by Roger Biermann
The Toyota Mirai is the oldest of the current crop of hydrogen-powered vehicles offered in the USA. However, California and Hawaii are the only states you can purchase one in. Much like the original Prius, it marks Toyota's intentions to do something different and look ahead to the future. It's a front-wheel-drive midsize sedan which has a hydrogen fuel cell powering an electric motor with outputs of 151 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. With futuristic styling both inside and out, it might not be to everyone's tastes, but it's sure to turn heads wherever you go. Rivaling the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell and Hyundai Nexo as the only fuel-cell vehicles currently on sale, the Mirai's biggest USP is the Hawaiin availability while posing an interesting alternative to full electrification - all the benefits thereof, but with the joys of a five-minute refuel.
For 2019 Toyota has added a pair of safety packages that weren't available before. These are the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) and the Toyota Safety Sense Two (TSS2). The TSS package includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning road sign assist, and automatic high beams. The TSS2 adds road sign assist, automatic braking, auto high beams, and lane departure warning.
The Mirai is built on the same platform that underpins the Prius V, as well as the previous generation RAV4, and shares some of the strange styling cues found on the Prius. It has an angled, almost wedge-shaped front with prominent vents on the front bumper below the upswept LED headlights. The side has curiously-shaped rear wheel arches over the 17-inch alloy rims, designed for the sake of aerodynamic efficiency more so than style. The rear has an LED strip running across the entire length above the large triangular-shaped tail light clusters.
The Mirai is a midsize sedan with a length of 192.5 inches on a wheelbase of 109.4 inches. It has a width of 71.5 inches and a height of 60.5 inches. Curb weight sits at 4,075 lbs and ground clearance is 5.1 inches. As a midsize sedan, it has enough space to seat four passengers comfortably, with no space for a fifth due to a rear center armrest. In comparison, the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell has a length of 192.7 inches, a width of 73.9 inches, and a height of 58.2 inches. It also has a curb weight of 4,052 lbs.
There are six colors available on the 2019 Mirai and all of them carry over from the previous year. There's Celestial Black, Nautical Blue Metallic, Atmospheric Blue Metallic, Salsa Red Pearl, Elemental Silver, and Crystal White. All the colors are at no extra charge, but we recommend going for the striking Atmospheric Blue, because if you're going to stand out for driving a Mirai, you may as well let everyone know they should be looking.
There's only one powertrain in the Mirai range, with the mid-size sedan packing a front-wheel-drive configuration with power sourced from a hydrogen fuel cell which powers an electric motor. It also has a small 1.7 kWh battery which is used to help when instant power is required. The electric motor has an output of 151 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque, while the fuel cell is rated at 153 hp. Like most electric and hybrid cars, it has instant torque on takeoff but is short-lived, resulting in a slower than expected 0-60 mph time of 9.6 seconds and a top speed limited to 111 mph.
Comparativel,y the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell can reach 60 mph from a standstill in 9.2 seconds, while Hyundai's crossover Nexo manages 9.5 seconds to the same mark.
Core to the Mirai's appeal is the hydrogen fuel cell which powers an electric motor to produce an output of 151 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. While this setup seems unique, it's been in experimental use for some time, now, although the Mirai is the oldest of the current generation of FCVs. Adding extra juice when needed, the Mirai uses the same 1.7 kWh battery from the Camry Hybrid, while the electric motor is the same one from the Lexus RX450 Hybrid. Thankfully it has a better range than most electric and hybrid cars at approximately 312 miles.
Thanks to having a single-speed transmission and electric propulsion, the Mirai has smooth acceleration that's initially quick, but then simmers down at the car picks up speed. The Mirai doesn't feel like a fast car but is more than capable of scuffling through the city or cruising at highway speeds, although it's in the former department where it truly excels.
The Mirai looks a bit special on the outside, something that also carries over to the inside. Getting in almost feels like getting into a spaceship, until the takeoff that is. The Mirai initially feels like a small hatchback with sprightly take-off, but then quickly switches to average family car performance. Although there's no engine noise, there's a whirring sound and some pumping noises as the fuel cell does whatever magic it does to push the car forward, converting hydrogen into nothing but water and forward propulsion.
The drive modes available are eco, normal, and sport, which do exactly what they say. Sport improves the throttle response ever so slightly while eco does its best to conserve the hydrogen by making the car lethargic. Regardless of mode, the handling and ride quality remains the same - unexciting but not unimpressive - smooth where it needs to be and composed under regular cornering. The steering is appropriately weighted and the Mirai responds well to inputs but lacks feedback - a common flaw for eco-focused vehicles. Unfortunately, the braking has a spongy feel that's common on electric cars due to the regenerative braking, and at speed the long stopping distance is noticeable.
The biggest flaw is the low-drag tires providing limited grip, so it's easy to reach the breakaway point when pushing too hard. Don't ask too many questions, and the Mirai will seldom give you a wrong answer, though.
The Mirai's raison d'etre is to provide a new and sustainable way to commute while using the least amount of fuel possible. In that regard, it's a winner. It has an EPA-rated MPG-equivalency of 67/67/67 city/highyway/combined which is fantastic even compared to many hybrid cars. Even more amazing is that the Mirai has a range of around 312 miles on a five-kilogram/122.4-liter hydrogen capacity split between two tanks.
In comparison, the Hyundai Nexo has best available figures of 65/58/61 mpg with a range of 380 miles in the Blue trim. The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell has a range of 360 miles and figures of 68/67/68 mpg.
The Mirai boasts great fuel economy, but unfortunately, hydrogen stations are few and far between and confine the Mirai to short distances within Hawaii and California only.
To match the outlandish exterior, Toyota has given the Mirai an equally unique interior. The dash has a futuristic design and a combination of hard and soft plastics. It also has swooping lines accentuated by fake chrome, as well as gloss plastic trim. To further enhance its appeal, there's also fake carbon fiber trim on the armrests and center console. A seven-inch touchscreen dominates the center of the dash and sits just below the LCD gauge cluster. Climate controls get their own touchscreen lower down which takes some getting used to. Otherwise, the seating is comfortable and relatively spacious, with synthetic leather upholstery all over. Unfortunately, seating is limited to just four occupants.
The Mirai only has seating capacity for four adults because the rear seat has an armrest in the center which houses a storage compartment, as well as cupholders. Apart from only seating four, the Mirai is fairly comfortable. It has front headroom of 38.5 inches and legroom of 42.5 inches, as well as rear headroom of 36.8 inches and 30.1 inches of rear legroom. Thanks to the low roof, taller occupants will struggle with headroom in both the front and rear, while rear passengers will struggle with tight legroom. The seats are comfy though and provide decent amounts of support for the limited trip distances the Mirai will accomplish. Only those taller than six-feet may find a reason to complain.
The Mirai's unique interior design is complemented by two choices of upholstery, with buyers able to decide between Deep Ocean Blue and Warm White faux leather. This ties in with the futuristic styling, swooping faux chrome inserts and a combination of hard and soft-touch plastics throughout. Door armrests boast a woven carbon-fiber look finish, while other detailing is finished in gloss black.
Most hybrid and electric cars suffer from a lack of trunk space due to the need to store their batteries. The Mirai is no different and has quite a smallish trunk with only 12.8 cu-ft available. Unlike the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, the rear seats don't fold down because of the rear armrest, which means that storage space can't be increased.
Apart from the trunk, there's storage space for smaller items and the Mirai has a glove box, a center console storage bin with a wireless phone charger, cupholders on the center console, front door pockets, a storage compartment and cupholders on the rear center armrest, as well as an overhead storage box.
Since there's only one model in the Mirai line up, Toyota has loaded it with features. It comes standard with dual-zone climate control, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a seven-inch touchscreen with a rearview camera, push-button start, keyless entry, eight-way power-adjustable driver and passenger seats, and a wireless phone charger. It also has a pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure warning, steering assist, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, road sign assist, road edge detection, sway warning, stability control, traction control, eight airbags, brake assist, four-wheel ABS, front and rear parking assist, blind-spot detection, LATCH child seat anchors, and a tire pressure monitor. There's also Toyota's Safety Connect, which is an app that allows emergency assistance and more.
Toyota has made a point of adding a high-quality infotainment unit to the Mirai which has steering wheel-mounted controls, as well as voice recognition capability. Since there's only one model in the range, all the features come as standard. These include a seven-inch touchscreen with Entune, Apple Carplay, Bluetooth connectivity, a JBL premium audio system with 11 speakers including one subwoofer, AUX and USB input ports, AM/FM/CD player, MP3 compatibility, HD radio, as well as onboard navigation. It also comes with various trial versions of SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Toyota Connected Services, Wi-Fi Connect, and Destination Assist Connect. With so many features, even the fussiest sound enthusiast will have something to smile about.
Both the 2018 and 2019 Toyota Mirai have received no complaints, and there have been no recalls either. It's worth remembering that the Mirai is sold in far fewer numbers than most other cars out there.
It comes with a basic warranty of three-years/36,000 miles and a powertrain warranty of five years/ 60,000 miles. It also has a warranty of eight years/100 000 miles on the hybrid electrical components, as well as a maintenance warranty of three-years/35,000 miles and corrosion perforation warranty of five-years unlimited mileage. Roadside assistance is also available for three years/unlimited mileage.
Due to limited availability and small sales volumes, the IIHS hasn't tested any variants of the Toyota Mirai yet, and neither has the NHTSA. Despite not being tested, the Mirai has a full suite of the latest safety features.
The 2019 Mirai has a considerable amount of safety features, despite the lack of safety ratings attached to it. It comes with lane departure warning, stability control, automatic high beams, road edge detection, sway warning, pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, eight airbags including dual front side-mounted airbags, front and rear head airbags, driver's knee airbag, as well as LATCH child seat anchors, steering assist, four-wheel ABS, road sign assist, brake assist, front and rear parking assist, blind-spot detection, Safety Connect, and a tire pressure monitor.
The Toyota Mirai is a very niche market car. It's quite pricey, and only available in Hawaii and California due to the fact that those are the only places with hydrogen stations at the moment. Most buyers will probably be people with a sense of adventure, looking for something unique and innovative with fantastic fuel economy. In that respect, the Mirai delivers. It has futuristic interior and exterior styling that might not be to everyone's tastes, but will certainly get noticed. It's loaded with both technology and safety features, and also has comfortable seating, provided that only four people can sit in it at a time. Performance isn't out of this world but still decent for most journeys.
The few drawbacks of the Mirai are that it is only available in California and Hawaii, and also that hydrogen stations are sparse. It also has a smallish trunk because of all the electrical equipment, and can only fit four occupants. The Mirai is an experiment run by Toyota to test its first-generation hydrogen-powered car, and it hasn't done a bad job at all. All new technologies need pioneers to adopt them in order to succeed, and the Mirai is worthy provided that it is confined to areas where it can be fuelled. As a stepping stone to the future, this is a great effort.
The lone model in the Mirai range has an MSRP of $58,500 excluding any licensing, registration, and taxes. It also excludes any destination fees. There are certain rebates available depending on the state, such as the $5,000 California Clean Air Rebate, and Toyota has also offered up to $15,000/three-years contribution towards fuelling costs, which brings down the runnings costs significantly.
There is only a single model in the Mirai range, fully loaded to ensure you're not left wanting for anything. It comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated front and rear seats, keyless entry, steering wheel-mounted cruise control and audio controls, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, eight-way power-adjustable driver and passenger seats, and a wireless phone charger.
It also has many safety features like automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking assist, lane departure warning, blind-spot detection, and road sign assist. Infotainment features include a seven-inch touchscreen with a rearview camera, Apple Carplay, a JBL premium audio system with 11 speakers, HD radio, and onboard navigation.
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Single Speed Automatic
As there's only one model in the range, it's loaded with features, and no additional packages are available.
Considering that there's only a single model in the lineup, there isn't any choice with regards to which one to buy. At least the base model is loaded with tons of features, so it's a case of simply pick a color and drive.
The Hyundai Nexo isn't a direct competitor to the Mirai, being a crossover SUV, but it's also one of only three fuel-cell vehicles available in the US. The Nexo starts at $58,000 for the Blue trim, and $61,800 for the Limited, which are quite close to the Mirai's price of $58,500. In terms of performance, the Nexo has 160 hp and 291 lb-ft of torque, compared to the Mirai's 153 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque, but the Mirai wins when it comes to mileage estimates.
The exterior styling of the Hyundai is more conventional than the Mirai and it's arguably better looking, while also catering to the current trend of crossovers being more popular than sedans. The interior of the Nexo is also miles ahead of the Toyota, with a more conventional feel and materials that seem more premium overall. For almost the same price, the Hyundai delivers a car with better performance, more cargo space, and is better looking on the inside and outside. The Toyota Mirai is a great car, but the Hyundai Nexo is just more practical.
The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is another hydrogen-powered car with radical styling. It's also the only direct rival to the Mirai although it's only available as a lease, and not for sale. Performance-wise, it has a slight edge over the Mirai and makes 171 hp compared to the Mirai's 153 hp. The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell narrowly wins in the fuel economy category by having figures of 69/67/68 mpg, compared to the Mirai's 67/67/67 mpg. When it comes to range, the Honda also wins with a range of 360 miles, compared to the Mirai's 312 miles.
Toyota pays for scheduled maintenance on the Mirai for 3 years and 35,000 miles, while with the Honda your costs are almost completely covered by the lease program. That's the main difference between the two, as after three years you simply hand back your Clarity and lease a new one, while the Mirai could be stuck in your garage. Despite the ownership vs lease debate, the Honda has better performance and economy and is the better option of the two, if only marginally so.