Mini's got a fresh update to its retro-twee design language, and they're showing it off in the Mini Aceman Concept. This all-electric subcompact crossover is a preview of how Mini plans to reinvent itself for an electric future, and like the best Minis out there, it's still pretty darn cute.
The four-door Aceman fits between the Cooper and Countryman in size, and is meant to be a new standalone model all its own coming to the Mini lineup. Inside seats five, which in a car just 13.3 feet long, 5.22 feet tall and 6.35 feet wide, is hopefully another British reference to a Tardis. Mini claims that the Aceman's electric drivetrain combined with its two-box, short-overhang design enables them to get even more creative with packaging to offer more comfortable, usable space on the inside than ever before.
According to Mini head Stefanie Wurst, Mini wants to keep "an electrified go-kart feel, an immersive digital experience and a strong focus on a minimal environmental footprint" as its three key principles going forward. As such, the Aceman features a simplified design that forgoes leather and chrome entirely as well as a new digital user interface.
Mini calls this new design language "Charismatic Simplicity," and it's all about paring other flourishes back to let Mini's most unique design elements take center stage. Even the door handles sit flush with the Aceman's body—a first for a Mini. You'll still find a bizarre number of Union Jacks on a BMW-made vehicle, but the center "grille" is now an illuminated, closed surface. That octagonal vestigial grille can be illuminated with different patterns, adding a bit of extra fun to the front end.
Stylish 20-inch wheels tuck into the Aceman's wide wheel arches. A Union Jack roof rack and front and rear panels "styled as underride protection" try a bit too hard, as skid plates are best when they're functional and we get it, Mini, you were originally a British brand. Yet much of the rest of the car is neatly pared down, as Mini intended.
Inside is pared down even more—and perhaps a bit too much, if you're not a fan of the Model 3's single-screen dashboard. According to Mini, the dashboard is supposed to feel like one giant soundbar with a single round OLED display in the middle—a clear carryover from Mini's past. The production Aceman's display and control system will use the latest-generation Mini Operating System, which is based on the Android Open Source Project software stack for the first time ever. Mini kept some toggle-switch controls underneath its screen, but fans of easy to hit buttons likely won't think this is enough.
Light effects can be projected across the soundbar dashboard and extend all the way onto the doors, however, so it's not all dead space up there. In fact, Mini intends some of these projections to be part of the car's control system. The concept has an entire "Mini Companion" sensor-based welcome animation that greets people with light and sound, and which follows them as they get into the car and greets them with "Hey Friend."
As with all the Bimmer-era Minis before it, all of this is meant to be highly customizable as well. "Pop-up mode" allows the navigation unit to suggest different kinds of destinations (such as "Adventures" or "Tasty") and tailors the projections and OLED display to match the kind of destination you've selected. "Vivid mode" invites occupants to play more with the OLED display and surrounding projections while the car is stopped or charging. "Personal mode" lets you pick a given motif for the OLED display and dashboard projections, which come with accompanying sounds.
The seats feature a mix of velvet velour, waffle weave and flat-knit—all sustainable textiles instead of leather or vegan leather and feature both giant houndstooth patterns as well as X and O embroidery. As someone currently suffering through the same hot, miserable summer as the rest of y'all, it's about damn time someone put real cloth back into a "premium" concept. Now send it to production, Mini.
Even the colors used throughout the Aceman concept are as cutesy as the Aceman itself. The main Icy Sunglow Green is a light metallic turquoise I absolutely had as a nail polish in the late '90s, and because it's Mini, the accents are in metallic British Racing Green. Blue and orange-pink accents further drive home the Y2K vibes at work here.
If you found modern-day Minis to be too kitschy before, well, the Aceman concept won't do much to change your mind there. Yet it does finally drag Mini's retro-revival design language into the future a tad more successfully and coherently than previous updates to the design, which are starting to look weirdly bloated at this point. For that, it's hard not to be a little bit intrigued by what Mini plans to do next.
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