MINI Vision Urbanaut concept takes form, July 1 debut

In the future, when personal cars become completely automated, they won’t look like the kind that are on the roads today. Remember the intriguing MINI Vision Urbanaut concept that was digitally showcased for the first time last November, the hippy Bavarian lounge on wheels? Well, the automaker has built an actual true-to-size concept, so let’s take a look.

Measuring in at 4.46 metres in length, the fully electric Urbanaut has a +200 mm longer footprint compared to the iconic Volkswagen Kombi van. MINI’s age-old ethos of “clever use of space” continues to be emphasised here, offering maximum space on the smallest possible footprint.

The cabin, as you can see, is intentionally designed to be very modern and clutter-free. It’s a space for people to relax even when the vehicle is not on the move, so you could literally take it anywhere to indulge in your favourite pastime, like doing yoga or meditating in the middle of the forest, for example.

There are several ambient sound profiles to help you unwind, too. MINI creative sound director, Renzo Vitale said there’s Chill, Vibe and Wanderlust auditory profiles, with Chill mode offering subtle soundscapes of a forest, with rustling leaves and flowing water that fills the interior. How very Zen, isn’t it?

From left: Driving config, daybed config

The Vibe moment transforms the car into a boombox, complete with graphical equalisers that get projected onto the front and rear of the car, as well as the wheels. The Wanderlust mode, on the other hand, is essentially made to suit your mood for travelling. In MINI’s own words: “It enables those on board to rediscover the romance of travel,” either by driving yourself, or being driven by the car.

The dashboard has a dual function – when you’re driving, it raises to an appropriate height, and the integrated steering wheel is electronically extended for reach. When you’re not driving, the dashboard can be used as a daybed. There’s also a circular table lamp with an integrated OLED display that doubles as the instrument meter. Notice the lack of chrome and leather? Get used to that, because you won’t find them in next-generation MINI models.

Instead, you’ll find that the vast majority of materials used in the cabin are either renewable or recyclable. The dominant materials are textiles made from recycled wool, polyester and Tencel. Designers also put a lot of focus on “mono-materials,” which are easily recyclable when their service in the Urbanaut comes to an end. Cork is used on the steering wheel and sections of the floor, giving the cabin a natural feel.

MINI Vision Urbanaut concept takes form, July 1 debut

MINI boss Bernd Körber said: “At MINI, we see it as our responsibility to preserve and develop the unique characteristics of our brand over the upcoming years and those further ahead. With our eyes fixed on the future, we have developed an idea, with the MINI Vision Urbanaut, of how we can take the MINI attributes – as here, with the focus on the ‘Clever Use of Space’ – into the future of mobility and interpret them in a typically MINI way.”

Company head of design Oliver Heilmer added: “At MINI Design, we believe that the best way to understand the overall concept behind the MINI Vision Urbanaut is to experience it. The feeling of space and the innovative materials are just asking to be explored.”

“That is why it was very important for us from the outset to also make a physical model of the MINI Vision Urbanaut. And now that moment has come. We have planned and built every aspect of the model – which allows people to experience all of the facets of the Urbanaut at our Design Studio in Munich.” The car will make its world premiere on July 1.