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Toyota's Mirai is boring, but a complete revolution in automotive thinking

Toyota's Mirai is a homely styled sedan. Nobody's going to buy one for its looks, with huge, cavernous front air ducts and a slab-sided profile.

However, they're going to buy it, if and when it comes on sale in Canada, because it uses no gasoline, produces no emission except clean water and doesn't need an extension cord trailing across the driveway or out onto the street.

The Mirai is an electric car, and as such, it's almost totally silent to operate. I drove one for about 80 kilometres from Oshawa to Cobourg during the recent EcoRun rally and I might as well have been driving a Nissan Leaf or a Chevrolet Volt. Actually, the Volt is the closer comparison, because range is not a concern – a gas engine powers the electric motor when the battery runs flat, just as hydrogen powers the Mirai's electric motor for about 500 kilometres before refuelling.

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Mark Richardson stands next to a Toyota Mirai at a service station in Ontario. Mark Richardson Mark Richardson

If it's homely, it's also unobtrusive. Nobody noticed the Mirai out on the road or gave it a second glance. For one thing, they didn't hear it coming, but mostly, it doesn't look like anything special. It's the same size as a Toyota Camry but 400 kilograms heavier, and makes less power: 151 horsepower compared with the 2.5-litre Camry's 178. The electric motor means it's torquier, though, creating 247 lb-ft compared with 170, which helps it surge through its single gear from zero-to-100 km/h in a leisurely nine seconds.

Nobody's going to buy the Mirai for its performance, either, but it does help for early adopters that it comes fully loaded, with heated and cooled leather seats and a heated steering wheel. Since range is not an issue, weight is less important and it doesn't scrimp on the premium touches. When you pay this price for a car, even with free fuel thrown in for three years, you expect to be comfortable.

The Mirai is remarkable for its lack of remarkability. Staid? Yes. Boring? Perhaps. A revolution in automotive thinking? Absolutely.

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