MINI’s bold future to include small MPV based on Urbanaut concept

MINI has revealed that it will introduce a ‘new vehicle concept’ prioritising space and versatility and our exclusive images preview how it could look

Mini Maxi - front (watermarked)

The future of MINI will be bolder than ever as the brand prepares to launch a new generation of vehicles from 2023 onwards. Most of these new cars will be fresh versions of old favourites, but the company is also plotting a brave expansion outside its usual territory, and it will introduce two entirely new models in the near future. 

One of these new models will be a compact electric SUV, which will be built in China on a new platform being developed jointly by BMW and Chinese firm Great Wall. This new electric crossover will be built alongside and share its technical basis with the next-generation 3dr Hatch.

However, while we’ve known about these two new models for some time now, the latest news to emerge from MINI is confirmation of a car that will take the brand in a completely new direction, and it has been greenlit for production. 

In its latest strategy dossier, the brand outlines that along with the new smaller 3dr Hatch and its crossover sibling, it will expand its offering a size up in the ‘premium compact’ segment with a new car that will sit “alongside the successor to the current MINI Countryman.”

The new Countryman will arrive in 2023 with a growth in footprint and with the option of petrol and pure-electric power. Its incoming stablemate is described as “a new vehicle concept,” that will “meet the wishes of many customers for additional space and comfort, and increased variability.”

That’s as far as MINI wants to go on record with this entirely new car for now, but the language used by the brand - namely the themes of space and versatility - could be more than simple teasers of what to expect. They may point to a production version of the Urbanaut concept, or a car similar in execution, now being in MINI’s product plan. 

The Urbanaut concept transformed from a digital model to a working prototype earlier this year, and we’ve previewed what could be the next step - a production version - in our exclusive main images. 

Mini Maxi - rear (watermarked)

It’d be easy to cry fowl at how such a vehicle wouldn’t be befitting of a marque built around small cars, but there’s plenty about the Urbanaut that plays into brand traditions. At 4.46 metres long, it’s slightly longer than the Countryman we have now and has a footprint roughly the size of a family hatchback like the Mazda 3. The next Countryman will grow to this sort of size, too. 

Oliver Heilmer, who run’s MINI’s design team, told Auto Express earlier in the year that the Urbanaut concept was designed using the “original mindset of the brand.” He pointed out that the concept’s efficient use of space inside, rather than its exterior dimensions, is what aligns it with MINI’s values. 

“The Urbanaut is the most efficient MINI in terms of, let's say physical footprint and interior room,” he explained, while conservatively estimating that it may take until 2030 for such a model to arrive. 

“It's important to kind of stay curious in terms of what is the purpose of a brand in 10 years – you can stick in there what you had, but it's dangerous as well. And I'm not the type of guy that is just kind of keeping what you have and that's it. You're going to lose.

“We are not able to grow with the range we do have today. Not at all,” warned Heilmer. “The smaller you are, the less you can do in terms of innovations.”

The Urbanaut would certainly provide MINI’s design boss with scope to innovate, should some of the radical interior elements of the concept translate into production car elements. 

It would almost certainly arrive with electric power, too, or at least the option of a battery electric powertrain. MINI is about to move away from being a brand dependent entirely on the BMW UKL architecture. With the new Great Wall EV platform coming in 2023 and the next Countryman expected to use the BMW FAAR multi-energy architecture, MINI will suddenly find itself in a position of flexibility when it comes to platforms, and that could tip the balance in favour of a car like the Urbanaut happening. 

Click here for in-depth review of the current MINI Electric...

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