyota’s latest hydrogen-powered production car, but in reality, it is the result of 28 years of fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) development. The first 2016 car sold modestly in the UK and was a test bed for the carmaker.
The latest hydrogen Toyota boasts performance, range and improved driving dynamics over the old car. Many of these improvements are the result of the new GA-L Hybrid platform, which is similar, although shorter, than the one that underpins the latest Lexus range-topper – the LS.
Other than packaging improvements, the biggest change with this platform is the movement of the fuel cell stack to the engine bay – meaning the Mirai’s new body can be mounted 65mm lower and the body width itself has increased by 70mm.
Outside, the benefits of the platform can be seen in the Mirai’s more conventional, streamlined and attractive styling. Inside, the curvy centre console, 8.0-inch infotainment system and digital instruments dominate. Thankfully, there are still physical buttons for the air-conditioning and other systems. Quality is best described as good, but perhaps not as special as an almost £50,000 car should be – even though prices are reduced over the old model.
The driving position is comfortable, the seats supportive, although with the low bonnet line and shallow windows, all-round visibility isn’t great. Thankfully, there’s a decent parking camera and the range-topping Design Premium trim has a self-parking feature.
There’s room for three adults in the back, although considering the 140mm growth in wheelbase, legroom is only average, and the panoramic roof eats into the rear headroom. Sadly, the 321-litre boot is compromised by a hydrogen tank and the main 12V battery.
Another Mirai innovation is the air cleaner, which works via a catalyst-type filter that’s incorporated into the air intake. As air is drawn into the vehicle to supply the fuel cell, an electric charge on the non-woven fabric filter element captures microscopic pollutant particles, including sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides. Toyota claims this system is effective in removing 90-100% of particles between 0 and 2.5 microns, as air is passed through the fuel cell system.
Design, Design Plus (which is expected to be the most popular) and Design Premium trims are available. All are well-equipped, as you’d expect.
On top of the new more compact fuel stack, there are now three hydrogen tanks that drive the 180hp motor. The result is a claimed cruising range of up to 400 miles. This is impressive, but also highlights one of the biggest issues when you buy this car – the lack of hydrogen filling stations.
On the road, the drive feels more Lexus than Toyota, with composed, comfortable handling – even on the standard 20-inch wheels. Despite being considerably lighter than a similarly sized EV, at just 1,900kg, the 9.0-second acceleration and 108mph top speed, the Mirai is at its best when cruising.
Still, if the hydrogen technology doesn’t appeal (although it should!), a significantly reduced price tag and attractive business contract hire rates starting at £435 should keep the corporate buyers that Toyota expects to see happy; the new-gen Mirai is predicted to bring a 10-fold increase in sales.
Which model is right for you?
The Toyota Mirai is available in three trims: Design, Design Plus and Design Premium. Design versions include 19-inch alloy wheels, multimedia system with 12-inch control screen, bi-LED headlights with automatic high beam, dual-zone air-conditioning, heated front seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, smart entry with push button start, Rear Cross Traffic Alert with auto brake and eight-inch multi-information display. Design Plus adds synthetic leather trim, panoramic view monitor, Blind Spot Monitor, intelligent parking sensors with auto brake and an eight-inch multifunction display. Additionally, Design Premium has black 20-inch alloy wheels, panoramic fixed glass roof, colour head-up display, wireless phone charger, digital rear-view mirror, semi-aniline leather trim, triple-zone air-conditioning, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front and outer seats, power steering wheel adjustment, rear seat passenger control panel and an automated parking system.