Exclusive artist's impression; full details of new 2011 model
24 January 2009

BMW will increase the reach and appeal of the 1-series with additional body styles, a range of performance variants, frugal new petrol engines and advanced fuel-saving tech when it launches the second-generation model in 2011.

Depicted here in Autocar’s exclusive computer-generated images, the new 1-series, known internally under the codename F20, will again be underpinned by volume-selling three and five-door hatchback models.

But BMW will also introduce four new variants. Alongside successors to today’s two-door coupé and cabriolet, there will be a new roadster, the Z2, which could also be built as a small coupé model.

This is a car BMW has been thinking about building for more than a decade and it now appears to be on the blocks, no doubt influenced by VW’s recent decision to put its BlueSport concept into production.

“By taking the Z4 even further upmarket in its current iteration, we have created sufficient space at the bottom of the line-up for a second dedicated roadster,” said a source inside BMW Germany.

Also under consideration, but yet to be given the go-ahead, is a small estate aimed at plugging the gap between the 1-series and soon-to-be-launched X1 soft-roader; this could become the 1-series equivalent of the new 5-series GT.

BMW is thought to be working on another all-new variant, which could be badged the Y1. The concept is still vague, but it could be heavily influenced by the controversial X-Coupé concept from 2001.

There are also suggestions that the firm is developing a new four-door saloon with a 1-series silhouette, a car described by Munich insiders as a genuine successor to the original 2002. It would be aimed at further penetrating the North American market.

As car buyers increasingly choose smaller, more fuel-efficient models, BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer has vowed to make the 1-series a key component in the company’s growth plans, in which it has targeted two million sales annually by 2020.

An internal sales strategy for the F20 has already been created that will pitch it more closely than today’s 1-series against some of Europe’s best sellers, including the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. The aim is global annual 1-series sales of up to 300,000 by 2013, increasing to 400,000 by 2015.

Despite recent rumours linking the 1-series to BMW’s Megacity project, which will create a range of models for city use, that idea has been denied by Klaus Draeger, BMW’s head of research and development.

“The Megacity is based around its own unique platform structure and production processes,” he said. “The requirements don’t dovetail with existing architectures.”

So as with today’s 1-series, the 2011 model features a modular platform with BMW’s traditional longitudinal engine layout, aspects of which are set to be shared with the next-gen 3-series. Together with standard rear-wheel drive -a feature that will continue to set the 1-series apart from all of its hatchback rivals - BMW is also considering adding four-wheel drive by using the system developed for the X1.

But the biggest news is the new turbocharged three-cylinder engine that will be fitted to entry-level models. It is expected to replace today’s normally aspirated 1.6-litre engine and forms an integral part of BMW’s future Efficient Dynamics programme.

Sources inside BMW’s R&D centre suggests the new engine delivers between 110bhp and 160bhp, depending on its state of tune. As a 110bhp unit it should be capable of delivering combined fuel consumption of over 70mpg and CO2 emissions of under 100g/km.

Also under development for the new 1-series is a turbocharged 1.6-litre powerplant. Replacing the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine, it will put out between 150bhp and 200bhp.

Less clear are BMW’s plans for six-cylinder versions of the 1-series. While European sales centre around four-cylinder models, the US market will almost certainly demand a straight-six petrol, in both naturally aspirated and twin-turbocharged forms.

The competitiveness of today’s diesels means there will be no major changes to the existing 2.0-litre unit, which develops 141bhp, 175bhp and (in twin-turbo form) 201bhp. Expect improvements in the injection process and modified exhaust for reduced NOx. BMW is also working on a smaller 1.6-litre oil-burner, but whether it will be complete in time for inclusion in the new 1-series at launch remains to be seen.

To further enhance the car’s sporting image, BMW plans to revive the evocative ‘ti’ badge for a series of performance models under development at the company’s M division.

Although it will fall short of being a full-blown M model, the new ti has been conceived along the lines of one of BMW’s most revered models: the E30 M3. Powering the Golf R-rivalling model is a new turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine. Insiders suggest it can deliver up to 300bhp, but it is likely to be tuned at around 250bhp.

Greg Kable

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