There are only 20 examples of the new-gen Mirai in Australia.
In 2021 it has become crystal clear that the future of automotive lies in electric vehicles (EVs), but, because of Australia's unique geography, a tail pipe emission-free reality still seems so far away. What's a car brand to do? Well, if you're Toyota, you bring in a hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle like the Mirai, which is eco-friendly but ditches long recharge times.
Toyota Australia is on the record as saying it doesn't want to push one form of electrification over another, and to that end wants the market to choose whether it wants hybrids, plug-ins, full battery or hydrogen vehicles.
While hybrid options have well and truly arrived in models like the RAV4, Corolla and Camry, and we’re all still waiting for the full-electric and plug-in vehicles, Toyota has now brought in its second-generation Mirai hydrogen FCEV.
No doubt the bulk of the cost of the car is due to its cutting-edge powertrain (which we will cover further below), but the levels of equipment would be on par with high-end mid-size sedans like the $46,990 before on-road costs Camry SL Hybrid, $51,390 Mazda6 Atenza and $50,990 Hyundai Sonata N Line.
It's also hard to compare the Mirai against Hyundai's Nexo hydrogen SUV, which has no pricetag in Australia but its Korean price can be converted to around $A84,000.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 9/10
Remember your awkward teenage years when you were still a little uneasy in your own skin and tried to find your way in terms of your own style? (I certainly do!).
Now remember bursting on the scene in your 20s with the confidence and swagger of a Calvin Klein model after working out your niche? (I’m still waiting for this to happen).
From the outside, there is no denying its Toyota-ness and from certain angles the new Mirai even looks a bit like its Camry cousin, with a bit more flair.
The inelegance of the first-generation car has given way to a much more confident and handsome model.
The split front lighting signature and massive grille direct your eye to the blue-tinged Toyota badge, which the Mirai wears proudly, while the puffed-up bonnet and lower-bumper chrome accent add a touch of sportiness and class, respectively.
Move to the profile and you will see 19-inch wheels filling the arches, as well as a sloping rear roofline and silhouette that echoes the best of the premium German sedans.
From behind, the body-wide tail-light design and subtle spoiler adds to the Mirai’s strong road presence without looking over the top, but I especially like the way the lines of the former continue down the bumper to break up the body panels.
If you can’t tell already, I'm a fan of the exterior looks of the Mirai, and I bet if the Toyota badge was swapped out for a Lexus one, no one would think it looked out of place.
The split front lighting signature and massive grille direct your eye to the blue-tinged Toyota badge, which the Mirai wears proudly.
Step inside the Mirai and there are familiar Toyota appointments like the way the dashboard sweeps away from the driver, as well as a shifter design lifted from a Prius.
The surfaces are all soft-touch, though, and the mix of leather and gloss-black materials combine to elevate the interior ambience.
The interior of the Mirai might not be as stunning as the exterior, but it is certainly no drab and depressing place to spend some time.
How practical is the space inside? 6/10
Measuring 4975mm long, 1885mm wide, 1470mm tall and with a 2920mm wheelbase, the second-generation Mirai is comparable in size to a mid-size sedan like the Camry and Mazda6.
However, it is a little longer, wider and lower, with an elongated wheelbase, and is in fact larger in all dimensions (save for height) than a Honda Odyssey people mover!
You’d think this would afford passengers heaps of room, but all the whizz-bang cutting-edge technology has to go somewhere.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, offering plenty of adjustability for drivers/passengers of any size.
Based on Toyota's new GA-L platform, the second-generation Mirai is fitted with three hydrogen tanks – two smaller ones positioned laterally behind the rear seats and one large one mounted longitudinally where a traditional transmission would sit.
What this means is that rear seat room is compromised, and the hydrogen tank eats into the middle seat’s legroom so much that the new Mirai might as well be a four-seater.
Leg- and shoulder-room in the second row are adequate, but the sloping roofline means it can be hard for taller passengers to get comfortable. I'm 184cm (6'0") and had trouble.
Move to the front seats though, and it’s a different story with comfortable and supportive seats offering plenty of adjustability for drivers/passengers of any size.
Leg- and shoulder-room in the second row are adequate, but the sloping roofline means it can be hard for taller passengers to get comfortable.
Storage options are also ample, with a door pockets, a centre storage bin, two cupholders and a tray for your phone/wallet.
Opening the boot reveals a cavity large enough for just 272 litres (VDA) of volume – less than the smaller-sized Corolla sedan (470L) and well-down on the similarly-sized Camry (524L).
Like the rear seats, boot space is compromised by powertrain components, the culprit being the battery and electric drive motor found above the rear axle.
The rear seats in the Mirai are also fixed, which means they won’t fold down to open up more volume.
Opening the boot reveals a cavity large enough for just 272 litres (VDA) of volume.
What are the key stats for the motor and transmission? 9/10
What even is a hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle? Well, we're not scientists but the way we understand it is that there is a special component in FCEVs - the fuel cell - which combines incoming air with hydrogen to produce electricity, with the only bi-product being water.
The single electric motor driving the rear wheels of the Mirai outputs 134kW/300Nm, which enables a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 9.2 seconds in the 1900kg sedan.
Top speed is also pegged at 175km/h – or well and truly above the road-legal limit – and the electric motor is paired with a single-speed auto transmission.
Performance may seem underwhelming, especially when mainstream electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Kona Electric can hit triple digits in a much faster 7.9s time, but the Mirai is designed for efficiency and smoothness, not performance.
Hyundai's Nexo meanwhile, makes 120kW/395Nm from its electric motor.
How much does it consume? What’s the range like, and what’s it like to recharge/refuel? 6/10
Official consumption figures for the Mirai are published at a combined 0.7kg of hydrogen per 100km… which doesn’t really mean much without a frame of reference.
The 2021 Mirai is fitted with three hydrogen for a combined capacity of 5.6kg (or 141 litres) that enables a driving range of 650km when tested on the WLTP (Worldwide harmonized Light vehicles Test Procedure) standards.
Okay so a 650km range is pretty good and comparable to diesel SUVs of a similar size, but that’s moot if refuelling costs more.
Because hydrogen refuellers are not yet readily available, the cost of refuelling is still a little unclear, but Toyota has said it works out to be around $70-80 to fully refuel the second-generation Mirai, making it comparable to filling up a petrol or diesel car.
The new-generation car also features three hydrogen tanks instead of two, which means during range is up 30 per cent compared to the first-generation Mirai.
Meanwhile, the Hyundai Nexo features a 6.33kg hydrogen tank, enough to propel it around 666km before needing a refuel.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
The 2021 Toyota Mirai has not been crash tested in Australia or in Europe, and as such does not carry an assessment rating from ANCAP or Euro NCAP.
The Mirai’s hydrogen tanks are also stronger than before thanks to a new multi-layer construction.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
Unlike new Toyotas on sale now, the Mirai does not come with a warranty because is only available on a three-year/60,000km lease.
There are servicing costs though, with Toyota charging a one-off $2693 fee for maintenance of the Mirai over that lease period.
Scheduled service periods are every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first, though it is unlikely every Toyota dealership will ultimately be able to service the Mirai.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
Toyota is positioning hydrogen as a potential future fuel source that is – crucially – sustainable and eco-friendly, which means the Mirai has a lot riding on its shoulders.
And behind the wheel the new-generation Mirai drives just fine.
The Mirai uses hydrogen to create electricity to drive its wheels, which means it feels very much like a battery electric car from the driver’s seat.
Behind the wheel the new-generation Mirai drives just fine.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but keep in mind Toyota’s potentially revolutionary drivetrain won’t feel so revolutionary behind the wheel.
Like all EVs, torque is available instantaneously for a quick and peppy pick-up off the line, but the Mirai won’t demolish the 0-100km/h sprint like the Porsche Taycan or Telsa Model S.
Designed for efficiency rather than pace, the Mirai will accelerate briskly to 60km/h, but takes 9.2s to hit 100km/h – not that we got to test the latter in the extremely short drive loop in Melbourne’s West.
Despite tipping the scales at over 1900kg, the Mirai’s ride is soft, supple and extremely compliant, almost to a fault.
What’s so striking about driving the Mirai though, is how much it could appeal to motorists who travel long distances.
Steering feels light and effortless, while 19-inch wheels do nothing to upset the serene and comfortable interior ambience – it’s seriously good enough to be a Lexus.
What’s so striking about driving the Mirai though, is how much it could appeal to motorists who travel long distances (as is often the case in Australia) and can’t afford the sometimes 10 hours required to recharge a battery electric vehicle.
Refuelling the Mirai is as quick and easy as a conventional petrol or diesel car. Australia just needs more hydrogen stations to make use of the technology and open up electrification to those that may not have considered it (or deemed it unfeasible for their needs) in the past.
Believe it or not, the Mirai represents a pretty big gamble for Toyota, a company who has been known in the past for being relative conservative with its vehicles.
In recent years though, with models like the GR Yaris and even the RAV4 Hybrid, it seems like Toyota is more willing to go out and take a chance on something that would not be considered a safe bet.
The Mirai represents this willingness to experiment, but it is still too early to say whether it will a winner or a failure.
It drives well, looks good and its powertrain is a potential gamechanger for electric cars in Australia, but whether hydrogen takes off locally with customers is beyond Toyota’s control and up to those willing to invest in refuelling infrastructure.
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