New BMW 1 Series: bye bye rear-wheel drive, hello cabin space
The premium C-segment is about to welcome BMW’s third-generation 1 Series, the importance of which cannot be underestimated. If its proportions look different, that’s mainly because it finally succumbs to the industrial rationality of a front-wheel drive platform.
Yes, the last rear-wheel drive compact hatch on the planet is no more. Purists aside, will many customers shun BMW’s smallest model now that it loses one of its USPs? We don’t believe so. Some drivers may very well add the new 1 Series to their shopping list exactly because it now complies with the 'norm'. Front wheel drive still seems to inspire more confidence on slippery roads, even though ESP and other ADAS have made RWD cars a lot more controllable than before.
The main reason to go for FWD is pecuniary: it is cheaper to build and allows BMW to use the same platform as the one that already underpins the X1/X2, the 2 Series Active Tourer and the Mini Clubman. These economies of scale should save BMW hundreds of millions – money it can spend on electrification, connectivity and automated driving.
Also, an FWD architecture leaves more space to the interior – and this is what BMW stresses in its press communication.
Brave styling, more room
In recent years, BMW was not exactly the most courageous of OEMs in the styling department. That seems to have changed since the X2, which shows obvious similarities with the new 1 Series.
BMW’s new hatch is 1cm shorter than its predecessor, but it offers a lot more cabin space thanks to the transversal engine position that comes with the front-wheel drive architecture. There is 3cm more legroom in the rear and passengers have an easier access. The same goes for luggage: the loading bay is 7cm wider, whereas the boot takes 20 litres more than before.
Efficient engines, diesel not ditched
The new 1 Series can be had with two petrol engines and – surprisingly – three diesel options. The entry-level petrol is the 118i, which inherits the 1.5 three-cylinder from the Mini Cooper. The 116d also gets a 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit, while the 118d and 120d are propelled - nay, pulled - by the eternal 2-litre four- cylinder block.
The fleet-favourite 116d is expected to keep its correlated NEDC CO2 emissions at 100g/km, showing that BMW has learned to put the WLTP to its advantage. There is no word on any hybrid or electric versions, though. The 2 Active Tourer is available as a plug-in hybrid – again – so there is no reason to assume that this powertrain (which is also used by the Mini Countryman) will not trickle down to the lowest echelon of the BMW range, eventually.
As to ADAS and connectivity, expect the new 1 Series to carry over many of the novelties introduced by the BMW 3 Series – which for now sticks to rear-wheel drive. The new One will be presented to the press and public at the 2019 IAA in Frankfurt in September.