Mini Vision Urbanaut prototype set for physical debut

What was once just a design concept is now a working prototype, with the Mini Vision Urbanaut taking the brand’s ‘clever use of space’ mantra to a whole new level.

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Zak Adkins
Zak Adkins
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Mini has unveiled a physical version of its funky Vision Urbanaut electric people mover.

First revealed in digital renderings, the Vision Urbanaut will have its physical world premiere on July 1, 2021 at the Digital-Life-Design summer conference held in Munich.

At this stage, it hasn’t been confirmed to preview a production vehicle.

It measures 4.46m long, or around 170mm longer than a Countryman.

“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 – with the focus on the ‘Clever Use of Space’ – into the future of mobility and interpret them in a typically MINI way,” Mini chief Bernd Korber said.

The Vision Urbanaut uses fragrance, sound and ambient lighting to provide three unique environments: Chill, Wanderlust and Vibe.

Chill mode turns the vehicle into a ‘lush retreat’ with green accents throughout the cabin and space for relaxation.

Wanderlust is the only mode where the Urbanaut is able to drive in autonomous mode.

The car takes over and allows for ‘the romance of travel’ but, if you should feel the need to drive yourself, the steering wheel and pedals can reappear within seconds.

Vibe mode puts a focus on stationary social time with those within the Urbanaut.

The side door and windscreen fold up, a media control centre appears within the central circular instrument cluster and music is projected throughout the cabin.

In Mini’s words, it almost resembles a “road-side boom box” and hangout space.

The Vision Urbanaut features various dual-purpose items in its interior, such as a dashboard that acts as a daybed and a circular centre display which becomes a stylish lamp in Chill mode.

Mini has made a push toward sustainability with the Urbanaut, too.

It features an all-electric powertrain and employs various sustainable materials inside the Urbanaut’s cabin, including recycled wool, polyester, Tencel and cork.

A specially composed soundtrack has been created to provide ambience along with sounds of nature, while there are distinctive fragrances employed in the cabin.

Mini has been quiet about what sort of electric powertrain is hidden beneath the Urbanaut’s bodywork.

Visually, it eschews many of the design elements familiar to the modern Mini with its monospace people mover design.

That said the Urbanaut does have some familiar call backs, including its round headlights and wheel at each corner stance.

The headlights are only visible when switched on, and are part of a multi-colour matrix of lights allowing the vehicle to communicate with other road users.

The concept’s lift-up front windscreen also pays tribute to the post-war BMW Isetta, although in the Urbanaut this feature isn’t meant as an entryway but rather to create a “street balcony” when parked.

As part of its unusual design, the Urbanaut features just one door: a large sliding unit behind the front passenger’s seat.

Those overseas will be able to get up close and personal with the Urbanaut at the Munich show, but for Australians, photos might be as close as we can get.

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Zak Adkins
Zak Adkins
Zak Adkins is a Contributor at CarExpert.
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