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2021 Mini Urbanaut concept hints at brand's sleek and electric future

Mini's latest concept is a sleek electric minivan.

Mini has thrown the covers off its latest vision concept dubbed Urbanaut.

The brand says the Urbanaut helps it return to its roots of making “clever use of space” whilst also re-thinking what an urban vehicle should mean in the future.

Front this perspective, the brand designed the car like it would design a living area, building it around seating and lighting rather than building those things into the car afterwards.

The Urbanaut’s key is a crystal-like object that also acts as a kind of drive mode selector depending on where it is placed in the car’s centrally located console. It’s three drive modes (which Mini calls ‘moments’) include ‘Chill’ which configures the car as a living or sleeping area, ‘Vibe’ which configures it as a communal space and, should you want to drive yourself, ‘Wanderlust’ which extends a steering yoke from the dashboard and configures the cabin more traditionally.

The Urbanaut's interior space is configurable to three main "moods". The Urbanaut's interior space is configurable to three main "moods".

The interior has been designed with special LED-based lighting arrangements and bespoke sound designs which vary depending on which mode has been selected. The windscreen can also lift away completely to make what mini calls a “street balcony”.

Interior fittings in the Urbanaut are made of more sustainable materials with a focus on textiles rather than plastics, and Mini envisions many of the car’s functions being controlled and customised via smartphone app. A panoramic roof window helps to keep the cabin bright.

The Urbanaut is more like a minivan than a traditional hatch with its sliding side door and upright dimensions designed to maximise the usefulness of the interior space. Despite the brand keeping the design as minimalist as possible, it still has the familiar Mini grille shape at the front in what the brand describes as an ‘evolution’ of its signature design elements.

The Urbanaut is more lounge room than car and features sustainable materials throughout. The Urbanaut is more lounge room than car and features sustainable materials throughout.

Oddly, the Urbanaut only has one entry-point, its large sliding door on the passenger side, and does not have a driver or front passenger door.

Mini envisions the Urbanaut as having an all-electric drive system but does not elaborate on specific outputs, nor does it reveal whether this concept previews a future production Mini van model.

Mini will follow up its latest full-electrification model, the Cooper SE, with an all-new electric small SUV, as well as an electrified version of the Countryman in the near future.