Currently reading: BMW to go front-drive
New small premium car is on the way, and it could share Mini platform and be built in UK

BMW is set to introduce a new front-wheel-drive entry-level model, positioned and priced beneath the existing 1-series and using shared Mini hardware, according to the firm's chairman Norbert Reithofe.

The new model is being developed as part of plans to help increase parts sharing and bolster the potential for production savings between the BMW and Mini brands, thus bringing an end to the era of rear and four-wheel drive-only BMW models.

Speaking to Autocar at the last week's Geneva motor show, Reithofer said internal BMW studies revealed that, despite the downturn in the world’s economy, there is continued demand for what he described as "premium vehicles" in the small car class.

He then officially acknowledged plans that will see BMW producing a rival to the recently unveiled Audi A1 and a new Smart Forfour presently under development at rival Mercedes-Benz.

"We will be extending the BMW and Mini brands into the small car segment with new models and variants," said Reithofer.

Being careful to separate the new price-leading front-wheel-drive model from BMW's upcoming city car - a totally different project as part of its Mega City Vehicle electric car initiative - Reithofer added, "For these new vehicles [the new BMW and Mini] we are developing a common architecture for both front and four-wheel drive."

While exact details remain shrouded in secrecy, Autocar can confirm the new entry-level BMW has been conceived to run the same front-wheel-drive underpinnings as the next-generation Mini Cooper.

The new Mini Cooper is not due out until 2014, but the small BMW could be on UK roads as early as 2013 as part of a major thrust by the company to become the undisputed sales leader in the premium small car class.

Plans to base the new entry-level BMW on the same platform as the Mini Cooper also raise the question of where the new car would be built. Although BMW is being vague, Autocar understands the new car could be built alongside the Mini Cooper in Oxford, using a new generation of petrol and diesel engines sourced from BMW's engine plant in Hams Hall.

Studies are also under way that could result in the new platform structure referred to by Reithofer being used for future generations of the 1-series - although BMW is still undecided on whether the third-generation model, due in 2018, will be front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive.

"We are looking at alternatives," a Munich insider told Autocar. "With the new platform set to support four-wheel drive, it wouldn't be that hard to use the transmission tunnel for a rear-wheel-drive application."

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RobotBoogie 17 March 2010

Re: BMW to go front-drive

julianlee wrote:
this is very bad

Nah, the war in Afghanistan is very bad. This is just a car maker messing around.

julianlee 17 March 2010

Re: BMW to go front-drive

this is very bad

drivenfromthere... 10 March 2010

Re: BMW to go front-drive

Why all the worry?

Makes perfect sence for small cars. You can't be serious in thinking the MINI / Swift Sport / Clio 200 / Panda 100HP / Twingo 133 et al are duffers in the driving dept?

For goodness sake too, take a Mondeo out for a spin and you'll realise even larger cars can be good to drive.

I know you may be wondering why I am not bothered by this with my name being as it is but RWD will always be around and BMW will probably only use this layout for its smallest vehicles.

As one poster has already said, most of the buying public don't even notice the difference.

However I prefer the RWD as there is nothing better than feeling the edge of adhesion at the rear, I will never tire of it. There will always be a car for me in my lifetime, even if it's S/H.

BMW certainly know how to set up FWD, however much you may hate its MINI you seriously can't have driven it if you think it's bad to drive, you are badly mistaken.

Brand dilution? Walk from one end of a Mercedes dealership to another. Cost differential? Couple of Hundred Grand?

Do me a favour, if you are that bothered about seing a FWD BMW pull up to you at the lights when in your Gizmo'd 7 then spare a thought to the unfortunate in a 599 when a "Ferrari'd" 500 pulls alongside. Fancy that! Oh the shame!