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Mini Vision Urbanaut Is a Full-Size Vision of a Pod-Like Future

  • After existing solely in the digital realm for a year, a real-life version of the Vision Urbanaut has been released by Mini and is on display in Germany.
  • The Vision Urbanaut is designed to be autonomous and electric, putting the emphasis on passenger comfort and convenience.
  • The interior can shift among three modes—Chill, Vibe, and Wanderlust—that alter the lighting, layout, sound, and fragrance inside the Urbanaut.

    The Mini Vision Urbanaut first appeared last year as a series of renderings, but the sleek minivan concept has now returned as a full-scale model, debuting at the Digital-Life-Design Summer conference in Munich. The Urbanaut is a peek into Mini’s crystal ball, showcasing a future of electric lounge-style autonomous pods.

    At 175.6 inches long, the Urbanaut is only about six inches longer than Mini’s diminutive Countryman crossover, but the interior appears far more spacious thanks to an electric powertrain, which allows for a flat floor and living-room-like proportions. The exterior design of the Urbanaut is smooth and simple, and the front and rear ends are dominated by LEDs. In the original renderings, the LEDs were lit up in organic patterns to resemble traditional headlight and taillight units, but the new photos give a sense of how the LED panels look when not in use during the daytime. The only other major change from the renderings is the color, which goes from green to a light bluish silver.

    Apparently Mini “sees its future self primarily as an enabler of and companion for unforgettable times,” which it dubs “Mini moments.” The Urbanaut features three such “moments”—think of this marketing jargon like a drive mode, except only one of the settings is actually centered around travel. The first, called Chill, turns the car into a retreat from the outside world. The interior lighting mimics “a green forest canopy,” and the instrument panel transforms into a table lamp, “eliminating displays or switches that might remind the customer of their automotive surroundings.”

    mini vision urbanaut


    The Vibe mode is all about socializing, with the door sliding open and the windshield raising up to create a welcoming, airy environment. The instrument panel is now dedicated to entertainment, and the Urbanaut will project graphics that move along to the rhythm and tempo of your tunes for what Mini claims is “a pleasant club atmosphere,” which sounds like an oxymoron.

    The only driving-oriented moment is called Wanderlust, which sees the instrument cluster switch to displaying an animation of the route, the estimated arrival time, tourist attractions along the way, and other trip information. Although the Urbanaut is envisioned as being capable of autonomous driving, a steering wheel and pedals will emerge at the press of a button.

    mini vision urbanaut


    Mini also touts the Urbanaut’s sustainability. The design team decreased the number of components by having certain features serve two functions—the dashboard can morph into a day bed, for instance. The interior is swathed in recycled textiles including wool, polyester, and Tencel, and the steering wheel and sections of the floor are made from recyclable cork.

    The Vision Urbanaut will not go into production, but expect the design philosophy seen here to appear on Minis across the next decade as the automaker transitions towards electric propulsion. Mini also points out that the Urbanaut’s interior does not feature chrome or leather, an approach it says will be implemented on its next-generation models.

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