Toyota Mirai review: We’ve driven the UK’s first proper hydrogen car and it wasn’t what we expected

It got beaten to the UK by the Hyundai ix53, but Toyota thinks the Mirai is well worth the wait. The first mass-produced hydrogen car to be built from the ground up, the Mirai is now available to buy in the UK for £61,000 (with a government grant). So what’s it like to drive? And what does it add to the hydrogen argument?

Toyota Mirai review: We’ve driven the UK’s first proper hydrogen car and it wasn't what we expected

What’s it like to drive?

Mirai means future in Japanese, and it’s clear Toyota has brought that ethos to the styling. On the outside, the Mirai will divide opinion. It attracted many admirers on the streets of Epsom, but it also got a few strange looks. It’s the same story inside: the interior echoes that of a Prius, and features the landscape instrument cluster, but it looks as premium as you’d expect from a £61,000 car – and feels more Lexus than Toyota.toyota_mirai_hydrogen_2

The Mirai handles far better than you’d expect, too. That’s because it was designed from the ground up to use hydrogen power. That means Toyota engineers were able to position heavier components such as the car’s H2 tanks as low as possible – reducing the car’s centre of gravity and making it more responsive.toyota_hydrogen_4

The Mirai features “double glazed” acoustic class and carefully designed insulation to make the ride quieter. That makes its impressive performance even more surreal. Driving conservatively – using the car’s intuitive UI – is easy, but the Mirai offers surprising speed when needed. When we nailed the throttle, it hit the speed limit almost instantly: the only giveaway was the speedo, and the high energy use shown on the dash. It may hit 0-60mph in 9.6 seconds, but at lower speeds the car’s torque is awesome, and it still has its 312-mile range.

Like the Prius, Toyota wants the Mirai to be a refined car that happens to use hydrogen – and it’s succeeded. Apart from the silence, and a H20 switch that dumps the car’s water tank on demand, there’s very little different about the Mirai, which is only a good thing.

Is the Toyota Mirai your next car?

No, and Toyota knows it. There are only a handful of hydrogen charging stations in the country, and that means using the Mirai is almost impossible for the average car user. Throw in its £61,000 price tag, and the Mirai seems to be an epic fail for the Japanese company – especially with great EVs such as the Tesla Model S and cheaper Nissan Leaf available.

But looking at sales and profit is missing the point. For Toyota, the Mirai is a statement of intent, an experiment designed to kickstart a possible hydrogen revolution and spur the growth of a new infrastructure. In the same way the Prius has grown from total obscurity to a benchmark for hybrid vehicles, Toyota hopes the Mirai will one day become the hydrogen car. And to do that, it needs to make the Mirai now.

Read next: Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: We drove the UK’s first mass-produced hydrogen car around London.

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