When the Toyota Mirai first appeared on the scene several years ago, it was not exactly a very stylish offering. Built as part of the Japanese auto giant’s first serious foray into hydrogen fuel cell cars, the front wheel Mirai was a functional offering that certainly got the job done. But in the process it also sacrificed a lot of the elegant exterior styling elements that many customers often take for granted. However, Toyota has taken the wraps off the second generation Mirai, and it is a big improvement in virtually every category.
Toyota chose to originally unveil the car around October 8th which happened to be National Hydrogen Fuel Cell Day, and 10/8 also happens to correspond with the official atomic weight for hydrogen (1.008 for those that are indeed curious). But back to the Mirai itself, and it would be a crime to ignore just how much change has taken place for the second generation. It all starts with the exterior styling which features broad shoulders, a fast back roof line, and even a long nose though we think that the oddly shaped grille does take away some impact from the broader look. The proportions have a slight whiff of LFA baked in their flanks, and the blunt tail features wide taillights that perfectly accent the car’s width. The switch to a rear wheel drive platform based on the Lexus LS really allowed designers to have more fun with the design, and the resulting canvas has a lot more emotion and visual identity than ever before (front grille aside). Other welcome highlights include the 20-inch wheels shod in Bridgestone 245/45R20 all season rubber, as well as the way the A-pillars are visually slimmed by strategically placed pieces of black trim.
The interior of the 2021 Mirai is arguably where its Lexus DNA shines through the most. On the surface, the cabin follows typical Toyota protocol, and features swoopy dash lines as well as a large console. The digital instrumentation also lends an elegant motif, and the same dash mounted shifter used in the Prius and the current generation Mirai carries over to the new model. A 12.3 inch touchscreen infotainment system, heated and cooled front seats, a 14 speaker audio system, as well as a massive wireless charging pad which gives the Mirai even more of a premium feel especially when compared to its plasticky and compromised predecessor.
“We have pursued making a car that customers feel like driving all the time, a car that has emotional and attractive design appeal, as well as dynamic and responsive driving performance that can bring a smile to the faces of drivers,” says Yoshikazu Tanaka, the Mirai’s chief engineer. “I want customers to say, ‘I chose the Mirai not because it’s an FCEV, but because I really wanted this car, and it just happened to be an FCEV.’”
Performance for the Mirai has also undergone a rethink with the current models “fuel stack” moving from its current position to a more rear oriented position behind the rear seats in a move to perhaps improve weight distribution. It is unknown whether the 2021 Mirai will switch to lithium-ion batteries like the rest of the Prius range, or if it will retain its nickel metal hydride batteries. The latter does have some precedence, with the all-wheel drive Prius using that particular arraignment due to the better cold weather performance that they provide when used in that particular fashion. Toyota also revealed that the new Mirai will be more powerful than before, with the electric motor being boosted past the 151 horsepower that defines the current generation model. Toyota stopped short of revealing the exact figure in its release, so it will be a bit before the final number does indeed emerge into the light.
Toyota is also viewing the Mirai as a decidedly more premium offering, and as a result, the increased performance and focus on stunning good looks will also cause the price to go up as well, despite Toyota’s goal of moving 30,000 Mirais a year when the new model eventually makes its way to dealerships in California. The current Mirai has a base MSRP of $58,500 but roughly 95% of them are leased to owners, with the average payment hovering between $300 to $400 a month with $2,499 due at signing. Regardless of how the Mirai is ultimately bought, Toyota currently pays for your hydrogen for the first three years of ownership, or when $15,000 is spent. With the Mirai trying to coddle its owners in greater luxury, we would not be surprised at all if Toyota continues this perk as a way of enhancing the ownership experience of the car. As of this writing, hydrogen currently costs between $10 to $18 per kilogram, with the current Mirai taking about five minutes to fill its hydrogen fuel cells at a hydrogen fueling facility.
There is still plenty to learn about the newly revitalized 2021 Mirai, and the bulk of this information will be made known to the world when the car takes center stage at the 2020 Tokyo Motor Show later this month. In the meantime, this brief glimpse of the future does show that the Mirai will indeed emerge as one of the greatest automotive transformation stories in recent memory, and hopefully this radical change in character, focus, and mission will finally allow the Mirai to live up to its full potential, while also allowing Toyota to make greater gains in the hydrogen fuel cell market at the same time.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.