New 2018 BMW 1 Series to go front-wheel drive

9 Jun, 2014 1:30pm Jack Rix

Exclusive: new looks, new tech and front-wheel drive for next-generation BMW 1 Series due in 2018

The BMW 1 Series has always been a hit in the UK, ranking as 2013’s ninth best-selling car, with 41,883 finding homes. But despite its success, the company is planning a complete rethink for the next generation of its sporty, rear-drive hatch, due in 2018. Our exclusive image shows how the car could look and there are more pics in this week's Auto Express magazine.

Following the lead of its Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class rivals (both also set for replacement in 2018), the MkIII 1 Series will be front-wheel drive, with more powerful versions featuring xDrive four-wheel drive. 

1 Series to join growing range of FWD BMWs

Driving enthusiasts might be up in arms, but BMW is confident most customers won’t be able to tell. A poll in 2010 found around 80 per cent of 1 Series drivers wrongly assumed their cars were front-wheel drive. And cars like the new MINI and Ford Fiesta ST have proven front-drive can be as much fun as rear-drive. Regardless of where power is sent, the 1 Series will look sharper and sportier with the slimmer LED lights and a sharper grille. 

The 1 Series won’t be the first front-wheel-drive BMW, of course – that will be the 2 Series Active Tourer MPV, which we’ll drive next month, while the new X1 (due in 2015) will be offered with front or four-wheel drive. All three of these mould-breaking BMWs will be based on the new UKL1 architecture that already underpins the new three and five-door MINIs.

2018 BMW 1 Series to be bigger with more space

Expect the 1 Series’ wheelbase to be stretched even further than the 2,567mm of the five-door MINI, creating more space in the back than at present and a bigger boot – it’s currently 360 litres or 1,200 litres with the rear seats folded. 

Yet even though the new 1 Series will be slightly bigger, it’s expected to be lighter. Removing the propshaft (which is necessary for rear-wheel drive) alone is likely to save 30kg, while greater use of aluminium in the body will cut more kilos, improving handling and economy. To distance the 1 Series from the MINI, we expect BMW to tune the chassis on standard cars more for comfort than ‘go-kart handling’.

4x4 BMW M1 super hatch in the pipeline?

Using the UKL1 platform allows BMW to employ its new modular family of turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder and 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines – several have already debuted in the new MINI. Expect the most efficient three-cylinder diesel to return well over 70mpg and emit less than 100g/km of CO2. Topping the range could be a four-wheel-drive M1 hatch, using a 2.0-litre petrol twin-turbo (possibly with an e-boost system to spin up the smaller turbo instantly) with around 360bhp – enough to eclipse Mercedes’ 355bhp A45 AMG

As well as the three and five-door, a Mercedes CLA-rivalling 1 Series saloon is expected, plus replacements for the 2 Series coupe and Convertible. At launch in 2018, the 1 Series will not only rival all-new versions of the A-Class and A3, but also the Infiniti Q30 and the posh replacement for Volvo’s V40, due in 2016.

For more exclusive images of the next BMW 1 Series, buy this week's new issue of Auto Express magazine or click here to subscribe and get six issues for just £1.

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r.i.p

Sensible decision. Get rid of the huge transmission tunnel, increase rear storage space, simplify manufacture and servicing, get better handling for normal driving - especially in slippery conditions.

It's all very well the nerds banging on about RWD handling, but even the most basic cars have more than capable handling for sensible road driving these days, so if you want a car to enjoy RWD handling on the track, buy a proper sports car. 1 series looks out of place on a track day anyway.

I wonder if we'll still get offset pedals for RHD?

Nice car..

Agree with this - your average motorist who buys this type of vehicle doesn't really care anyway, and as you say, there are many mainstream FWD hatches which have excellent handling.

R.I.p. lol.

Bit surprised to read in the article that rear wheel drive vehicles have a propeller shaft. Unless they are electrically powered or rear engined they are not going to go very far without one!

Cross Eyed?

A transmission tunnel would still exist if it came with AWD.

A RWD small car, especially with a straight 6 is quite a unique thing to have around. That gave it the prestige, the identity, the purpose of it being a BMW, just like flat engines and AWD does with Subaru. A FWD 1-series would have real no selling point now, but a badge with a diluted meaning, that only shows you can afford a fancy car.

BMW seems like they are on a self detruct course, there whole ethos is, or was rear wheel drive, thats what they built there entire reputation on, they seem like they want to destroy all those years of hard work.....

Yeap, bang goes their unique selling point. People hopefully will start to realise that they are just very overpriced ordinary cars. Quite funny though that 80% of 1 series owner didn't know that they were rear wheel drive - says it all really about those who buy BMWs!!

So 80% didn't know their car was rear wheel drive, but rear wheel drive is the unique selling point. How do those two statements reconcile?

How many 1 series were sold with a straight 6 petrol? Most of them are 4 cylinder diesel. RWD doesn't really add anything for the average 1 series driver except make it tricky to drive on snow. Nothing will change. It's always been just a badge.

In the traditional configuration, yes. In a modern hybrid though, the rear power could be delivered electrically,

Or you mount the engine transverse, gearbox to one side and the transmission tunnel at the bulkhead is minimised.

Such a shame. I love my M135i, seems straight 6 RWD fun is over in this class.

To stay in Business you have to Expand your Range of Products/Models & Cut Costs & Maximise Profits Hence a Front Drive 1 Series, Most Car Manufacturers are Sharing Platform's & Engines Nowadays to Stay in Business & Stay Competitive, if Bmw just Made A 3 Series 5 Series & 7 Series I Believe & So do They & Many other people They would go out of Business because Millions of People wouldn't be Buying there Cars just The Type of people who buy Big Saloons Thats not Enough these Days, The VAG are in Partnership with Mercedes & BMW & Own Many other Marques They are showing BMW & MERCEDES how to Expand there Range & Share Platform's & Many other Parts, The CAR/VEHICLE Industry is a BIG Industry & Only Expanding & Buyers/Customers Want to be Different & Want to Personalise There Cars/Vehicles So the Manufacturers have to Realise this & They Now do Hence Sharing & Co Developing / Designing Cars/Vans etc Together, & Just Putting Different Styles & Badges & Colours on The Interiors & Exteriors, Many people are very fickle & Meterialistic Hence Why the Research Shows This 80% of 1 Series owners Didn't Even know what drive there Car Was, Plus there are More Woman the Men in Existence so The Need to be Different is More Apparent, Men usually are More Simple & Easily Pleased.

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Good lord, man. Perhaps people would read what you have to say if you didn't Type Like This And Used Some Punctuation.

BMW seem to have abandoned what made them great, just another car manufacturer now, which is madness in a world where even the Koreans and East Europeans can make good-quality A to B motors now...

Just as BMW goes FWD, Alfa will have RWD if all goes to plan. Sorry, Alfa, plan and going are mutually exclusive. In this sector, RWD is not as important as badge and image. As long as the new 1 Series is overpriced and ugly, like the current one, it will sell. With speeding fines of £10K I think I will stick to a bicycle....

The image portrayed to driving enthusiasts by something like rwd seeps through by osmosis to the general psyche. That whole 'my uncle knows loads about cars and he says it's a great car, which is why I buy BMW'.

The problem for BMW is that that person's uncle will now be changing his mind, and by extension, their casual market, who know BMW are good but aren't sure quite why, will eventually turn elsewhere.

"better handling for normal driving" - you mean understeer?

i totally agree with your comment, what has happened to the style.

Nope. Normal driving does not include pushing a car so hard that it understeers. And by pushing it to understeer means you are not driving appropriately for public roads / conditions.

And understeer can be corrected by a simple intuitive lift anyway.

Well if Mr Uncle forms his opinion based on the configuration of the entry level series, when the other models from the same maker are RWD then perhaps the person shouldn't be listening to said uncle.

It's easier to make a case for RWD with the more expensive cars, because they are generally larger and have more space, and more expensive with better margins.

Has BMW lost her mind? Cause if that's the case i will wait for her funeral to attend.

I disagree. A brand like BMW offers a set of values across a range of models designed to accommodate the physical requirements of their users. So all BMW customers are effectively the same person under different circumstances.

The 1 Series isn't cheap in any way, and a 120d differs from a 320d only in the length and shape of its boot. It's not 'entry level' more than the 'medium hatch' of the range.

What if BMW decided to ditch air conditioning from the 1 because it took up space, used fuel, and wasn't required on the 'entry level' model?

An 4 Series owner, expecting their first child, should be able to buy a 1 Series for its practical hatchback without sacrificing too much of what they'd grown to expect from their 'sporty' BMW. Indeed, it should exude the same qualities regardless of its boot configuration. Likewise, the M135 should not loose any dynamism to the M4.

That actually wasn't a loaded question, but as you're come out on the offensive then I wonder whether you think that under 'normal driving', a car won't understeer, but it will oversteer?

Incidentally, lifting off mid-bend to cure understeer is a recipe for snap oversteer. At least power-oversteer - which is not likely on a car with sub-200bhp anyway - tends to come on more progressively, and can be tempered with traction control (or a delicate right foot).

I will admit, that in freezing/snowy conditions, fwd is better than rwd, but in these conditions, winter tyres are the real answer.

Audi, BMW and Mercedes looks like ugly cars from China.

I wasn't on the offensive, just offered an explanation.

"which is not likely on a car with sub-200bhp anyway"

The prosecution rests.

Power-oversteer is unlikely. Power understeer is a different kettle of fish entirely.

But yeah, agree to disagree?

Two points, 1. the lift-off oversteer is not a function of engine power, it's weight transfer caused by deceleration, taking vertical load off the back.

2. If you manage lift-off oversteer in a modern front engine car on public roads then you are not driving appropriately for the conditions. In fact you would have to push it recklessly hard.

There is no argument for RWD handling in normal public road driving. It's just a vanity thing.

Morg, you've really been suckered by the marketing.
The 1 series, whilst not cheap is still the entry level car for a BMW badge. Most of them are 4 pot diesels, and for the most part they are subjectively considered an ugly duckling. There is no dynamism. Unless you buy a powerful M version and track it then you will lose nothing with FWD.

Great job though, the München marketing men, I applaud them.

3 and 5 series are both available with wheezy 4 bangers, and should be avoided along with 1 series.

IMO BMW dropped the ball by not offering a 6 cylinder diesel 1 series. The 125i, 130i and 135i were all lovely, but people are growing increasingly tight when it comes to fuel consumption. The 123d was fast, but clatters something awful.

But the torque, even on 4 cylinder diesels, is big. The new 125d makes a ridiculous 450NM of it at lazy-boy revs, so I presume this will be 4wd to counteract the inevitable torque steer? As 4wd is more complicated than rwd, I don't see the benefit to anyone (except for the two days a year when it snows).

As for styling, BMWs have been very hit and miss since Bangle entered the scene, but the current 1 is a low point indeed.

As can oversteer

Arghhh! Quit moaning and nit-picking, if you want to be a RWD family man then get yourself a 3 or 5 series estate.

Why did having RWD make them great? I'd place a bet that 99% of its drivers wouldnt know how to use RWD properly anyway and as for style, they never had any! They have been ugly bland euro boxes since they stopped making the 2002.

Agree with below, I didn't even bother trying as it sent my eyes crazy!

But what difference does having RWD on BMW's actually make to every day motoring? I have asked this for years to BMW drivers and not one has ever given me a decent answer. They are used on boring motorway journeys or simple commutes. What part of that requires RWD?

Is that not what 1 series' were anyway? A Car just to sell cars and not miss out on a large market. It has never had prestige attached to it as it has always been viewed as the 'cheap' BMW made just to make more profit.

I know I'm in the minority, but I've always liked the 1 Series odd proportions and challenging looks. I think it would be a shame if it becomes too much like the rest of the BMW range: In particular the squared off rear lights which link back to the first Compact models, and the oversized headlights should remain in some form or other.

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