These are the first spy pictures of BMW’s new front-wheel drive GT version of the BMW 1-series.
This more practical five-door version of the 1-series, scooped here in initial tests in Germany ahead of a 2014 market launch, will major on space, featuring a high roof and an interior with enough space for four adults and their luggage.
It rides on BMW Group’s all-new UKL1 platform. The architecture will underpin the third-generation BMW Mini family (with F56, the standard three-door hatchback, expected to be shown late next year), as well as BMW 1-series models.
The BMW 1-series GT is likely to preceed an estate version aimed at stealing sales from the popular Audi A3 Sportback. This will also use the UKL1 platform as its base.
It’s widely expected that there could eventually be up to 20 individual BMW and Mini-badged models on UKL1, including small roadsters.
The platform will use MacPherson struts up front and BMW’s signature Z-axle at the rear. Four-wheel drive will also be offered, opening the way for a small BMW SUV slightly larger than today’s Mini Countryman.
BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer announced the plans for a range of front-drive cars at the firm’s annual results press conference in March 2010. He said the new platform would allow BMW to “achieve its profitability aims in the small-car sector”.
Klaus Draeger, head of development, said BMW could eventually build between 600,000 and 800,000 front-drive cars annually without co-operating with another brand.
Reithofer estimated that the premium small car market would grow annually by four to six per cent every year until 2020. The company is also estimating that, by 2020, the average CO2 emissions of its entire new car fleet will be just 117g/km, a figure driven down by the new range of baby BMW and Mini models.
And from 2018, Munich planners intend to switch the bulk of 1-series to front-wheel drive for the third-gen model. The exceptions will be the coupé, cabrio and a new saloon, the first time a three-box four-door will feature in the 1-series line-up.
These models will stick with rear-wheel drive largely because the bulk of sales will be in the US, but also to allow convincing performance spin-offs. BMW’s new compact saloon will rival the Audi A3 saloon (previewed at the Geneva show in March), the new front-drive Mercedes CLC 4dr and VW Jetta.