BMW is plotting a new generation 1 Series. The next premium hatchback from BMW is set for a reveal late in 2018, before hitting showrooms in early 2019. Though a launch is still just under two years away, our spy photographers have caught an early glimpse of the car undergoing assessment by BMW engineers.
The car in the spy photographs is heavily disguised, but as our exclusive images reveal we don’t expect BMW to push the next 1 Series too far away from the current car in terms of design. It’ll get a modernized look strictly in rank and file with the rest of the range, while the big changes will be saved for under the skin.
The BMW 1 Series has been a huge success since it launched in 2004, but BMW is planning a complete rethink for the third generation of its premium hatchback. A radical revamp under the skin will see rear-wheel drive ditched in favour of drive to the front axle.
The new 1 Series will use the UKL platform that features on the BMW X1 and MINI range. While that will affect the way the 1 Series drives, BMW is confident that more people will benefit from the practicality and efficiency the new platform can offer.
A longer wheelbase and absence of a propshaft will free up more space for passengers in the back, and also increase boot capacity. The new 1 Series should also be marginally taller and wider.
While big changes are going on beneath the skin, the redesign of the 1 Series won’t be as revolutionary. The third-generation hatchback should appear sleeker than the current model; softer body panels and slimmer LED headlights that integrate with the kidney grille, like those seen on the new 5 Series, will be the standout changes.
Four-wheel drive for hot M Sport models
The new platform will bring advantages when it comes to weight reduction and practicality, but fans of the faster M models are going to be left disappointed. As the UKL platform is only compatible with four-cylinder engines, that means the next flagship M140i will have to ditch its sonorous straight-six engine in favour of a turbocharged four-cylinder.
Not only that, but it will also switch from rear-wheel drive to xDrive four-wheel drive. That means it will be a direct competitor with models such as the Volkswagen Golf R, Mercedes-AMG A45 and Ford Focus RS.
Engines for the rest of the 1 Series range will be adopted from the MINI and X1 line-ups. Entry-level cars, likely to be badged 116d, should come powered by an updated version of BMW’s 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel, while a turbocharged three-cylinder petrol unit should appear in the 118i. Larger and more powerful 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines will be found in the 120i and 120d respectively.
BMW will also use the next 1 Series to launch a wider roll-out of its iPerformance line-up. Joining BMW’s five other plug-in hybrid models will be an electrified 1 Series using a tuned version of the powertrain found in the MINI Countryman Cooper E. Comprising a 1.5-litre turbo and small electric motor, economy of more than 130mpg and CO2 emissions below 50g/km are likely.
We can expect new versions of the 2 Series Coupé and Convertible to follow the 1 Series at the end of 2019, and these will also adopt a front-wheel-drive layout.
2018 BMW 1 Series faces a new crop of rivals
BMW isn’t the only manufacturer putting the finishing touches to an all-new premium hatchback. We’ll see rivals from Mercedes, Audi and VW in showrooms by the end of 2019, all boasting new tech, efficient powertrains and autonomous driving.
The industry’s focus may be on developing an army of SUVs, but hatchbacks such as the 1 Series are often the best sellers in a premium brand’s line-up. These are the incoming models that the BMW will face, and the cars that the manufacturers can’t afford to get wrong.