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The MINI Urbanaut Could Really Go Into Production, But Don’t Hold Your Breath for It

As the auto industry is slowly moving toward full-electric vehicles, the driving experience is bound to change drastically. The advent of Level 5 autonomy will further impact it, and something like the MINI Urbanaut might become a fixture on city streets.
The MINI Urbanaut concept at the 2021 LA Auto Show, as talk intensifies about it going into production 10 photos
The MINI Urbanaut concept at the 2021 LA Auto Show, as talk intensifies about it going into productionThe MINI Urbanaut concept at the 2021 LA Auto Show, as talk intensifies about it going into productionThe MINI Urbanaut concept at the 2021 LA Auto Show, as talk intensifies about it going into productionThe MINI Urbanaut concept at the 2021 LA Auto Show, as talk intensifies about it going into productionThe MINI Urbanaut concept at the 2021 LA Auto Show, as talk intensifies about it going into productionThe MINI Urbanaut concept at the 2021 LA Auto Show, as talk intensifies about it going into productionThe MINI Urbanaut concept at the 2021 LA Auto Show, as talk intensifies about it going into productionThe MINI Urbanaut concept at the 2021 LA Auto Show, as talk intensifies about it going into productionThe MINI Urbanaut concept at the 2021 LA Auto Show, as talk intensifies about it going into production
The MINI Urbanaut is a lounge on wheels-type of concept, introduced last year as renders and then in physical form at this year’s IAA show. It is an MPV that sits at the intersection of a family car and a moving lounge, combining the aesthetics and functionality of both.

To be sure, this idea for a new breed of minivans, pods or lounges of wheels, is not new, having been introduced as talk of fully-autonomous vehicles picked up. We’re still a long way from Level 5 autonomy, but automakers seem convinced that at least some of us will want to be able to party inside our cars, as they’re barreling down the road on their own.

The Urbanaut could be one of these vehicles. The physical concept is now on display at the 2021 Los Angeles Auto Show, with MINI Vice President Mike Peyton on hand to take questions. AutoWeek got to speak to him on the topic and, not surprisingly given designer Oliver Heilmer’s earlier comments on the issue, he says the Urbanaut could actually make it into production.

It’s best not to hold your breath for it, though, because it won’t happen for another while.

The first dedicated fully-electric MINI is supposed to come out in 2023, and it would be at least another five years from that point until an Urbanaut would be made, as part of an effort to diversify the offering. 

Peyton doesn’t commit an affirmative answer as regards the Urbanaut’s production, as expected. However, he uses language that indicates that, at least at this stage, MINI is serious considering it – or wants us to know they’re considering it.

“It's not too far away from what we think is possible, […] we think would still be a great fit for Mini, and make a lot of sense for Mini,” he says. The Urbanaut, like other projects MINI could unveil in the electrified portfolio, would “keep us relevant in more segments, and also modernizes certain aspects of our brand appeal, while still being very true to those Mini driving characteristics and all the things people come to expect from the brand.”

Peyton also says that MINI is testing a new type of ride-sharing service in Spain, which would allow owners to share their cars with a closed circle of acquaintances via an app. This would make the Urbanaut more appealing to younger customers, since this MPV is perfect for nights out on the town.

 
 
 
 
 

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