Currently reading: New York motor show: BMW Concept Active Tourer
Hatchback showcases first ever BMW front-wheel drive platform
4 mins read
27 March 2013

BMW has abandoned its illustrious tradition of longitudinally mounted engines and rear-wheel drive with its Concept Active Tourer, a forerunner to the long-mooted range of front-drive entry-level BMWs.

A BMW insider has confirmed that the concept tourer would reach production imminently, with looks extremely close to that of the concept.

The five-door hatchback, on display at the New York motor show, is a plug-in hybrid with four-wheel drive. A transversely mounted engine drives the front wheels – an acknowledgment that entry-level BMWs from the new small car line-up will come with front-wheel drive – and the rear wheels are powered by an electric motor.

The platform is known as UKL1 and will be used in two wheelbase lengths both for the next-generation Mini line-up and the new range of entry-level BMWs to join the 1-series line-up from late 2013.

This range, designed to boost BMW’s annual sales volumes to two million by 2020, will include a new MPV previewed by the Concept Active Tourer to rival the Mercedes B-class and Volkswagen Golf Plus.

The Concept Active Tourer showcases BMW’s new 1.5-litre three-cylinder direct injection petrol engine that will be a staple of the small BMW and Mini line-ups. Codenamed B38, it will also be used in the i8 sports car where it is installed longitudinally.

The twin-scroll turbocharged engine is from a new modular family that will eventually support three, four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel powerplants boasting up to 60 per cent component commonality for more flexible production than today’s engines.

In the concept, the engine is supported by an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack mounted in the floor and drive is channeled to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Combined power is put at 188bhp. In all-electric mode, the concept is rear-drive. 

BMW claims 0-62mph in “less than 8.0sec”, a top speed “around 120mph” along with combined economy of “more than 113mpg”, a CO2 rating of “under 60g/km” and electric only range of up to 18 miles. No weight figures have been announced.

The UKL1 platform is engineered for both front- and all-wheel drive layouts. UKL1 is derived from the German words ‘unter klasse’, meaning sub class or entry level.

The switch to front-wheel drive is an about turn for BMW, which has always said longitudinal engine layouts provide better weight distribution and a more dynamic drive. It also makes a mockery of some previous BMW advertising campaigns, but the about turn is driven by the need to reduce production costs and provide competitive packaging for a new generation of small cars.


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The underpinnings make the handsome Concept Active Tourer an uncharacteristically proportioned BMW. It has a short bonnet, high roof line and angle tailgate, but dressed in a contemporary skin that insiders hint won’t change too much for production. Concept car features include 20in alloys, but 16in wheels are tipped to be offered as standard.

Although likely be badged as the 1-series GT in production trim, the new car owes little to the look of the latest 1-series hatchback. Instead, the Concept Active Tourer uses details that align it more with the 5-series GT – a signal that BMW is attempting to provide its new GT models with a family look in a move similar to its more rugged X models.

The concept's principle designer, Michael de Bono, says the design aims to combine the agility of a small hatchback with the  practicality of the 3-series Touring. He also says the new layout redefines the perception of BMW sportiness, creating a  "new agility."

It features a range of innovative functions that de Bono says could make production. These include: an 'air breather' that sucks air from the wheel wells; active aero within the kidney grille that can close during motorway cruising; lightweight wheels that use aerodynamic blades to lessen wind resistance; and "big leaps" in front and rear infotainment integration. He adds that parts of the design will influence the wider BMW family, not just those on the new UKL1 platform.

At 4353mm in length, 1834mm in width and 1560mm in height, the five-seat Concept Active Tourer is 6mm shorter, 49mm wider and 5mm taller than the second-generation Mercedes B-class. Its 2760mm wheelbase is 30mm shorter than the B-class’s.

As with the exterior, the interior design differs from that of BMW’s more traditional rear wheel drive models, aiming to take full advantage of the packaging improvements offered by its transverse engine layout. Michael de Bono comments that the front-drive platform allows the car's interior to be opened up to  all occupants, rather than being specifically driver-orientated.

While the concept car uses an opulent mix of materials, expect the production to boast a level of perceived quality in line with 1-series.

The front seats are raised to a height comparable to that of the BMW X1.  The rear seat folds to extend boot space in 40:20:40 split, while a table can be erected on the rear of the front seat backs to extend the concept car’s practicality.

Click here for more New York motor show 2013 news.

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14 September 2012

That's got a nice, desirable ring to it....

And not sure I want to buy a car that is set up dynamicaly for front-wheel, rear-wheel and four-wheel drive all at the same time. Sounds like a dynamic disaster waiting to happen.

BMW needs to decide whether its front drive or not, this 'solution' is a dogs dinner.

The dogs dinner theme continues with the styling. It's like that Honda 6-sear MPV thing, especially from the rear. Hardly attractive, and definitely not a BMW.


14 September 2012

I... i think i like it. I guess i'm an Old now. Damnit.

But on a serious note, this looks much more attractive ( to my eyes at least ) than the regular 1er. BMW should seriously consider aligning the looks of the hatch with this when the inevitable re styling comes along. Still, it's a shame that there's little chance of this getting an inline 6 under the bonnet.

14 September 2012

tuga wrote:

I... i think i like it. I guess i'm an Old now. Damnit.

But on a serious note, this looks much more attractive ( to my eyes at least ) than the regular 1er. BMW should seriously consider aligning the looks of the hatch with this when the inevitable re styling comes along.

completely agree - get rid of the ridiculously oversized doe-eyed headlights that the new 1 series has that were designed to appeal to women, and get a set of these smaller more aggressive better looking headlights, much more what a BMW should be. The new 1 might be a half decent looker then.

14 September 2012

This looks really good... Kind of reminds me of Honda FRV which in my point of view was a boxy looking car which at the same time, looked interesting.

I also like the different possibilities with its drive trains, full hybrids and so-on.  The performance figures are impressive!  

(0-62mph in “less than 8.0sec”, a top speed “around 120mph” along with combined economy of “more than 113mpg”, a CO2 rating of “under 60g/km” and electric only range of up to 18 miles)

It is interesting to see BMW eyeing on the compact MPV type market- I guess it's inevitable.

 If it has the right price, it will sell like hot cakes.



14 September 2012

It is very reminicent of the Honda FRV, as mentioned above, but is none the worse for it.  It's actually a very attractive car, and makes you wonder why the regular 1-series is such a pig to look at.  How can BMW get it so wrong with one and so right with another?

14 September 2012

This could be really useful for those who do lots of short journeys such as school runs every day potentially just on electric power alone as well as some longer trips providing the weight doesn't make motorway progress unbearable. No doubt this will save money at the pumps but will be interesting to see if the depreciation and cost of replacement lithium - ion battery packs outweigh any advantages. 113 m.p.g. sounds very tempting though. Well done to BMW with this design I hope they have success with it.  Does any other car manufacturer make anything comparable? 

14 September 2012

Well, I think this is surprisingly good looking! Much better than the B-Class

14 September 2012

I wonder why BMW wont be offering a 5 cylinder engine to fill the gap between its 2.0 & 3.0 motors ?

14 September 2012

Mostly I like the sat nav's optimistically planned route around Place de l'Étoile.




14 September 2012

I do not normally like BMW products, but this does look very promising, If they can manage to provide a good driving position with comfortable seats and ride (something BMW are not normally very good at) then they may attract a whole new range of customers. Few of these new customers will be concerned that it is FWD rather than RWD. A diesel 4WD version would also appeal.


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