It always feels like a big moment when a new Mini comes to market. Previewing a fully production version due to arrive in the coming years as part of an all-new family of Minis is this, the Mini Concept Aceman.
If the name makes it sound like it’ll be a replacement for the ill-fated Paceman, the looks suggest whatever it winds up being will take over from the Countryman. Stefanie Wurst, head of the Mini brand, claims it’ll “bridge the space between the Mini Cooper and the Mini Countryman. Either way, the Aceman previews what the next-generation Mini crossover will look like, what it’ll be made from and what will power it.
If the Countryman was a bit blobby, there’s something pleasing about the sharper lines, roof rack and rubberised nether regions of this Aceman. It’s leaning harder into the rugged look, which no doubt will inform 17 different uses of the word ‘lifestyle’ in the brochure. Regardless, we appreciate some honest ruggedness, and if this is Mini adding a splash of Jimny, we’re all for it.
It’s a preview for the overall future Mini design direction too, with what the marque calls ‘Charismatic Simplicity’, emphasising a focus on the essentials. Read: less fussy, more modern. It’s a design trend permeating the industry at the moment that we fully approve of. Mini-ness abound, with the simplified flag rear lights and lamp-shaped day-runner at the front, though for this concept the whole front end is covered in lights. The Matrix LED units in the grille display a union jack graphic, while the grille surround lights up and the right-hand lamp ‘winks’. Yes really. The car will even project a ‘cloud’ of light and make noise as you approach it. there’s also a colourful animation projected on the floor as you open the door. In short, the whole thing is an orgy of spectacular lighting.
Of course, the simplification and concept car funkiness continues on the inside, with as much of a focus on sustainable materials as there is design. For a kick-off, Mini has fully dispensed with all chrome and leather.
There are knitted recycled textiles imbued with fresh colour contrasts. We initially thought the floating dash was embroidered with a stylised London map. The reality is that it’s a projection and you can have almost anything you want to be projected onto your dash. In a car from any other brand, this would be right up the top of our list of details likely to go in the bin before production. But this is Mini. These cars have Union Jack rear lights. Anything is possible.
There are lots of 3D effects and different materials varying in feel, with the Aceman a demonstration of what can be done with textile surfaces. We’re particularly enamoured with that semi-quilted fabric wheel, including fabric buttons for the media and cruise control.
It’s a tech-fest too with digital controls and a crisp and clean new full-surface OLED central display, the modernisation of a recognisably ‘Mini’ feature, playing a much more prominent role given the apparent lack of a driver’s instrument cluster. Maybe those dash projectors can put essential info in front of the driver without any binacle at all. The screen is chock with a fresh new UI design, friendly messages and fun widgets, with the whole new Mini OS based on Android.
So what about the powertrain? Well, it’s all-electric and all-wheel-drive. Apart from that, there’s not an awful lot to know. We expect this to carry over for the production model, with range figures in line with other EV models in the BMW Group. It’s about time we saw a 300-mile+ real world range capability, isn’t it?
“This concept car reflects how MINI is reinventing itself for its all-electric future and what the brand stands for,” Wurst continues. “An electrified go-kart feel, an immersive digital experience and a strong focus on a minimal environmental footprint.”
So what do you think of the Mini Aceman? For all its concept frippery, there’s some real personality in this thing. How much of it will live to see production, we don’t know. If that OLED screen makes it, it’ll be an industry standard-setter. We hope the projection stuff and the crazy material use does too.