What will the purists say? BMW’s next 1-series hatchback will be front-wheel drive.
When the BMW 1-Series launched 15 years ago, it flipped the bird at the convention set by its rivals and delivered power to its rear wheels, justifying its premium price tag. Now, the third generation due later this year, BMW has opted for a front-wheel-drive setup that will likely see those faithful to the brand pulling up their noses.
For enthusiasts, it may be disappointing to see the 1-Series aligning itself to its competition in Audi and Mercedes but the decision has a practicality to it. Firstly, it'll open up space in the cabin now that there's no longer a drive-shaft intruding down the middle but, more importantly, it offsets some of the development cost of BMW's new FWD platform.
The platform has already been used on the Chinese-market 1-series saloon, which also gives us a good idea of the proportions for the new hatchback we see in the gallery above. It seems to be taking the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class head-on, which makes sense considering how popular both cars are.
We'll have to wait a bit to see what the bodywork looks like without all the camouflage and news on powertrains is also unconfirmed but expect BMW's three- and four-cylinder turbocharged engines paired to automatic and manual transmissions. It's also safe to assume that inside, the new 1-Series will follow the styling attached to the latest BMW models and sport their latest iDrive system and active safety technology.
There will undoubtedly be M Performance variants with more aggressive bodywork, more powerful brakes and bigger wheels. Under the hood, though, the six-cylinder powerplant from the current M140i will make way for a highly tuned turbocharged four-cylinder engine and, possibly, all-wheel drive. This will likely be inspired by BMW’s upcoming BMW X2 M35i that features a 302bhp four-cylinder turbocharged engine that sends power to all four corners. This will set the BMW 1-Series up for a title fight with the next Audi S3, VW Golf R and new Mercedes-AMG A35.
Official word on the all-new 1-series, including the M Performance models, will be distributed in the next few months and then, later this year, we'll see the 2-Series Gran Coupe that will take on the Mercedes CLA.
Will the change to front-wheel-drive be a boon to BMW or will it dilute the performance-focus of previous models? We wait with bated breath.