The new BMW 1 Series looks set to be one of the most significant new car releases this year, and the Audi A3 and VW Golf rival will gain a significant rethink to the current concept when it goes on sale towards the end of the year.
These spy shots show a camouflaged version of new model testing ahead of its public unveiling. It’s less disguised than the model that we spotted over 18 months ago, giving us a better idea of the new car’s window line, door panels and tail lights.
The new model looks set to feature a more cab-forward design than the current car, with a greater emphasis placed on interior space. This is thanks in no small part to the significant changes under the skin: a radical revamp will see rear-wheel drive ditched in favour of a front-driven axle.
The next 1 Series will use a variant of the UKL platform that underpins both the BMW X1 and X2, and MINI range. While that means the new model will miss out on the rear-driven balance that driving enthusiasts appreciated, BMW is confident that more people will benefit from the practicality and efficiency the new platform can offer.
A longer wheelbase and absence of a propshaft will. The new 1 Series looks set to become marginally taller and wider which, combined with an extended wheelbase and absence of a propshaft, will both free up more space for passengers in the back and increase boot capacity.
Four-wheel drive for hot M Sport models
The new platform will bring advantages when it comes to weight reduction and practicality, but fans of the faster M models are going to be left disappointed. As the UKL platform is only compatible with four-cylinder engines, that means the next flagship M140i will have to ditch its sonorous straight-six engine in favour of a turbocharged four-cylinder.
Not only that, but it will also switch from rear-wheel drive to xDrive four-wheel drive. That means it will be a direct competitor with models such as the Volkswagen Golf R, Mercedes-AMG A45 and Ford Focus RS.
Like the platform, engines throughout the rest of the 1 Series range will be adopted from the MINI and X1 line-ups. Entry-level cars, likely to be badged 116d, should come powered by an updated version of BMW’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel, while a turbocharged three-cylinder petrol unit should appear in the 118i. Larger and more powerful 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines will be found in the 120i and 120d respectively.
BMW will also use the next 1 Series to launch a wider roll-out of its iPerformance line-up. Joining BMW’s five other plug-in hybrid models will be an electrified 1 Series using a tuned version of the powertrain found in the MINI Countryman Cooper E. Comprising a 1.5-litre turbo and small electric motor, economy of more than 130mpg and CO2 emissions below 50g/km are likely.
We can expect new versions of the 2 Series Coupé and Convertible to follow the 1 Series at the end of 2019, and these will also adopt a front-wheel-drive layout.
What do you think of the new BMW 1 Series going front-wheel drive? Let us know in the comments…