Given the complexity of the technology at play, the Mirai is extraordinarily straightforward to drive. As with the latest breed of electric cars, you press the start button, draw the stubby gear lever into drive and set off with a light nudge of the accelerator pedal.
Progress is ultra-smooth and, apart from a faint synthetically generated whine from the speakers under load, all but silent. Despite tipping the scales at 1850kg, step-off is quite brisk, making the Mirai well suited to stop/start city traffic. However, the performance quickly levels off, providing a claimed 0-62mph time of 9.6sec and top speed of just 111mph.
By sighting most of the heavy elements low down in its structure, the Mirai has greater agility and poise than you might expect. The ride is much improved over the Prius's, being more supple, smoother and with better body control. Bumps in the road don't disturb the smooth driving experience as much as they do its hybrid sibling.
The steering is rather devoid of feedback but is quite direct in response and the chassis possess sufficient damping control to provide progressive body movements when you thread the new saloon along more challenging roads.
Unexpectedly, it also rides quite well on changeable UK road surfaces. There’s good small bump absorption around town and it copes with larger surface irregularities with greater authority than the Prius.
Toyota considers fuel cell technology to be more suited to larger cars required to run longer distances rather than urban-based runabouts, which it says are better suited to existing plug-in hybrid technology.
This is reflected in the Mirai's on-road characteristics. With double-glazing on the side windows and a noise-reducing device that helps to cancel tyre roar, the Mirai isolates its occupants from wind and road noise well. Thanks to this excellent refinement and the elastic nature of its power delivery, the new four-seater is genuinely relaxing to operate.
What it lacks, though, is its own intrinsic character. Like most electrically propelled cars, the new Toyota proves a little too one-dimensional to really elicit any excitement on the part of the driver. It is highly competent, no doubt, but not the sort of car you are likely to be itching to drive simply for the sake of it. Still, with its only emission being water, the Mirai makes a bold environmental statement that many will be keen to pursue.
Should I buy one?
The Mirai is a breakthrough achievement – one that is sure to influence the way rival car makers set about mapping out their electric car future. It delivers all the environmentally friendly advantages of a battery-powered car without the need to plug into mains power for extended periods. That said, the hydrogen infrastructure in the UK is limited.
As with the original Prius, it is going to appeal to both early adopters and businesses seeking to provide themselves with an eco-friendly image. But with initial volumes severely limited, it is going to remain a rare showcase of Toyota’s fuel cell technology.
Location Buckinghamshire; On sale Now; Price £66,000; Engine Electric motor, hydrogen fuel cell; Power 152bhp; Torque 208lb ft; Kerb weight 1850kg; Gearbox Single-speed fixed ratio; 0-62mph 9.6sec; Top speed 111mph; Economy 0.76kg hydrogen/62 miles (combined); CO2/tax band na