TOYOTA is renowned for its ability to develop outstanding hybrid cars and now the second-generation hydrogen fuel cell-driven Mirai - that emits nothing but water - has gone on sale.
The Japanese company began working on hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) in 1992 and the first Mirai was launched to world markets from 2014.
Now, the 2021 model takes FCEV technology to a higher level by offering up to 400 miles before filling up and zero emissions along the way.
And the good news doesn't end there because new Mirai is about 24 per cent cheaper than the outgoing version with customers offered three trim levels called Design, Design Plus Pack and Design Premium Pack costing Â£49,995, Â£53,995 and Â£64,995 respectively.
The four-door, rear-wheel drive saloon boasts striking looks with a wide front and rear end and a low centre of gravity. The front lighting is arranged in a two-tier design with the L-shaped daytime running lights extending into the front wings plus a trapezoidal lower grille.
Design and Design Plus Pack models are fitted with 19-inch wheels with the Design Premium Pack featuring 20-inch black painted rims with a turbine design.
At the rear, the light units extend from left and right across the back of the car meeting at the centre where the Toyota badge is positioned.
Moving inside, the cabin is very open and clutter-free with the 12.3-inch multimedia screen flowing into the driver's display screen. The switches and controls are well laid out and kept small in size, but they are easily located as they are grouped in different zones according to function.
Design grade cars have black fabric upholstery, upgraded to black synthetic leather on the Design Plus Pack and black semi-aniline leather on the Design Premium Pack.
Getting onto the technology behind the latest Mirai which is based on the GA-L platform and that has allowed the fuel cell stack and drivetrain components to be repackaged in a more efficient way. As a result, the Mirai is now a five, not four-seater car and it features three high-pressure hydrogen tanks rather than two.
And that means the car can hold 5.6kg of hydrogen compared to 4.6kg on the outgoing model and has an improved driving range of up to 400 miles between filling up - which takes minutes similarly to traditional fuel pumps with costs on a par to petrol.
The new architecture also means the fuel cell positioning has been altered along with the high-voltage battery and electric motor giving the car a 50:50 front to rear weight distribution for improved balance.
The Mirai has also had a growth spurt - it's 85mm longer, 70mm wider with 140mm longer wheelbase. But its height has been reduced by 65mm giving the car a dynamic stance when viewed from every angle.
And a weight loss along with a 12 per cent increase in power speaks for itself when it comes to performance, with a total power output of 180bhp and 300Nm of torque resulting in a 0-62mph sprint time of 9.0 seconds (0.6 seconds faster than the first-gen model) and a top speed of 108mph.
We tried the range-topping Mirai Design Premium Pack and it impressed on every count. The instant torque is immediately apparent and there is also improved mid-range acceleration where the previous model lagged a little.
A new multi-link suspension design, the lower centre of gravity and increased body rigidity help to deliver superior driving dynamics and that's very apparent out on the twisting B roads as it accelerates away from tight corners with the Active Cornering Assist improving the car's stability.
On motorways, the drive is relaxed as the Mirai cruises with ease at 70mph and there is an active sound control set-up that delivers noise through the speakers depending on the throttle use.
Driver visibility is excellent and the Mirai is a relaxing car to drive - even after a two-and-a-half-hour run I was still sitting comfortably.
Creature comforts are plentiful too with all cars featuring heated seats, LED headlights with automatic high beam, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a 14-speaker JBL sound system, DAB radio, Bluetooth, sat nav, dual-zone air conditioning and a power-adjustable driver's seat.
Design Plus Pack gains intelligent parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, ambient lighting and blind spot monitor and the Design Premium Pack is equipped with a panoramic glass roof, head-up display, wireless phone charger, heated and ventilated front and outer rear seats, power steering wheel adjustment and lots more besides.
The boot can hold 321 litres of kit with under floor and side storage options, and there is also an illuminated glovebox, a sunglasses compartment, central console box, door bins and cup holders.
The new Mirai features all the Toyota Safety Sense suite of features providing the latest active safety and driver assistance aids available. These include a pre-collision system with an emergency steer function, intelligent adaptive cruise control with lane departure alert and lane trace assist, automatic high beam and a full suite of airbags.
Additional safety kit, according to trim, includes a blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert with auto brake and intelligent clearance sonars, also with auto brake.
The fuel cell stacks and hydrogen tanks are well protected in the event of a collision with a strong body frame that absorbs impact and additional aluminium reinforcement to protect the front end of the car. Sensors will detect any hydrogen leakage and warn the driver via the instrument display.
Top models gain a digital rear-view mirror and panoramic view monitor for clear visibility even when the car is full of passengers and the latest Mirai boasts a more powerful braking system too.
With water as the only by-product from the fuel cell process, it is discharged through a waste pipe which the driver can control to avoid water being released in areas such as driveways.
Toyota has notched up 16 million hybrid vehicle sales worldwide, bringing the technology to the masses and helping to save millions of tonnes of carbon emissions. This latest Mirai will continue that trend and introduce newer technology along the way as the hydrogen infrastructure begins to grow throughout the UK.