2016 Toyota Mirai: Button, Button, Who's Got a Button?
by Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant on May 3, 2016
Everything about our long-term 2016 Toyota Mirai, from the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain to the overall design language, screams "IT'S THE FUTURE!" I think the fuel cell bit is very interesting and I'm happy Toyota is loaning us a Mirai for our long-term fleet. It's some of the other stuff that I'm not hot on.
Now, looks are subjective, and I'm subjected to the Mirai's hideous shape every time I walk by. Other people may not agree, and that's fine. Other people are wrong all the time.
Getting inside keeps you from looking at that fish face, but the weird, semi-futuristic design carries to the interior. The seats are blue and black leather, the center mounted digital gauges carry over nearly unchanged from the Prius, but what really irks me about the interior is the large, glossy-black infotainment and HVAC control panel.
As you can see in the photos, the entire thing is gloss black and nearly buttonless. The infotainment system is the same one found in our long-term 2016 Toyota Prius and our long-term 2016 Toyota Tacoma. The rest is unique to the Mirai.
I have a few problems with the setup. First and foremost, the whole things draws dirt like a moth to a candle. After a few hours of driving with the windows down, there was a fine layer of dust on every bit of that gloss black surface. The dust does cut down on the glare, so maybe it can be considered a "feature."
My next issue is has to do with the lack of tactile buttons. I'm about the billionth auto writer to lament the downfall of the button, but there is a reason we all gripe. I don't like having to look away from the road for more time than required. Adjusting the fan or direction of the air flow or using the slider for the temperature means I have to look down. I don't care if it looks neat in photos. It's dumb.
What's more, the whole dash collects fingerprints. Anyone with a smartphone knows how easily they collect prints. That's annoying, but it comes with having a large glass touch screen. The problem in the Mirai could have been avoided. Toyota didn't need to make the entire thing gloss black. They didn't need to remove all the buttons, ensuring that there will be finger smears all along the temperature slider or on the little "APPS" button on the infotainment display. Hell, if it had buttons, it might cut down on the fingerprints since there wouldn't be so much random finger jabbing.
This may sound like I don't like the Mirai. That's not true. It's quiet, reasonably comfortable and drives like a finished product despite its rolling-laboratory powertrain. Plus you can spray water like an oil slick. I just wish that, in other ways, the Mirai didn't have to be so "car-of-tomorrow."
Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 2,355 miles