BMW is preparing to break with tradition and launch its first-ever front-wheel-drive model at September’s Paris Motor Show.
Likely to be badged 1 Series GT, the newcomer – seen here in our exclusive images – will be based on the same platform as the next-generation MINI (on sale next year), and pitched as a more practical and cheaper-to-run alternative to the 1 Series hatch.
Dr Klaus Draeger, BMW board member and head of supply and purchasing, told Auto Express: “A front-wheel-drive BMW will definitely come. We have a lot of experience. We know how to make the car turn-in sharply to corners and we know how to tune the steering so that there isn’t much torque steer.” And when we asked him directly if there will be a new front-wheel-drive BMW at the Paris show, he said: “I am not going to contradict you!”
In order to differentiate the new car from both the existing 1 Series and the new MINI, BMW is planning to make this a more practical compact MPV-style model, in a similar mould to the Mercedes B-Class. The new platform is both lighter and slightly larger than the current MINI’s. It’s versatile, too, so the BMW will have an elevated driving position while MINI drivers will sit lower for a sportier feel.
Each marque will offer its front-drive models with three and four-cylinder engines in both petrol and diesel forms, but the BMW versions will always retain a power advantage. Even the company’s smallest 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbodiesel will boast 100bhp-plus.
A source revealed: “The car will have to fit with BMW’s traditions, which means it will still be fast with good handling – so 100bhp is a bare minimum. The MINI versions will be less powerful.”
The engines are all based around BMW’s modular system, which means the 1.5-litre petrols will share the same 500cc-per-cylinder unit as the 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinders. There will be 1.5-litre three-cylinder and 2.0 four-cylinder petrol engines, which will retain strong family ties to their rear-drive siblings, plus a 1.5 three-cylinder and a 2.0 four-cylinder turbodiesel.
Another difference between the BMW and the new MINI will be that the front-drive 1 Series will deliver its power through either a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic, while MINI will use a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto, sourced from ZF.
BMW is planning both hybrid and fully electric versions of the front-drive 1 Series, although neither will be available at the car’s launch next year.