The next 1 Series is described by a high-ranking official as a distinct turning point for the German car maker, which last year surrendered the global luxury car sales lead to its key rival, Mercedes-Benz, for the second consecutive year.
The M130iX hot hatch will be a crucial part of the overhaul to front-wheel drive as BMW tries to prove that it can offer a credible front-driven performance model alongside its traditionally successful rear-wheel-drive M cars.
Currently in the early stages of development, the BMW M division’s future competitor to the Volkswagen Golf R, Audi S3 and upcoming Mercedes-AMG A35 is scheduled for launch in 2020. It will feature specially tuned version of BMW’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, developing around 300bhp, together with a multi-plate-clutch xDrive four-wheel-drive system.
BMW controversially halted a long tradition of rear-drive and four-wheel-drive models with the introduction of the 2 Series Active Tourer in 2014 and the subsequent launch of the larger 2 Series Gran Tourer in 2015. The car maker now plans to bolster its front-wheel drive line-up with the new 1 Series, which forgoes the longitudinal engine mounting of today’s second-generation model for a space-saving transversely mounted engine.
The move is set to provide the new 1 Series with a lower kerb weight and improved packaging, together with simplified production processes and greater profitability than its rear-wheel-drive predecessor.
Nothing is official just yet, although BMW production experts suggest the new model will offer savings of up to €750 (about £660) compared with its more complex predecessor.
With 91,802 sales in the first half of 2017, the 1 Series is among BMW’s best-selling ranges worldwide. It also attracts the youngest buyers of all BMW models, making it a particularly important model for the future development of the brand.