The third-generation BMW 1-series is set to be a turning point for the German carmaker and its launch signifies the company’s front-wheel drive push into high gear in 2019.
However, the flagship M130iX M Performance model will be four-wheel drive. The M130iX hot hatch will be a crucial part of the overhaul to front-wheel drive as BMW tries to prove that it can offer a credible front-driven performance model alongside its traditionally successful rear-wheel-drive M cars.
Currently in the early stages of development, the BMW M division’s future competitor to the Volkswagen Golf R, Audi S3 and upcoming Mercedes-AMG A35 is scheduled for launch in 2020. It will feature specially tuned version of BMW’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, developing around 304hp, together with a multi-plate-clutch xDrive four-wheel-drive system.
BMW controversially halted a long tradition of rear-drive and four-wheel-drive models with the introduction of the 2-series Active Tourer in 2014 and the subsequent launch of the larger 2-series Gran Tourer in 2015. The carmaker now plans to bolster its front-wheel-drive line-up with the new 1-series, which forgoes the longitudinal engine mounting of today’s second-generation model for a space-saving transversely mounted engine.
The move is set to provide the new 1-series with a lower kerb weight and improved packaging, together with simplified production processes and greater profitability than its rear-wheel-drive predecessor.
The new rival to the Audi A3 is the first model to be based on BMW’s front-wheel-drive FAAR (Frontantriebsarchitektur) platform. According to BMW’s head of development, Klaus Fröhlich, this structure is a progression of the UKL platform that underpins the 2-series Active Tourer and 2-series Gran Tourer, as well as the existing Mini line-up, but with added modularity and the flexibility to support full-electric drivetrain and battery combinations.
Despite the switch to BMW’s latest front-wheel-drive platform, the exterior styling of the new 1-series is set to retain the cab-back influences that have distinguished it from rivals since its addition to the BMW line-up in 2004.
The new 1-series hatchback will be powered by updated versions of today’s turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engines. The more powerful versions are planned to adopt a particulate filter in an attempt to reduce CO2 emissions to a model-line-specific average of less than 120g/km, according to BMW engineering sources.
BMW has future-proofed the new 1-series by providing it with at least one mild-hybrid drivetrain in the form of a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine fitted with an integrated starter motor and 48V electric system. BMW is also readying a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid variant of its new entry-level hatchback.