What is it?
There’s only one place to start when discussing the new fourth-generation BMW 1 Series: at the front. As opposed to the rear. Because the front is where you’ll find its driven wheels.
That’s a fundamental shift. Since the first-generation 1 Series was launched in 2004, it has been rear-wheel drive, a layout long viewed as an essential part of BMW’s ‘ultimate driving machine’ philosophy. Worth talking about, then, right?
Except Peter Langen, BMW’s driving dynamic boss, would rather not. “I would like not to discuss with customers whether it’s a front-wheel-drive car or a rear-wheel-drive car,” he says. Instead, he simply wants people to talk about how the new 1 Series is better than the old one, because “every new BMW has to be a better car in terms of drivability”.
BMW research suggests the bulk of 1 Series buyers don’t care – or even know – whether the car is front- or rear-wheel drive: they simply want a family hatch with BMW’s blend of premium style and comfort.
What those buyers do care about is space – and they want more of it. Because of its rear-drive architecture, the 1 Series simply hasn’t been able to match front-driven rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi A3 for space, particularly in the back and boot. Hence the shift to front drive for the new, F40-generation model.