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MINI Vision Urbanaut electric MPV concept unveiled

MINI's electric MPV concept won’t be going into production anytime soon, but it features design elements we will see in the next-generation MINI Electric, arriving in 2023

This is the MINI Vision Urbanaut: an electric MPV concept car unlike any model in the brand’s current line-up. Unlike the Volkswagen ID. Buzz minibus – which is going into production – the Urbanaut is instead debuting new design elements we can expect to see in the next generation of electric MINIs, including the new hatchback that'll arrive in 2023.

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Speaking with DrivingElectric, head of MINI Bernd Koerber explained: “Some of the design elements integrated here – some items and trim language, especially in the interior – will be translated into real series cars in the next generation in 2023.” For example, the decision to construct the Urbanaut’s interior without using any chrome or leather will carry over to the brand’s new models.

We can also expect that MINI’s next models to place more of an emphasis on sustainability based on the Urbanaut's use of recycled wool, polyester and Tencel in its upholstery. The electric MPV concept also uses 'mono-materials' that can easily be recycled into new materials and products. Recycled and reusable cork is another less-conventional material used throughout the Urbanaut’s interior; it features in the steering wheel, pedals and sections of the floor.

The Urbanaut also features autonomous driving technology, which could also make its way into the next generation of MINI models. What’s less likely to appear in a production model is the Urbanaut’s inclusion of a full-length sliding side door and openable windscreen. However, the concept does highlight MINI’s maximisation of interior space, which will be important for the next hatchback, as it’s going to be smaller outside than its predecessor.

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Another unconventional feature of the Urbanaut is 'moments' – a unique take on the concept of driving modes. 'Wanderlust' is the only 'moment' that focuses on driving. While the Urbanaut features a fully autonomous mode, when you do want to take control, the steering wheel and pedals rise up out of the dashboard and floor at the touch of a button. There's no digital driver’s display or central infotainment screen; instead, driving data and information about your journey, including the estimated arrival time, are projected onto the dashboard.

The other two ‘moments’ are for when the car is stationary. 'Chill' encourages relaxation with soft lighting and the rear lounge seating, while 'Vibe' sees the folding windscreen and side door open up and the central circular instrument panel in the rear become a media control centre.

It remains unclear if MINI will put the Urbanaut or something like it into production, but anticipation surrounding the arrival of the ID. Buzz suggests there's potential for this type of electric car.

However, any such model wouldn’t appear in showrooms before 2030 as, according to Koerber: “The Urbanaut is meant to serve as a long-term perspective for where mobility is going, and how we address the needs of our urban customers in a car.”

MINI will be the first brand in the BMW Group to become fully electric, likely by 2030. So far, it has confirmed the arrival of the new MINI Electric hatchback in 2023, followed by a MINI Electric convertible in 2025.

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Welcome one and all, I’m Ellis the news reporter on Auto Express, the brand’s former online reviews editor and contributor to DrivingElectric. I’m proud to say I cut my teeth reporting and reviewing all things EV as the content editor on DrivingElectric. I joined the team while completing my master’s degree in automotive journalism at Coventry University and since then I’ve driven just about every electric car and hybrid I could get my hands on.

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