At this point, we’ve seen wild, nonsensical “urban mobility” concepts from just about every car manufacturer, but one that’s been more or less absent is one from Mini. That changed on Tuesday with the debut of the new Urbanaut concept.
What is the Urbanaut concept? Well, you know what a van is, right? This is like that but with less utility and more weird lighting effects. Specifically, it’s a smallish box (14.6 feet in length) on neon-blue wheels with a couch-like bench in the rear called the Cosy Corner, a real living plant and a swiveling driver’s seat (like a Chrysler Cordoba). Oh, and it’s electric and autonomous, because it’s a 2020 concept car.
The interior lighting can change to suit one of three Mini Moments which are annoyingly called Chill, Wanderlust and Vibe. These moods are controlled with the Mini Token. Still confused? So are we, but apparently Chill is for when you want to be in the back working or sulking by yourself. Wanderlust is for driving and Vibe is for hanging out with other people in your weird little van-thing.
The interior isn’t without its merits, though. For example, Mini says that the dashboard can fold down into a daybed, which sounds kind of cool, and the windshield can fold up to become a Street Balcony, whatever the hell that is. There’s also enough LED mood lighting to open your own college town hookah bar, so you’ll have plenty of ambiance in Vibe mode.
Outside, it’s less successful. The Urbanaut’s wheels are clear, illuminated and change color based on the Mini Moment to which the vehicle is set. The weirdness doesn’t stop there, though. On the driver’s side C-pillar, a screen shows off various Mini Charms that can represent places you’ve traveled or festivals you’ve attended. It’s like #vanlife virtue-signaling.
At the end of the day, with the Urbanaut, Mini is basically just rebranding conversion vans and not in a particularly useful way. Mini might be better off sticking to its roots and building cheeky-looking small cars that are fun to drive and leave the weird techno-vans to the likes of Canoo.
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