The MINI Urbanaut virtual concept that debuted in November 2020 evolved into a life-size concept this summer, marking a crucial step of progress towards the release of a MINI MPV. A firm possibility is that the final model becomes the modern-day MINI Traveller, as Autocar reported in 2019.
Video Source: YouTube/The Wheel Network
The MINI Design studio in Munich, Germany, created the physical model of the MINI Vision Urbanaut from start to finish. It is a driveable and steerable concept of “almost prototype quality,” says MINI.
Speaking to Autocar at the 2021 Munich Motor Show (IAA 2021), Oliver Heilmer, Head of Design, MINI, said that the decision-makers at BMW Group have understood the purpose of MINI Urbanaut. Now, the discussion about launching it is at the stage where the company needs to figure out how to make a production version.
Requiring a new platform and technologies like steer-by-wire, those that are new to the MINI brand, makes delivering this car a hard task. However, the team working on this project is firm on making it happen. The concept van will also influence the design of the next-gen MINI models, the British publication reported.
MINI hints at the Urbanaut production version
In an announcement on November 3, MINI confirmed that it is developing a new vehicle concept for the premium compact segment, and it could be referring to the Urbanaut. This model will appeal to customers who demand “space, comfort, and increased variability,” the company said. It will demonstrate versatility with various uses and extra eco-friendliness with the usage of sustainable materials on the inside. It will be smaller than rivals, though, MINI has suggested, saying that it will have “the smallest road footprint in the competitive environment.”
To ride on the FAAR or Die Neue Klasse
The unveiling of the MINI Vision Urbanaut has solidified the speculation that a modern-day Traveller is in the making. The concept sits on a skateboard chassis, the same type as the ‘Neue Klasse’ platform BMW Group announced at its annual press conference this year, as per the report. That, however, does not rule out the possibility of the MINI Traveller EV sharing the electric version of the FAAR platform with the first-ever MINI Countryman Electric.
The production MINI Vision Urbanaut is unlikely to arrive before 2025. MINI has suggested that it is considering offering this model in passenger and commercial versions, as per a report from WardsAuto. The passenger version may come in a three-row version with up to seven seats.
The electric and autonomous vehicle era is creating a new market for leisure vehicles, and the MINI Traveller could be a prominent model in this category later in the decade.
New MINI design language
The MINI Urbanaut concept debuts the brand’s new design language. The next-gen MINI Hatchback due in 2023 and other future MINI models will feature cues borrowed from this concept.
The headlights and grille are positioned under a milled aluminium structure with slotted openings. They become visible only when switched on and can display multi-coloured graphics. These features reflect MINI’s preparedness for the autonomous and highly digital future. The enclosed grille is in an octagonal shape, which is something new for a MINI. The connected taillights and their shape could also be seen on future MINIs. Some interior elements, like the trims, upholsteries and/or colours could find their way in next-gen MINI models.
The MINI Vision Urbanaut is the perfect showcase for renewable materials. The study car’s interior eschews leather and chrome in favor of natural materials like cork, and the removable covers make use of knitted textile.
MINI is also among the companies that will extensively use recycled materials in the interior of future vehicles. These materials are used in areas such as the roof liner, upholstery, seats, floor mats, and floor coverings. One of MINI’s plans for the future includes using natural-fibre materials made from PET bottles, instead of leather. The fishing nets that are discarded are being recycled to create floor mats for future MINI cars.
Smaller than the VW ID. Buzz
The MINI Urbanaut may appear as a preview of a challenger to the VW ID. Buzz (VW Microbus/VW e-Bulli) due in 2022. However, it is much smaller than the VW van. While the British electric van concept is 4,460 mm or 175.6 inches long, the German model, based on the MEB-XL platform, is 4,942 mm or 194.6 inches long. The MINI Traveller could be suited more for moving people, while the Volkswagen model would serve commercial purposes equally well.
Featured image: BMW Group