Speaking with Autocar at IAA 2021, MINI designer Oliver Heilmer says that the Urbanaut is all about simplicity and delivering a vehicle that is free of unnecessary stuff. Looking at the MPV in full “Chill” mode, when the steering wheel and the pedals retract and the front seats swivel towards the cabin to create a space not unlike a living room, you wouldn’t be able to tell. But the design is indicative of this new direction toward simplicity for MINI, which, Heilmer says, will trickle down the line in future cars.
Speaking of future vehicles, the Urbanaut could be one of them. This may be just a concept, but only temporarily, if everything goes well. Assuming technical challenges are overcome, “there is a chance for production” for the Urbanaut, the designer says. They’ve already moved past having to explain to BMW bosses why a vehicle like this one would make sense to discussing how they could actually build it.
“As you can imagine, it’s a long process,” he explains. “It’s a different platform [to any current Mini], and from a technical point of view it’s a challenge as it has things like steer by wire that’s not in production yet. But we’ll never give up on it,” Heilmer adds.
That sounds like half a commitment toward bringing the Urbanaut to life, and for those who loved the concept, it should be enough, for now. Fair warning, though: at best, it will be another five years until the wheels start effectively spinning to make it happen.