British car brand MINI has unveiled its Vision Urbanautt, a concept vehicle that features an expansive interior with moveable elements that help create three different configurations or “moments”. The interior design of the electric vehicle – at first reminiscent of a living room – literally pushes the boundaries of interior space and versatility on a minimal footprint in combination with a purist mono-volume exterior design.
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. Over the course of the project, augmented reality was employed to create a digital model, which was then systematically optimised. Unusually tall for a MINI, but only 4.46 m in length, the MINI Vision Urbanaut provides an interior space that can be used in many different ways and offers a whole new ease of movement inside the car.
Having been conceived from the outset as an electrically powered vehicle with automated driving functions, the MINI Vision Urbanaut has afforded the designers a greater level of freedom when creating both the exterior and interior.
The interior of the MINI Vision Urbanaut provides the ideal environment in which to go on a journey, but is also the aim of the journey. Having arrived at the chosen destination, it can transform into a living room in just a few simple steps. Occupants enter the innovative cabin through a large sliding door in the side of the car. The cutting-edge slide and swivel mechanism is the ideal design for urban driving conditions where space is at a premium. There are no other doors on the driver’s side or front passenger side.
An extremely flexible four-seat layout provides the basis for the bright interior. The two front seats are designed to rotate, while the backrests for the generously sized seat surface in the rear can be folded manually (left rear seat) and turned around (right rear seat). When the car is stationary, the dashboard lowers and the driver’s area becomes a comfortable seating corner – the “daybed”. Added to which, the windscreen can be opened upwards when stationary to create a kind of Street Balcony. This enhances interaction with the car’s surroundings and creates an even more generous spatial experience.
The darker environs of the cabin’s rear section provide a quieter space – the Cosy Corner. This area invites passengers to enjoy some time to themselves. A textile- covered “Loop” extends over the seat bench and features the option of LED backlighting. Between Cosy Corner and the driver’s area is the open and airy central section of the car, which offers quick access to all seating areas. With the door open, it is even possible to sit on the floor. On the side of the car opposite the entry door, a small integrated table with a plant adds a finishing touch to the interior fittings. The table signifies the car’s new centre point – the place where passengers meet, face and engage with one another.
Intuitive, discreet user interface solutions allow conventional controls such as switches or buttons to be omitted. This creates a minimalist, cosy spatial experience while maintaining full connectivity. The principle of making things as simple as possible to use (“natural interaction”) is highlighted by the “analogue”, tactile, haptic experience of initiating a feature, e.g. the direct touch operation option in the Loop over the rear seat bench. The circular instrument is now positioned in the middle of the car – the new centre of the action – and brings information to the place where people meet.
The MINI Token is the centrepiece of the MINI Vision Urbanaut’s experience worlds. It is roughly the same size as a worry stone and activates the three preconfigured MINI moments – Chill, Wanderlust and Vibe – when placed in purpose-designed slots in the table at the centre of the car. Other MINI moments are conceivable, such as “My MINI moment”. Here, the MINI Token can be programmed to provide another kind of personalised experience, in which the user can configure their own preferred scenario of fragrance, ambient lighting, music, etc. and call it up directly at a later time.
The purist mono-volume design of the MINI Vision Urbanaut gives new meaning to the “Creative Use of Space” approach. The flush, virtually seamless surface creates a modern baseline mood, with high-quality details adding carefully judged stylistic flourishes. In signature MINI fashion, the wheels are positioned at the outer corners of the body, with short overhangs rounding off a compact and agile appearance.
The front end of the MINI Vision Urbanaut represents a clear evolution of two time-honoured MINI design icons – the headlights and radiator grille. Positioned under a milled aluminium structure with slotted openings, the headlights are only visible when switched on. Thanks to their multicolour dynamic matrix design they can display different multi-coloured graphics, which creates a new form of communication between the car and the outside world to suit each moment. The lights on the MINI Vision Urbanaut complement the front “grille” with the attractive look distinctive to every MINI. The enclosed grille itself is now octagonal in shape, representing an evolution of the traditional hexagonal form. Since the MINI Vision Urbanaut does not have a combustion engine requiring cooling air, the grille assumes a new function: it now serves as an intelligence panel for automated driving.
As with the headlights, mulitcolour dynamic matrix rear lights behind milled aluminium covers deliver a fresh aesthetic and present different looks in the various driving modes and MINI moments. On closer inspection, the distinctive, convex surfaces also pay homage to previous MINIs and the classic Mini. One small detail – the contour of the rear windows – references the form of the front grille and underscores the car’s stylistic consistency.
The clear form of the exterior supplies the car’s colours, materials and details with the perfect stage. The matt exterior shade Zero Gravity transitions from a metallic green with blue flip effect to a subtly toned grey. The windows show a pattern in body colour, fading in a gradient from bottom to top. This creates a harmonious transition from the vehicle body to the windows and roof. The pattern also provides a certain amount of privacy without having to darken the windows; the interior remains bright.
The visual highlight of the MINI Vision Urbanaut when viewed from the side are the wheels, finished in the colour Ocean Wave, a turquoise blue which sparks associations with the beach and the sound of the sea. The abstract Union Jack profile of the wheels is a nod to the car’s British heritage, while their shape recalls skateboards – thereby further highlighting the car’s nimbleness and non-conformist MINI twist. The wheels also represent another way in which the car communicates with its surroundings. Transparent and illuminated from the inside, their appearance changes according to the selected MINI moment.
The concept behind the MINI Vision Urbanaut includes services designed to make using the car an enriching and seamless experience. For example, the MINI Vision Urbanaut can be opened using smart devices – so, in keeping with its status as a mobility option of the future, it can be accessed by anyone within a defined circle of family and friends. Playlists, audio books or podcasts to suit the route and the moment can be explored while travelling in the Wanderlust moment. A personal journey planner displays tips and points of interest (POI) tailored to the individual, as well as recommendations from the MINI Community. These can be proposed and selected as desired.
The MINI Vision Urbanaut is characterised by the responsible use of resources. As well as maximum space within a small footprint and the all-electric drive system, the MINI Vision Urbanaut is committed to a responsible approach to materials. This is achieved not only by reducing the number of components in the exterior and interior design, but also by enabling dual functions such as the dashboard/daybed. In addition to the use of recyclates, this also means ensuring that the design is free of chrome and leather. Along with the use of recycled materials, this also means avoiding chrome and leather. The dominant material in the interior is knitted textile, which combines cosiness and quality with softness and comfort. The use of cork on the steering wheel and sections of the floor adds a special touch thanks to its natural feel, and ensures an authentically pleasant interior climate.