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PROS

  • Innovative
  • Distinctive
  • Should be easy to drive

CONS

  • Current lack of infrastructure
  • Distinctive

Verdict

This striking new family saloon is the Toyota Mirai, but put its styling aside for a moment because the really intriguing aspect is what’s going on under the skin.

When the Mirai reaches these shores in September 2015 it will become the first purpose-designed hydrogen fuel cell car Britons can buy.

Clean and efficient hydrogen power

Many manufacturers have worked together to develop and release trial batches of hydrogen fuel cell cars but Toyota’s the first to deliver its automotive fruits to market for anyone to buy.

The firm is not expecting it to be a big seller, with fewer than 100 sales forecast for the first year. This is in part due to the newness of the technology making some customers wary, but also because it’s likely to carry a significantly higher price than the Prius. It won’t have escaped your attention that currently there’s a conspicuous lack of hydrogen refuelling pumps at filling stations either.

When empty, refilling the Mirai’s trio of high-pressure, well-insulated fuel tanks takes around three minutes, in a process that’s almost as convenient as replenishing a petrol or diesel car’s reserves.

Look, no engine

Rather than sending the hydrogen fuel to a conventional engine, instead it undergoes a chemical reaction in a fuel cell stack, generating electricity to propel the Mirai motor. Toyota claims its fuel cell uses industry leading 3D fine mesh flow channels allowing the module itself to be more compact as a result, beneficial when you have to find space in the body for passengers and luggage.

Combined with a fuel cell boost converter, the Mirai produces 153bhp, resulting in a provisional top speed of 111mph and a 0-62mph acceleration time of 9.6 seconds.

Fuel consumption figures won’t be released until well into 2015, but the hydrogen fuel cell technology means that the Mirai produces zero CO2 emissions, the only by-product being water, not harmful gasses.

Toyota goes bold

Even before you wow your friends and neighbours with the fuel cell facts, the Mirai’s looks are bound to stimulate endless conversation.

Size-wise it’s similar to the current Avensis saloon, its tapered shape and smoothness promoting aerodynamic efficiency, while those wide grilles at the side of the nose supply copious amounts of air ensuring the fuel cell system is cooled effectively.

Inside the spacious five-seater cabin, Toyota’s boldness continues, with LCD screens providing information and touch-sensitive switchgear to operate its wealth of controls.

In an about-face compared to many of the brand’s most recent offerings, the interior mouldings are said to be soft-touch, again reflecting buyer expectations at this higher price point.

When can you buy one?

Official pricing details for the Mirai will be confirmed closer to the September 2015 on-sale date but a figure in the region of £40,000 is a distinct possibility.

We’ll be giving the fuel cell newcomer a thorough examination when we test it in 2015 – will the new Toyota Mirai review confirm that it really is the future, now?

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