30 April 2004

BMW is planning to launch up to six variants of its new 1-series as it sets about establishing itself in Europe’s fast growing premium small-car class.

So far, BMW has only unveiled the five-door hatchback, which goes on sale this autumn. It will be joined by a three-door hatchback, cabriolet, coupé and estate – all depicted in our artist’s impressions – and perhaps even a compact MPV in coming years, 1-series project leader Gerd Schuster told Autocar. Five-door hatchback: September 2004

Spearheading the 1-series range at launch in September is the recently revealed five-door. Driven by Autocar in prototype form last month, the baby BMW will be priced from £15,500 to around £20,000. The 1-series will be unique in the small-car segment with BMW’s continuing reliance on rear-wheel drive. Although it heavily compromises cabin space, it should make the One the best-handling small car on sale. Our brief first drive confirmed that it will indeed set a new class standard.

Engines on offer will include 114bhp 1.6 (116i) and 148bhp 2.0-litre (120i) four-cylinder petrol units. Diesels choices are a pair of 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged common-rail engines delivering 121bhp in low boost form (118d) and a solid 161bhp in the 120d. BMW will add at least one six-cylinder engine to the 1-series, although this is unlikely to happen until ’06.

The five-door begins a new chapter in BMW’s controversial design book. It mixes the now-familiar convex and concave surfacing in a new, smaller package – carving a distinctive look in the premium small-car sector. Other derivatives will share its design language and BMW hopes it will work to steal sales away from more sober rivals, such as the Audi A3 and VW Golf.

Inside, the One will be more conventional, with a clean, Z4-inspired dashboard and minimal clutter. A simplified version of BMW’s iDrive multi-function controller will be offered on higher-spec models.

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Three-door hatchback: July 2005

Less than six months after the five-door arrives, BMW’s 1-series’ ranks will be extended with the addition of a sporty three-door hatchback. Exterior dimensions, interior layout and luggage capacity will be virtually the same as the five-door’s. Expect BMW to place more emphasis on sportiness with the creation of M-Sport styling kits. Cabriolet: March 2006

Previewed by the 2002 Geneva Motor Show’s CSI concept, the cabriolet will be the first BMW to adopt 2-series badges. The move is in keeping with the new badge strategy of reserving even numbers for niche coupés and cabriolets (like the existing 6-series, and next-generation 3-series two-door to be called 4-series).

In keeping with BMW tradition, the 2-series cabriolet will receive a sturdy multi-layered fabric hood boasting full electric operation in all models. Initial plans for a folding hard-top arrangement were ditched on weight-saving grounds.

Despite being billed as a four-seater, rear-seat legroom is likely to be restricted – as is boot space, which is said to drop to less than 200 litres when the hood is stowed in a dedicated space behind the rear seats.

With a projected price of around £22,000, the new open-top won’t exactly be cheap. Still, the allure of the BMW badge should ensure it becomes a hit with buyers. Not that the 2-series cabriolet will have it all its own way. Autocar understands Mercedes-Benz is planning to counter with a cabriolet version of its second-generation C-class Sports Coupé in 2008.

Coupé: September 2006 Following the cabriolet into showrooms will be the car BMW insiders describe as the true spiritual successor to the 2002: the 2-series coupé.

Sharing the same styling as the 2-series cabriolet, the new two-door will be the sportiest of BMW’s new baby family. This is the car that’s tipped to form the basis of a new Audi S3-challenging M2 from BMW’s M-division.

Estate: March 2007

Helping to keep first-generation 1-series sales on the boil mid-way into its planned six-year lifecycle will be a compact estate. More lifestyle statement than out-and-out load lugger, the 1-series Touring will arrive towards the end of 2006 and will compete directly with the forthcoming Audi A3 Sportback.

Saloon/MPV: ?

Not yet approved but under intensive investigation in Munich are a saloon and roomy MPV based around the 1-series’ rear-wheel-drive underpinnings.

The sixth bodystyle hasn’t yet been chosen and officials are deciding between two options: a traditional notch-back saloon or an MPV-style vehicle. One BMW official described the MPV choice as a ‘high-seat’ vehicle. Watch this space.

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