Mini Vision Urbanaut: mobile living room hints at brand’s autonomous EV future

Mini has revealed sketches of the Vision Urbanaut - a radical new concept car that hints at a future all-electric MPV-style vehicle designed to double up as passenger vehicle and leisure space.

According to the brand’s head of design, Oliver Heilmer, the car was designed from the inside out as an exercise in making the maximum use of a limited footprint, in the same way that the original Mini did.

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While the car exists only as computer renders at the moment, Mini officials have told Autocar that a production car based on the Urbanaut is being considered as both a five-seat passenger car and a commercial vehicle.

At 4.46m long, the Urbanaut is around 26cm longer than Mini’s existing Countryman model but features a more upright design to create more interior space and a large glasshouse to enhance the feeling of space. The front of the car is dominated by a new “Mini face” that hints at a future look for the brand. Round headlights with multicoloured dynamic functions are hidden behind a milled aluminium panel and the large octagonal grille houses sensors and cameras for the car’s intended automated driving system. The rear lights are also hidden until lit and light-up wheels display the current “Mini moment” - Chill, Wanderlust or Vibe - set by the driver, while the tyres feature a Union Flag-inspired tread pattern.

(Image: Mini)

Bearing a striking resemblance to a 1960s VW Microbus and VW’s ID Buzz in look and purpose, the Urbanaut features a sliding door, interior table, fold-down seats that transform into a daybed and even a safari-style hinged windscreen.

Mini says the inside-out design and skateboard-style EV chassis allows the Urbanaut to act as a mobility solution then transform into a “living room” at the end of the journey.

The three Mini moments, selected by dropping a token into different dashboard slots, represent different uses and bring their own sounds, lighting and even fragrances.

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Wanderlust is for driving, either via the fold-out steering wheel or imagined autonomous systems and features a minimalist digital instrument display with animated route guidance. Chill envisages the four-seat cabin converted into a “private retreat” where the front seats swivel and the dashboard lowers to create a daybed while the rear bench folds flat and the instrument dial folds down to reveal a table lamp. An LED loop over the rear seats takes on a forest canopy appearance, and the cabin is filled with ambient music and atmospheric sounds. Vibe, meanwhile, creates a “pleasant club atmosphere”, with the sliding door folded out of the way, the windscreen opened to create a “street balcony” and a graphic equaliser display on the wheels.

(Image: Mini)

While most of the Urbanaut’s features are pure concept silliness, some aspects point towards Mini’s future direction. Bosses have already committed to a move to all-electric drivetrains and the smart use of space reflects the flexibility offered by EV platforms. The car’s focus on more automated driving also reflects an industry move towards more complex driver assistance, while the use of sustainable and recycled materials such as cork and knitted textile also hint at the kind of interiors we could see in future Minis.

(Image: Mini)