BMW traditionalists may not like it, but it’s no secret that Munich is working on a front wheel drive sub-1-Series model — and we’ve caught it testing.
Thought to get the 1-Series badge in order to offer a range of options at the lower end of BMW’s range, some rumours are suggesting it might also get the ‘GT’ moniker to fit with the higher riding stance. We’re not so sure, as elsewhere across the BMW range the GranTurismo version indicates an up-scale alternative to the saloon of the same number series (5-Series currently, soon to be joined by a similalrly positioned 3-Series GT). This model is different, slotting in below the existing 1-Series cars. It will come as a three and five door hatch and an estate.
In fact, underneath the usual signature BMW styling cues that we expect, it’s not really a 1-Series at all but a reskinned MINI, sharing, as it does, the next generation MINI’s underpinnings. The engines include a 1.5 litre three cylinder petrol engine and four cylinder 2.0 litre petrol and diesel units; all BMW engines of the future are based around a common 500cc cylinder capacity. The engines in this car will be transversely mounted, unlike all other BMW badged cars. There won’t be any six cylinder models, but a range topper could well carry a 2.0 litre turbo petrol to rival the Volkswagen Golf GTi.
And it’s the Golf and Audi A3 that BMW has in its sights with this car — both of which are front wheel drive. Research by BMW has shown that 80 per cent of 1-Series drivers actually believe their cars are front wheel drive anyway, so whereas it may uncomfortable for many to see a front driving BMW, the company believes the market is ready for it (or apathetic to it).
Expect a UK on sale date of 2013. Prices are yet to be confirmed but the model will slot in below the nely launched rear wheel drive 1-Series models, which start at £18,000.