by Jay Traugott
The Toyota Mirai is a potentially groundbreaking car that gives a taste of the future, the way they first Prius was many years ago. It's one of the first commercially available hydrogen-powered cars on the market, providing an alternative to electric and hybrid vehicles. The Mirai has a distinct, almost futuristic look and feel to it, but unfortunately, it is only sold in California because none of the other states offer hydrogen refilling stations. There is only one model in the range so options to customize the platform are very limited. There only real hydrogen car rivals are the Honda Clarity and forthcoming Hyundai Nexo, making the Mirai one of few that offer the green efficiency of hydrogen with the convenience of a five-minute refill.
The 2017 Mirai got a Wi-Fi hotspot and Destination Assist Connect. The 2018 version gained an updated wireless phone charger and two more USB ports.
The exterior of the Mirai is vaguely similar to Prius, with an upswept front look and huge vents in the bumper to incorporate LED daytime lights. Despite its size, the Mirai rolls on skinny 17-inch tires, which look a tad small for it but reduce rolling resistance for the sake of efficiency. The rear has exaggerated wheel arches that end in strange-looking triangular LED taillight clusters.
The Mirai is an average-sized sedan despite its strange proportions. It has a curb weight of 4,079 lbs and a length of 192.5 inches on a wheelbase of 109.4 inches. The height of the Mirai is 60.4 inches and its width is 71.5 inches. Ground clearance classifies at 5.1 inches. Comparatively, the Honda Clarity has a curb weight of 4,052 lbs, a length of 192.7 inches, a width of 73.9 inches, and a height of 58.2 inches.
The Mirai only has the base model in its range which is available in six different colors. Those colors are Celestial Black, Nautical Blue Metallic, Atmospheric Blue Metallic, Salsa Red Pearl, Elemental Silver, and Crystal White. Salsa Red Pearl is new for the 2018 model, while Atmospheric Blue was added as part of the 2017 update.
The single model is front-wheel drive and uses a fuel cell electric motor that's powered by hydrogen gas. The electric motor makes 153 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque and enables the Mirai to run a 0-60 mph time of 9.6 seconds. The top speed is 111mph, which is reasonable, but nothing special, especially when considering the Mirai's $60,000 price tag. Mirai is pretty much an experimental car and its buyers are guinea pigs paying for the opportunity of testing a future technology. In that context, the performance is fine because Mirai will only be traveling around California and the people willing to buy it are looking for something different, and economical to run, which the Mirai certainly is.
The Mirai's electric motor runs on compressed hydrogen gas. When the compressed hydrogen is mixed with oxygen it creates electricity to drive the car while producing water as a by-product. The fuel cell stack itself has 370 single cells which produce 114 kW to drive the motor to 153 hp and 247 lb-ft. Because the fuel cell is good at providing constant power, but not immediate power for accelerating, the Mirai also has a nickel-cadmium battery which acts as a ballast for when quick acceleration is required.
The Mirai has similar performance to other electric cars, with a surge of instant torque which simmers down once the Mirai picks up speed. While not the quickest, cruising around seems effortless and the Mirai has no problems when overtaking slower traffic around town or the freeway. One of the key benefits of the Mirai is its long-range of over 300 miles on a single five-kilogram tank of hydrogen, which takes around five minutes to fill. Conventional electric cars and hybrids take much longer to charge and don't give the same range of a Mirai.
The Mirai feels and drives very much like the Prius with which it shares a platform. There's smooth and seamless acceleration which is sufficient for a car of this size. The suspension has been tuned for comfort and definitely succeeds in that department. Its soft suspension feels comfortable but can betray the Mirai's weight when cornering fast, where body lean is common, and where the low-drag tires don't exactly offer high levels of grip.
Steering feels direct but doesn't automatically return to center, which is apparently a solution to improve the economy but can also be irritating at times. Braking can also be a bit irritating because it has two stages. The first stage engages the regenerative braking but doesn't slow the Mirai tremendously. It takes firmer pressure on the pedal to eventually get the car to stop by engaging friction braking, but the changeover is inconsistent and unnatural in feel.
Overall the Mirai is a pleasant place to spend a long journey because the cabin is almost silent and the seats are comfortable and supportive. The futuristic and interior make Mirai feel unique, but considering its price, could be a bit more upmarket.
The whole concept of Mirai is built around fuel efficiency and trying to move away from fossil fuels. Due to hydrogen being energy-rich, the Mirai only has a 5kg tank, which is nothing compared to the fuel tanks on conventional cars. On electric cars, the battery alone can weigh more than that. The mpg rating of Mirai is a phenomenal 67/67/67 MPGe city/highway/combined, and it has a range of around 300-miles. These figures are far better than most electrical and hybrid cars, let alone gasoline-powered vehicles. Despite the long-range, the Mirai is confined to California, which is the only place to fill up for now. Comparatively, the Honda Clarity gets and an mpg of 68/67/68 and better range of 360 miles.
Mirai has a fairly classy interior that feels vaguely futuristic. The three-spoke steering wheel is fairly average, with controls for calls, cruise control, and audio functions. Where it starts to get interesting is the LCD instrument cluster which is located in the center of the dashboard as opposed to being in front of the driver. There are also touch buttons for the climate control and a dedicated LCD screen for it. Much of the interior is ubiquitous black plastic with gloss black and fake chrome trim. That fake chrome is used sparingly on interesting curved lines that run along the dash and to keep up the futuristic feel. There a fake carbon surface plastic on the door panels and center console. At this price, genuine leather upholstery would be expected but Toyota has chosen to go with the synthetic alternative instead.
The Mirai is one of the few midsize sedans which only caters to four occupants. The middle of the rear seat is taken up by a center armrest which houses a storage compartment, as well as the controls for the rear heated seats. With only one model in the range, there's no option to change the synthetic leather seats to genuine leather, but at least they are still comfortable, even for long trips. There are 38.5 inches of front headroom and 42.5 inches of front legroom. The rear has 36.8 inches of headroom and 30.1 inches of legroom. Taller passengers will suffer in both the front and back due to the low roof and rear legroom is also tight.
Since there's only one model available in the range, there's no option to customize the interior and every buyer gets the same thing, which in this case isn't too bad. The dashboard and surrounding areas have a combination of hard- and soft-touch materials in the usual matt black and grey, with gloss black plastic, and fake chrome accents. The Mirai adds an interesting carbon fiber look plastic to the center console and door armrests. The only upholstery option is synthetic leather which is available in either Deep Ocean Blue or Warm White. The cabin feels well-built, but considering the Mirai's almost $60,000 price tag it should have more of a premium feel to it.
Most electric and hybrid cars suffer from a lack of cargo space because of their batteries, and the Mirai is no different. It has a trunk space of just 12.8 cu-ft, which is isn't the biggest, but still enough to easily fit a couple of suitcases. Unfortunately, the rear seats don't fold down to increase this luggage space so you'll have to make do with what they have.
Storage for smaller items in the cabin is quite average. The Mirai has a glove box, a center console storage bin with a wireless phone charger, front door pockets, cup holders on the center console, an overhead storage box, as well as a storage compartment and cup holders on the rear center armrest.
Because of only having one model in the Mirai lineup, Toyota has added many useful features. The Mirai comes standard with 17-inch rims, LED headlights with automatic high beams, steering wheel-mounted controls for calls, cruise control and audio controls, dual-zone climate control and a seven-inch touchscreen with rearview camera and navigation. It also has heated front seats which are eight-way power-adjustable and have a two-position memory. Other standard features include keyless entry, push-button start, a wireless charger, and tire pressure monitoring. Safety features tally lane departure warning, blind-spot detection, front and rear parking assist, pre-collision warning, vehicle proximity notification, and Toyota's Safety Connect.
All modern cars require a state of the art infotainment system to stay competitive and in this department, Mirai doesn't disappoint. It has a seven-inch touchscreen with a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and JBL premium audio package with 11 speakers including a subwoofer. There's also AM/FM radio, HD Radio, Entune, SiriusXM Satellite Radio with three months subscription, navigation, Apple CarPlay, MP3/WMA compatibility, an auxiliary port, and USB inputs. It also has trial versions of Dynamic POI Search, Dynamic Voice Recognition, Wi-Fi connect and Destination Assist Connect. Unfortunately, the Mirai hasn't got Android Auto to add to this impressive list of features.
There have been no complaints about the 2018 Toyota Mirai and only a few issues with the 2017 model. No recalls have been issued on any of the Mirai models. There is a basic warranty of three-years/36,000 miles, powertrain warranty of five-years/60,000-miles, as well as a maintenance warranty of three-years/35,000-miles and corrosion perforation warranty of five-years/unlimited mileage. The hybrid electrical components have a warranty of eight-years/100 000 miles. Toyota also offers roadside assist coverage of three-years/unlimited mileage.
None of the Toyota Mirai models from 2017 onwards have been tested by the NHTSA. The IIHS also hasn't conducted any tests on the Toyota Mirai yet. Although the Mirai hasn't been tested by either authority, it is still packed with many safety features.
The Toyota Mirai has a decent level of safety features including ABS brakes, a post-collision system, dual front side-mounted airbags, front and rear head airbags, and stability control. There is also emergency brake assist, a pre-collision safety system, traction control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warning. It also has LATCH anchors for safely securing child seats. These are common safety features that are found on most modern cars and should be enough for all but the most safety-conscious.
Deciding whether Mirai is a good car or not depends on your expectations. Its main purpose is an introduction to the world of hydrogen-powered cars, and as a first-generation car in that category, it performs admirably. It has fair performance and gives occupants a safe and comfortable ride in its unique interior. Fuel economy is one of the priorities of Mirai, and in this respect, it is deeply impressive.
The biggest downside of owning a Mirai is that it is only viable near a hydrogen station network. Other than that, the styling, like an early Prius, is divisive. Other drawbacks are that it can only seat four people and has average trunk space. Of course, the price tag of almost $60,000 is hugely prohibitive.
Toyota's Mirai is a good car only if it's used in California by somebody who wants something truly unique and groundbreaking while giving up certain practicalities.
There is only one model in the Mirai range and it has an MSRP of $58,365 excluding any tax, registration, and licensing fees. It is eligible for a $5,000 California rebate, and HOV sticker. Toyota also offers to pay $15,000 over three years towards the refueling costs.
There's only one model in the Mirai range and it comes as standard with many features. These include 17-inch rims, keyless entry, LED headlights, steering-wheel satellite function controls, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, eight-way power-adjustable seats with two-position memory, and a wireless phone charger.
In the infotainment department, it has a seven-inch touchscreen with a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, a JBL premium audio system with 11 speakers including a subwoofer. There are also AUX and USB ports, Apple CarPlay, AM/FM radio, HD radio, Wi-Fi connectivity, and Cd and MP3 capability.
Safety features include ABS brakes, eight airbags, tire pressure monitor, emergency brake assist and a pre-collision safety system. In addition to those, you also get traction control, lane departure warning, stability control, blind-spot monitoring, and LATCH child seat anchors.
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Single Speed Automatic
The Toyota Mirai has no add-on packages and includes all the features that could be added.
With only one model in the range, there isn't really any choice. It has a hydrogen-powered fuel cell, which powers an electric motor, and makes 153 hp. Fortunately, the base model is loaded with features to make it competitive. Some of the standard features include a JBL premium audio system with 11 speakers including a subwoofer, seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Entune, USB and AUX ports, and a wireless charger. It also has heated front and rear seats, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, push-button start, as well as lane-change assist, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warning.
The original Prius has a lot in common with the Mirai. It was groundbreaking at the time and a signal of intent from Toyota of taking a new approach to how cars should be. It also had awkward styling just like the Mirai. Over the years it has been refined, and hopefully, the Mirai will also get to that stage at some point. Honestly, both the current Prius and the Mirai have similarly strange styling that might be too much for some people. The Prius has fuel economy estimates of 50/54/52 mpg while the Mirai has numbers of 67/67/67 mpg, which puts it in another league. When it comes to performance, Mirai also wins with an output of 153 hp compared to the Prius's 121 hp. The Prius also has a seating capacity for five, with the Mirai seating only four. The Mirai has many features, but can only be chosen above the Prius if it will be used in California where there are hydrogen stations. For a car that has no constraints and can be used anywhere, the Prius is better.
The Honda Clarity is the only direct competitor to the Mirai currently on sale. They are both hydrogen-powered midsize sedans with strange styling, that can only be used in California. One of the main differences is that the Toyota is available for sale, while the Honda is only available as a leasing option. The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell makes 174 hp compared to the Mirai's 153 hp, and also has a longer range of 360 miles compared to the 312 miles of the Mirai. The Honda also has a slightly better fuel economy of 69/67/68 mpg, while the Mirai gets 67/67/67 mpg. The Clarity can also fit five occupants, while the Mirai is restricted to only four. The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is a better car than the Toyota Mirai, but can only be leased, and not bought, which could be a deal-breaker for some.