The car will play an integral role in meeting BMW’s ambitious worldwide sales target of two million cars a year by 2020, and should become one of the firm’s best sellers in key saloon markets such as North America and China.
It could go on sale as early as 2015 and will undercut BMW’s perennial best-seller, the 3-series saloon, on price.
Before the four-door 1-series arrives, however, BMW will launch successors to today’s first-generation 1-series coupé and convertible, codenamed F22 and F23 respectively and due in 2014.
Central among BMW’s decision to push ahead with a 1-series saloon are the ever-increasing dimensions of the 3-series saloon. Since its introduction in 1975, it has grown by 269mm in length, 210mm in width and 49mm in height, taking it into a higher market segment.
Using a rear-wheel drive platform that shares some key elements with the latest, sixth-generation 3-series should ensure a sporting drive for the 1-series saloon.
The decision to adopt this rear-drive layout comes despite the creation of a new front-drive platform to be shared with Mini. It will be used for a new 1-series GT model in 2013, a rival to the Mercedes-Benz B-class and next year’s third-generation Mini.
Four and six-cylinder engines will feature in the 1-series saloon line-up, while an all-electric version is also under consideration. Four-wheel drive will be an option.
Initially, the four-door 1-series will be built alongside hatchback, coupé and convertible models in Leipzig, Germany. In the longer term, it could also be built at BMW’s Shenyang plant in China and a new facility earmarked for Santa Catarina, Brazil.