by Ian Wright
When the Toyota Mirai first appeared, it suffered from the designers being told it had to look different and futuristic because it was powered by hydrogen. In 2021, Toyota saw sense and clearly asked Lexus designers to have a crack at simply making a decent-looking car. Before you get excited about a svelte-looking mid-size sedan that drives like a regular car while only emitting water, bear in mind that, for now at least, it's only available in California, and hydrogen fuel stations are only available near the coast for now. However, if you do live in California and have access to at least one hydrogen fuel station, then you'll want to pay attention. The new Mirai is rear-wheel drive, produces 182 horsepower, comes packed with technology, rides like a Lexus, and has a 402-mile range. At the time of writing, the Toyota Mirai also comes with a card that will get you complimentary fuel for six years or $15,000, whichever comes first. We were impressed on our first drive on the Mirai, but now we know how it stands up to a week of use while piling on the miles. Priced just below $50,000, the Mirai also undercuts its predecessor, and its main rival, the Hyundai Nexo, since the fuel cell version of the Honda Clarity has been put out to pasture.
The Mirai was all-new for the 2021 model year, with Toyota moving away from the bland recipe it followed in the previous generation, hitting back with a new rear-drive platform with a stunning body. The design is more Lexus than Toyota, making the high asking price more palatable. It carries over into 2022 with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ as standard across the range, as well as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
It remains one of two hydrogen fuel cell EVs available in the USA, but this w model makes a much better case for itself by being a better all-around product and offering more range.
See trim levels and configurations:
If you took any automotive road tester worth their salt, blindfolded them, then took them for a drive around the block in a Mirai, they would believe they were in a Lexus. That's because the ride quality is pure Lexus. The suspension pulls off a blend of being heavily damped but compliant over rough roads at the same time. Through bends and corners, there's an absence of body roll that passengers won't realize they are appreciating. There's also little road noise from the insulated cabin, but enough not to make it feel weird.
From a standing start, there's no evident transition from the 1.24 kWh battery to fuel cell power, and we believe it's quicker to 60 mph than Toyota estimates. However, go heavy on the right pedal, and you can start kissing the 400-ish miles of range goodbye at a noticeable rate. If you do decide to push the Mirai around corners, it is reasonably adept and agile to the point of being fun. The grip is decent despite the low rolling resistant tires, and the steering is direct and to the point with enough feel to let you know roughly what's going on under those tires.
Driving the Mirai hard misses the point, though. The car wants to swish you around town or down the freeway in style and with no harmful tailpipe emissions. By that definition, the Mirai design team has ticked all the boxes and earned themselves a fancy dinner and a bottle of Champaign.
If the future is hydrogen, and we have a long, long way to go before we can say that with any certainty, then the Mirai shows us what that future can look like. The Mirai has its faults when compared to the Lexus LS it's based on, but these are mostly to do with cargo space and adaptability that the drivetrain has encroached on - for now. As a car to drive and move passengers around with, it's the best experience you'll have in a hydrogen car right now. Moreover, because of the quiet drivetrain with absolute minimal vibration, some might prefer it over a gas-powered LS.
As a car right now, it's an excellent choice for a specific driver - someone that lives in one of the main coastal California cities, doesn't have to drive more than 150 miles in a day, and has at least two hydrogen stations reasonably close to their dwelling. If that's you and it's a premium sedan you want, then you won't find better. We were fortunate enough to run into several Mirai owners, both first and second generation, and their only complaint was that the stations weren't one hundred percent reliable. However, there were big smiles on their faces that they also had six years of free fuel and felt they couldn't complain too much. They also pointed out that they've seen more and more hydrogen stations opening, and one regularly drove from Orange County to LA with little to no fear of being caught out.
Even though Toyota has gone to great lengths to make the new Mirai more attractive as a driving tool, we think the average prospective fuel cell buyer is not that interested in ride and handling. Yes, it should be comfortable, but that's not the main reason for buying it. Luckily, the Mirai is set up for comfort.
Prospective owners will most likely be looking at fuel consumption and range and perhaps the kind of styling that makes a statement. After all, it is impossible to be hella green without everyone knowing about it. The Mirai beats the Honda in both departments. The Honda's design is a bit frumpy, while the Mirai looks like a sporty coupe. Your neighbors will definitely notice it.
On the practical side, the base XLE Mirai is more efficient and offers a better range. The most frugal Clarity has a 68/67/68 MPGe rating, and Toyota hits back with 76/71/74 MPGe. Honda's Clarity has a 360-mile driving range, while the Toyota can do just over 400 miles. It may seem insignificant, but those final 40 miles may be the difference between getting to the next hydrogen filling station or being stranded at the side of the road. The Clarity is not available for sale currently, so you'll have to lease it if you feel it's the best option.
The Hyundai Nexo is a more formidable competitor. It looks sublime, and it's a crossover which makes it a hundred times more appealing to the average customer. It's also the only fuel cell vehicle with a valid safety rating, and a good one at that, including a Top Safety Pick+ for 2021. The interior quality is superb, and it has 29.6 cubes of trunk space.
Again, the main selling point here is the range and claimed fuel consumption. According to the EPA, the most frugal Nexo is capable of 65/58/61 MPGe. The claimed range is 380 miles, which seems like a reasonable trade-off considering the added trunk space. Still, the Nexo is around $9,000 more than the Mirai in base spec, and it's hard to see why.
The Mirai is a more attractive option, but we understand why someone would buy the Nexo for the additional space.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Toyota Mirai: