The MINI Vision Urbanaut is quite unlike any car you would see on the roads today. Its cute, retro-meets-futuristic design hides an interior that challenges our preconceived notions of what a car interior should look and feel like.
But before we touch on how they have revolutionised the user experience in the cabin, let’s first take a look at what they’ve done on the outside. The hallmark features of a MINI are still present, those are the circular headlamps and the radiator grille if you are wondering, positioned under a milled aluminium structure with slotted openings. The headlight graphics are only visible when switched on, whilst the grille too has been fettled with - it is now octagonal in shape, an evolution of the traditional hexagonal form.
The interior is the pièce de résistance. Unlike any other BMW-made MINIs, and perhaps any car with the Mini badge ever, you enter the car through a Peugeot 1007-esque (granted, I’m sure there are more attractive ways of describing this!) large sliding door on what is the passenger side in Left Hand Drive markets (BMW is German afterall). This means you do not have to ever stress about being boxed in, as sliding doors are ideally suited to urban conditions with little space.
This concept car enables the driver´s area to become a comfortable seating zone when stationary. The front seats are designed to rotate, and the dashboard lowers and turns into a day bed. The upwards-hinged windscreen can be opened to create a “Street Balcony”, which creates what BMW has dubbed a “more generous spatial experience”.
Keeping with the original MINI’s forte of maximising the efficient use of space, the Urbanaut’s clean, monolithic design approach translates into maximum space gain on a minimum footprint. However, the ethos has been shifted slightly, and is more in keeping with the times. Not only is space itself important physically, but the way in which users interact with the product is key too. This became apparent when the design process was interrupted by global lockdowns, and the design team had to proceed virtually and in mixed reality.
The net result is a more holistic experience, through the marriage of space and with modern technologies to enhance the feel, touch and overall experience. It combines many disciplines in one car; architecture, living room design, sustainability, user experience design and, obviously, automotive engineering. It invites us to rediscover automobility and to make it a new part of our lives – just as the design team behind the MINI Vision Urbanaut did.