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BMW lifts secrecy on next 1 Series

Front-wheel-drive 1 Series detailed by BMW as it puts finishing touches to new model

BMW logo27 Mar 2019

BMW has promised that its next-generation 1 Series will provide  “a completely novel driving experience” from class-leading dynamics when the hatchback switches from the current rear-wheel-drive platform to the latest version of its front-wheel-drive architecture late this year.
 
Although the new 1 Series is not due to be spotted in the flesh until the Frankfurt motor show in September ahead of a probable 2020 launch in Australia, the Munich company has released official images of camouflaged test mules being put through their paces at the Miramas proving ground in the south of France.
 
It also has provided an insight into the mechanics of the new vehicle that this time aligns more directly with its two major competitors, the front-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi A3.
 
It has formally confirmed that the 1 Series, which until now has ridden on a shrunken 3 Series architecture, will fall into line with the latest X1 and X2 by getting a transverse engine, hooked up to either the front wheels or all four wheels via xDrive, depending on the variant.
 
It has also confirmed that a sporty M135i xDrive version will get the company’s new 225kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine – the most powerful four cylinder in the BMW armoury thus far, matching direct German rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG A35 and Audi S3.
 
Power wise, this is short of the current six-cylinder M140i that boasts 250kW of power and 500Nm of torque, not to mention the Audi RS3 and Mercedes-AMG A45. The latter could top 300kW next time around in 2020, but no one said the M135i was the end of the development line for the new 1 Series.
 
BMW said in a media release accompanying the images issued overnight that new platform – codenamed FAAR –  had been the subject of five years of intensive development. It reportedly is a development of the previous UKL structure that underpins the unloved 2 Series Active Tourer and Minis.
 
Said BMW Group head of driving dynamics Peter Langen: “Our customers will directly feel the fast and precise responsiveness that provides for an optimised driving experience. The BMW 1 Series will be a genuine BMW with an individual character.”
 
BMW also revealed that it had borrowed technology from its electric i3 to tame traction control and torque steer – common ills of high-power front-wheel-drive cars.
 
“This transfer of technology from the BMW i brand to the core brand BMW improves traction decisively, while facilitating significantly more sensitive and faster control,” the company says.
 
The system – dubbed ARB – uses data from the engine management system rather than the electronic stability control sensor to counter wheel slip three times faster than before.
 
“Through this extensive integration of all driving dynamics-related aspects as well as the new, innovative traction control feature, we are creating a completely novel driving experience,” said BMW 1 Series project manager Holger Stauch.
 
One of the biggest leaps forward for the new 1 Series is interior space, with BMW noting that real legroom will increase by 33mm and rear headroom will improve by 19mm, thanks to the space-saving transverse engine layout.
 
As well, the boot capacity will be more spacious, gaining 20 litres, to 380L, while getting easier access.
 
Although BMW did not say so, the switch to front-wheel drive is at least partly to save money in production, thus giving its dealers a better chance to match Audi and Mercedes at the lower end of the market.
 
In Australia, the A3 was the top-selling luxury small car in 2018, achieving 4257 sales, compared with 4175 for the A-Class and 2532 for the 1 Series.
 
After two months of sales this year, the A-Class has hit the lead, selling 740 units to the A3’s 658 and 1 Series’ 407.

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