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The MINI Vision Urbanaut

The MINI Vision Urbanaut is more than a car. It is a new vision of space. Discover the most individual, versatile and adaptable MINI ever.

February 2022

 
“MINI sees its future self primarily as an enabler of and companion for unforgettable times.”

Oliver Heilmer, Head of MINI Design

Back in November 2020, the MINI brand revealed an all-new virtual design concept interpretation of mobility and an innovative vision of space. They called it the MINI Vision Urbanaut.

“The MINI Vision Urbanaut represents our image of how MINI’s ‘Clever Use of Space’ could provide an answer to the needs of future cities and lifestyles,” explains Bernd Körber, Head of MINI.

Last year, the BMW Group actually created a physical model of the futuristic vehicle, which was launched at the Digital-Life-Design Summer conference in Munich. This futuristic vision was at once strange and new, and somehow familiar.

MINI explained that it sees its future primarily as an enabler of and companion for unforgettable times, what they’re calling “MINI moments”, rather than merely as a vehicle. The concept for the MINI Vision Urbanaut grew from the question: “What kind of experiences do I want to have with my vehicle?”

“The MINI brand has always stood for ‘Clever Use of Space’. In the MINI Vision Urbanaut, we extend private space far into the public realm, creating completely new and enriching experiences,” explains Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of BMW Group Design.

Designed from the inside out

Having been conceived from the outset as an electrically powered vehicle with automated driving functions, the MINI Vision Urbanaut has afforded the designers a greater level of freedom when creating both the exterior and interior.

“In 1959, the very first MINI ushered in a small-scale revolution in vehicle construction with its transversely mounted engine,” recalls Oliver Heilmer, Head of MINI Design. “With the MINI Vision Urbanaut we have been able to rethink and increase the usable surface area inside the car even further in relation to its footprint.”

The MINI Vision Urbanaut was designed from the inside out. The designers created the interior experience before developing the exterior. It provides an interior space that can be used in many different ways and offers a whole new ease of movement inside the car. Significantly, it also attempts to provide for times when you’re travelling and others when you’re not. Having arrived at the chosen destination, it can transform into a living room in just a few simple steps.

‘Living Room’ Interior

An extremely flexible four-seat layout provides the basis for the interior. The two front seats are designed to rotate, while the backrests for the generously sized seat surface in the rear can be folded manually (left rear seat) and turned around (right rear seat). When the car is stationary, the dashboard lowers and the driver’s area becomes a comfortable seating corner – the “daybed”. Added to which, the windscreen can be opened upwards when stationary to create a kind of Street Balcony. This enhances interaction with the car’s surroundings and creates an even more generous
spatial experience.

The darker environs of the cabin’s rear section provide a quieter space – the Cosy Corner. This area invites passengers to enjoy some time to themselves. A textile-covered “Loop” extends over the seat bench and features the option of LED backlighting. Between Cosy Corner and the driver’s area is the open and airy central section of the car, which offers quick access to all seating areas. With the door open, it is even possible to sit on the floor. On the side of the car opposite the entry door, a small integrated table with a plant adds a finishing touch to the interior fittings. The table signifies the car’s new centre point – the place where passengers meet, face and engage with one another.

The dashboard in the bright interior lowers when the MINI Vision Urbanaut ​is parked and transforms into a “daybed”, while the windscreen can be opened upwards to create a “Street Balcony”. The darker “Loop” at the back of the cabin provides a “Cosy Corner” for quieter moments.
A large sliding door in the side of the car is the only entrance point, a space efficient move ideal for urban conditions. The flush, virtually seamless surface of the exterior presents a purist mono-volume (with a few carefully judged stylistic flourishes).
In the MINI moment Vibe, the MINI Vision Urbanaut opens up to people and its surroundings, and provides an experience of togetherness and interaction. Opening the side door and folding up the windscreen creates a welcoming scene that blurs the boundaries between the outside and inside.
 

The headlights are concealed under a milled aluminium “grille” with slotted openings so they are only visible when switched on.

Exterior design: seamless with a twist

The exterior design captures the spirit of MINI in a new form. The flush, virtually seamless surface creates a modern baseline mood. In signature MINI fashion, the wheels are positioned at the outer corners of the body, with short overhangs rounding off a compact and agile appearance. The visual highlight of the MINI Vision Urbanaut when viewed from the side are the wheels. The abstract Union Jack profile of the wheels is a nod to the car’s British heritage, while their shape recalls skateboards – thereby further highlighting the car’s nimbleness and non-conformist MINI twist.

Occupants enter the cabin through a large sliding door in the side of the car. The cutting-edge slide and swivel mechanism is the ideal design for urban driving conditions where space is at a premium. There are no other doors on the driver’s side or front passenger side.

The front end of the MINI Vision Urbanaut represents a clear evolution of two time-honoured MINI design icons – the headlights and radiator grille. Positioned under a milled aluminium structure with slotted openings, the headlights are only visible when switched on. Thanks to their multicolour dynamic matrix design, they can display different multi-coloured graphics, which creates a new form of communication between the car and the outside world to suit each moment.

The lights on the MINI Vision Urbanaut complement the front “grille” with the attractive look distinctive to every MINI. The enclosed grille itself is now octagonal in shape, representing an evolution of the traditional hexagonal form. Since the MINI Vision Urbanaut does not have a combustion engine requiring cooling air, the grille assumes a new function: it now serves as an intelligence panel for automated driving.

On closer inspection, the distinctive, convex surfaces also pay homage to previous MINIs and the classic MINI. One small detail – the contour of the rear windows – references the form of the front grille and underscores the car’s stylistic consistency.

The settings chosen inside the car are signalled on the outside of the vehicle through the front and rear surfaces and wheel rims.

Three curated MINI moments

“The MINI Vision Urbanaut uses three curated MINI moments – “Chill”, “Wanderlust” and “Vibe” – to present a wide range of possible usage scenarios,” explains Heilmer. “The Chill moment invites you to catch a breath and pause in the here and now. The car becomes a kind of retreat, a haven where you can relax – or work with full concentration – during a journey. Wanderlust is the only MINI moment where the MINI Vision Urbanaut is being driven or driving with automated driving functions. The moment Vibe puts time with other people at centre stage – in every way.”

In the MINI moment Chill, the MINI Vision Urbanaut becomes a private retreat, an urban oasis. While the rear seat bench (Cosy Corner) invites various seating and lying positions, the backlit Loop above it takes on an appearance inspired by a green forest canopy and can also be dimmed. From the outside, the MINI moment Chill is revealed in the abstract representation of a forest canopy around the headlights, rear lights and wheels.

Wanderlust is the only one of the three MINI moments where the MINI Vision Urbanaut is actually moving. In this moment, the interior becomes the ideal place for driving the car, or being driven by it, and enables customers to rediscover the romance of travel. The user interface on the central circular instrument adapts its visuals to reflect a world of travel inspired by tourism posters of the 1950s and ’60s. On the exterior of the car, the light graphics in the LED matrix surfaces at the front and rear ends signal whether automated mode has been engaged or the customer is driving themselves.

In the MINI moment Vibe, the MINI Vision Urbanaut opens up to people and its surroundings, and provides an experience of togetherness and interaction. Opening the side door and folding up the windscreen creates a welcoming scene that blurs the boundaries between the outside and inside. Amid a colour world of magenta and black with turquoise highlights, the MINI Vision Urbanaut provides a central meeting hub; one which can be either quiet or loud. The central circular instrument becomes a media control centre. An animation of graphic equalisers moving with the music is projected onto the surfaces of the front, rear, wheels and Loop above the rear seat bench, creating a pleasant club atmosphere. If those on board so desire, the car could even begin to resemble a boombox.

Sustainable and responsible resources

The MINI Vision Urbanaut is characterised by the responsible use of resources. As well as maximum space within a small footprint and the all-electric drive system, the MINI Vision Urbanaut is committed to a responsible approach to materials. This is achieved not only by reducing the number of components in the exterior and interior design, but also by enabling dual functions such as the dashboard/daybed. Along with the use of recycled materials, this also means avoiding chrome and leather. The dominant material in the interior is a knitted textile, which combines cosiness and quality with softness and comfort. The use of cork on the steering wheel and sections of the floor adds a special touch thanks to its natural feel, and ensures an authentically pleasant interior climate.

The future of mobility looks exciting indeed, and MINI’s heritage seems uniquely suited to paving the way!