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.
BMW: six new front-wheel-drive models to look out for
The new rival to the Audi A3 is the first model to be based on BMW’s front-wheel-drive FAAR (Frontantriebsarchitektur) platform. According to BMW’s head of development, Klaus Fröhlich, this structure is a progression of the UKL platform that underpins the 2 Series Active Tourer and 2 Series Gran Tourer, as well as the existing Mini line-up, but with added modularity and the flexibility to support full-electric drivetrain and battery combinations.
It won’t be the first front-wheel-drive 1 Series model, though. That distinction goes to the 1 Series saloon (pictured below), which is based on the existing UKL platform and produced in a joint venture between BMW and Brilliance at a factory in Shenyang, China. Although it was initially considered for sale in export markets as a rival to the likes of the A3 saloon and upcoming Mercedes A-Class saloon, it will not form part of the third-generation line-up in European markets, according to BMW.
Instead, BMW is lining up a new front-wheel-drive four-door sister model to the new three-door and five-door 1 Series hatchback models that is likely to be called 2 Series Gran Turismo.
Set for a launch in 2020, it is aimed at a niche currently occupied by the Mercedes-Benz CLA with what is described as a “more expressive design” than the existing 1 Series.
As well as supporting front-wheel drive, the new FAAR platform has been engineered to offer four-wheel drive with a lower weight penalty than that of the existing 1 Series’ rear-wheel-drive-based structure. Although it is still early days, insiders suggest four-wheel drive will add some 55kg to the weight of equivalent front-wheel-drive models.
BMW M2 Gran Coupé due next year with 365bhp to rival Audi RS3 saloon
Despite the switch to BMW’s latest front-wheel-drive platform, the exterior styling of the new 1 Series is set to retain the cab-back influences that have distinguished it from rivals since its addition to the BMW line-up in 2004.