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.