The Mini Urbanaut Is Now a Real Concept Car

Unveiled solely as a rendering last year, the Mini Urbanaut concept is now back as a fully built concept car. Slated to be shown at the Digital-Life-Design Summer conference in Munich starting July 1, the Urbanaut concept is a small MPV that showcases a lounge-like interior meant for a future where autonomous vehicles are an everyday sight, allowing for new approaches to vehicle interiors. And it’s electric, of course.

With an interior designed to transform into a living room, thanks to a steering wheel that folds up and disappears into the dash, the Urbanaut concept is all about smart use of space. The interior is airy, with plenty of glass all around and a windshield that opens in the manner of a balcony. The middle section of the concept features a fold-out table, while the rear section of the Urbanaut houses a bed—not too dissimilar from the layout of a VW T6 California, albeit on a smaller scale.

“As an innovative space concept, the Mini Vision Urbanaut was designed from the inside out. The designers created the spacious interior experience before developing the exterior, using floor plans, pieces of furniture plus wooden scale models to provide an indication of size,” the automaker said. “Over the course of the project, augmented reality was employed to create a digital model, which was then systematically optimized. The physical model of the Mini Vision Urbanaut was then put together from start to finish at the Mini Design studio in Munich.”

Speaking of Volkswagens, the Urbanaut concept is not dissimilar in appearance from the ID. Buzz, as you may have noted by now, which is also an EV designed for a future where autonomous driving systems and reconfigurable interiors are common. With an overall length of 175 inches, the Urbanaut concept is still a relatively small vehicle.

The Urbanaut concept is expected to be a fairly liberal preview of a future crossover from the brand, but just how close it will stick to the MPV layout remains to be seen. Mini is expected to revamp its range in the coming years with the goal of becoming an EV brand, and also to boost its crossover offerings, so an electric MPV that’s a living room on wheels seems like a surprisingly plausible direction, even though such a body style would be completely new to the brand.

“At Mini Design we believe that the best way to understand the overall concept behind the Mini Vision Urbanaut is to experience it,” says Oliver Heilmer, head of MINI Design. “The feeling of space and the innovative materials are just asking to be explored. That is why it was very important for us from the outset to also make a physical model of the Mini Vision Urbanaut. And now that moment has come. We have planned and built every aspect of the model—which allows people to experience all of the facets of the Mini Vision Urbanaut—at our Mini Design Studio in Munich.”

Mini’s turn to electrification is another aspect of the Urbanaut that should become much more relevant in the coming years, as the brand transitions to battery-electric models, but the automaker has stayed notably mum about the concept’s drivetrain details. Still, the BMW Group has no shortage of battery-electric drivetrains at the moment, with the Urbanaut’s lounge-like interior appearing suitable for a relatively large battery given its very short overhangs.

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