BMW’s Mini brand has spent the last 15 years totally ruining its brand equity by introducing decidedly-not-mini cars and SUVs. In the beginning of Mini’s brand it lured customers in with funky retro futuristic good looks, a compact footprint, and the promise of a good time, but has slowly become a boring, staid, also-ran Compact Ute brand that doesn’t know who it is or what its customers want. Much like other forward-thinking hip brands aimed at young drivers like Saturn or Scion, Mini has spent twenty years chasing the middle instead of thriving on the fringes.
With this Vision Urbanuat concept, Mini has shown a spark of hope that it can return to the fun and cute brand that it once was. This weird little single-door vannette has all of the quirky cool that the brand has lost packed onto four wheels. It looks a bit like an Ikea vomited a 1970s office building into a 1960s sex club. And I mean that in the best way possible. This thing rules, and reminds me of everything I loved about wacky impossible concept cars as a youth.
Yes, the Vision Urbanuat is deeply impractical, and would never make it to market in today’s world of, ugh, beige everything. That said, it’s fun to re-imagine cars for a future that will never come. It’s one of my favorite things to do, in fact. I love the oblong steering wheel, despite it being literally impossible to use properly. I love the carpeted foot pedals for throttle and brake. I love the swiveling chairs and living-room feel of the passenger compartment. I love the glass roof and bright cabin, despite the intense greenhouse effect this would cause inside the van. This is exactly the kind of thing that Instagrammer Van Lifers want to believe they can make from their shitty old Econolines.
“At MINI we see it as our responsibility to preserve and develop the unique characteristics of our brand over the upcoming years and those further ahead,” explains Bernd Körber, Head of MINI. “With our eyes fixed on the future, we have developed an idea, with the MINI Vision Urbanaut, of how we can take the MINI attributes – as here, with the focus on the ‘Clever Use of Space’ – into the future of mobility and interpret them in a typically MINI way. It brings the user’s personal space into the car and opens up various possibilities for them, from creating an urban oasis to experiencing freedom in the ‘Wanderlust’ moment. The MINI Vision Urbanaut represents our image of how MINI’s ‘Clever Use of Space’ could provide an answer to the needs of future cities and lifestyles.”
Oliver Heilmer, Head of MINI Design adds: “At MINI Design we believe that the best way to understand the overall concept behind the MINI Vision Urbanaut is to experience it. The feeling of space and the innovative materials are just asking to be explored. That is why it was very important for us from the outset to also make a physical model of the MINI Vision Urbanaut. And now that moment has come. We have planned and built every aspect of the model – which allows people to experience all of the facets of the MINI Vision Urbanaut – at our MINI Design Studio in Munich.“
This does appear to be a very clever use of space indeed. As concepts go, this one is among my favorites. It’s just so cute and huggable and soft and round. I know this concept won’t ever make it to the road, and I know it’ll never be driven, and I know it will never live out its dreams, but I just hope it’s having a good day.