New entry-level model to mix next-gen Mini platform with 1-series badging

BMW will abandon decades of tradition and launch its first front-wheel-drive hatchbacks in 2013 as new entry-level models to its range.

The new cars will be based on the next-generation Mini platform and be positioned below the 1-series, which will continue in production as a rear-drive family of hatches and saloons.

BMW's 'small premium' rivals

Surprisingly, the new front-drive hatches are also tipped to carry 1-series badges, giving buyers the choice of BMW’s entry level with either front or rear-wheel drive.

Despite carrying the same badges, the two families of models will be distinguished by unique sheetmetal and price positioning; the rear-drive car will be pitched higher in price and quality than its front-drive stablemate.

Despite the clear overlap with the Mini, BMW is not concerned that its own front-wheel drive models will cannibalise sales of the third generation of the British car, due in 2014.

“Both brands possess a clear and individual image,” a BMW insider told Autocar, pointing to the sales success Volkswagen and Audi have achieved with both the Golf and A3. “Our research shows BMW and Mini appeal to different buyers.”

Just as VW and Audi appeal to different audiences, BMW will aim its front-drive and rear-drive 1-series at different buyers.

The front-drive model will be designed to attract new customers to the brand. The BMW source said, “We want a car that will appeal to non-BMW buyers with a focus on roominess and interior flexibility, yet like our existing entry-level model it will be fun to drive and cheap to run.”

The first of the new front-drive BMWs to appear in UK showrooms will be a tall five-door, five-seat hatchback, a rival for the upcoming Audi A2 and next-gen Mercedes A-class. It will offer the sort of interior space and overall practicality not found in the rear-drive 1-series.

The keys to the front-drive car’s spaciousness are a transversely mounted engine and gearbox. These have allowed engineers to create an uncharacteristically short bonnet for a BMW. This flows into A-pillars positioned well forward of the front wheel arches.

The altered front-end architecture helps to free up cabin space by moving the bulkhead closer to the front axle than in any existing BMW model.

The driving position also moves forward within the wheelbase, and the seat is positioned higher to give a more commanding view of the road.

While we’ve yet to get a glimpse of the new car’s exterior design - prototypes are not planned to start testing until this time next year - it is already clear that the looks of the first of BMW’s front-drive models will be quite different from those of next year’s second-gen 1-series.

A second model under development at BMW’s FIZ R&D centre in Munich is a more sporting variant, conceived to go head to head with the soon-to-be-launched Audi A1.

Clothed in a sleeker body — BMW is undecided on whether it will offer both a three and five-door or just a three-door — the second of the front-drive models is aimed at typical BMW customers looking for a less expensive alternative to the 1-series.

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Comments
43

14 May 2010

How about renaming the current 1 series the "2 series" to create room for this FWD one... At least it's a better idea than naming something a "X6 xDrive550 GT your wife is sleeping with her personal trainer"...

14 May 2010

I really don't understand what section of the market this will fit in...

Is it a rival for the Audi A1 and Alfa MiTo etc, or is it a comeptitor for the Audi A3 and next Mercedes A-Class?

Either way there is going to be some overlap.

Also I very much doubt this will be called the 1-series if they are going to offer it alongside the RWD 1-series with differing styling, I'll eat my hat if that happens! Two very different cars with the same name would be odd to say the least.

14 May 2010

Call it a 1603, seems the most obvious, 1600cc and 3 doors etc, they have done it before, 2002.

14 May 2010

"Call it a 1603, seems the most obvious"

Call it a Golf.

14 May 2010

Call it "abandoned principles!"

I just love the way BMW always said they'd never make a FWD car because "the front wheels should only have to deal with turning the car"

Yet here they are, selling out!

If it's based on the Mini it won't even have a BMW engine!

More good reasons why I'd never buy one!

14 May 2010

[quote mantaray]

Call it "abandoned principles!"

I just love the way BMW always said they'd never make a FWD car because "the front wheels should only have to deal with turning the car"

Yet here they are, selling out!

If it's based on the Mini it won't even have a BMW engine!

More good reasons why I'd never buy one!

[/quote]

They are not selling out just like any business there to make money and responding to changes in the market. RWD is not as economical as FWD both in terms of space utilisation and fuel consumption and production cost. Th latest engines are designed for both FWD and RWD applications and yes some will go into both the Mini and smaller BMW's. Mini is currently finalising the testing of a Mini with the current BM N47 derv lump to go into a Cooper SD and will use the new 3 cyclinder petrol and diesel engines in the next gen Mini.

Unless you drive on the limit behind the wheel you would not really notice a good FWD car compared to RWD and that is BMW's thinking. Make a more spacious, cheaper to build car that offers lower Co2 and improved mpg and buyers will still flock. As the RWD fanboys are a small % of the actaul average BMW buyer. Good business sense especially with the A3 and Golf outselling the current 1 Series.

14 May 2010

Is it not more likely that the existing 1-series will be discontinued when this new one arrives, and that this business of FWD and RWD alternatives is just a corporate smokescreen to maintain interest in the current model (which will be looking very old by 2013).

14 May 2010

Strangely i like the look of this one, it is a lot more plaesing on the eye than the current 1 series.

The trouble is unless its very competatively priced i think people will still head for the current crop of hot superminis, as i suspect this will head into serious money territory if you wish to have a decent spec and a hot version, probably £20K+

14 May 2010

Radical?

Only for BMW

They are becoming an automotive Tesco, a finger in every pie

14 May 2010

[quote Calibra V6]

Strangely i like the look of this one, it is a lot more plaesing on the eye than the current 1 series.

[/quote]

Probably because it is an Autocar sketch, not a BMW design. Chances are BMW will mess it up by the time it gets to production. Every magazine sketch of a predicted new BMW since Bangle started looked better than the real thing.

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