Mini's new electric concept features an innovative interior representing an "all-new interpretation of a vision of space."
Last week, BMW unveiled a near-production version of the new iX flagship electric SUV during its virtual NextGen event. This week, BMW Group is focusing on the Mini brand with the debut of a new electric, self-driving concept car with an innovative interior. Dubbed the Mini Vision Urbanaut, the concept represents an "all-new interpretation of a vision of space," offering more interior space than a standard Mini Cooper while maintaining the Mini's signature small footprint.
Before developing the exterior, the designers created the interior using floor plans, pieces of furniture, and wooden scale models. Augmented reality was also used to create a digital model. Despite only measuring 175 inches long, the Vision Urbanaut provides a spacious interior that can be used in a variety of ways.
When arriving at a destination, the concept can transform into a living room. Occupants access the cabin using a large sliding door in the side of the car - there are no other doors on the driver's side or front passenger side. The two front seats can be rotated while the backrests for the rear seat bench can be folded manually and turned around.
When the car is stationary, the dashboard lowers and the driver's area becomes a comfortable seating corner. The windshield can also be opened upwards to replicate a street balcony. Mini refers to the rear section as the "cozy corner," which features darker surroundings and LED backlighting to create a relaxing environment. Between the driver's area and the cozy corner is an open central section offering easy access to all seating areas. The interior is eco-friendly, too, with soft knitted textile replacing traditional leather and chrome materials.
Conventional buttons and switches are replaced with touchscreens and pads with haptic feedback, while the circular instrument panel is repositioned in the middle of the car. Dubbed the Mini Token, the central interface is used to activate the three pre-configured modes: Chill, Wanderlust and Vibe. Chill creates a relaxing cabin, inviting occupants to sit or lie down on the rear seat bench, while a backlight with an appearance inspired by a green forest canopy is activated. Ambient music and atmospheric sounds are played and the circular instrument folds down to become a table lamp.
Wanderlust is the only mode where the Mini Vision Urbanaut is moving, whether it's being driven manually or autonomously. The central circular instrument displays visuals that "reflect a world of travel inspired by tourism posters of the 1950s and 60s" and show an animation of the route and additional information such as visitor attractions and arrival time.
Tapping the Mini logo brings out the steering wheel and pedals if an occupant wants to drive the car manually. When automated driving mode is activated, the steering wheel and pedals retract and the driving display is removed from the dashboard. Activating Vibe mode turns the Ubanaut into a "central meeting hub," opening the side door and folding up the windshield. The central circular instrument also becomes a media control center for music and entertainment.
Users can also configure the custom fragrance, ambient lighting, and music settings, while charms in the C-pillar on the driver's side showing places travelled, festivals or other events on pins and stickers offer a personalized experience.
On the outside, the Mini Vision Urbanaut features short overhangs and redesigned headlights that are only visible when switched on. Mini's traditional hexagonal grille is also replaced with a closed octagonal grille housing technology for autonomous driving and the illuminated wheels change color depending on the driving mode.
As Mini prepares to expand its electric car range, the Vision Urbanaut is powered by an electric powertrain, but no technical details are provided. For reference, the Mini Cooper SE uses an electric motor producing 181 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque while the battery provides an EPA-rated electric driving range of 110 miles.