When Mini first showcased the Vision Urbanaut concept, it wasn’t actually a real vehicle. It was just a series of renderings depicting a 3D model of the Urbanaut against various backgrounds, as well as a full-size mockup, but now the BMW-owned automaker has turned it into an actual vehicle.
Why is the Urbanaut important for Mini? Well, because it is the company’s vision of what a near-future electric people carrier that can also drive itself will look like. It aims to be the proverbial lounge room on wheels, which if you check out the new batch of photos depicting the actual physical vehicle, it seems to be quite successful in that respect.
According to Mini boss Bernd Körber,
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. 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.
Gallery: Mini Vision Urbanaut (2021)
This concept has lifestyle written all over it, from the windscreen that opens up when the vehicle is stationary to the retractable steering wheel and swiveling driver’s seat that can be turned to face the... sofa-like rear seating arrangement. It also features a gigantic panoramic glass roof, minimalist exterior design whose most striking feature have to be the illuminated wheels.
Mini points out that the Urbanaut’s interior is all about being renewable and using recycled materials - there are no animal-derived products anywhere in its cabin. It also uses cork, an unusual material that you can also find on the inside of the Mazda MX-30, only in this instance, it’s the steering wheel that’s completely made out of this material.
Don’t expect to see the Urbanaut reach production, though. This study is purely a design exercise showing what Mini’s designers are thinking about when they integrate new concepts (primarily self-driving-related) into one of their vehicles. In other words, we won’t be seeing this minivan on the road, but some ideas it has presented will be incorporated into future Mini vehicles - who wants a cork steering wheel or headlining with in-built LED mood lights in a production car?