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Paris show: BMW to let CAT out of the bag

Not the one: BMW will unveil its Compact Activity Tourer (CAT) at the Paris motor show, but it is unlikely to be a replacement for the recently released 1-Series (left).

Front-drive BMW Compact Activity Tourer a likely debutante at 2012 Paris motor show

11 Jun 2012

BMW’S Paris-bound Compact Activity Tourer (CAT) seems set to blur the lines for the German car-maker with a car that is part Mini, part BMW, part hatchback and part SUV.

The CAT – rumoured to be front-wheel drive – appears destined to reshape the small end of BMW’s car range that until now has been equipped with either rear-drive or all-wheel-drive powertrains.

Officially, BMW is saying only that it will have a fresh concept at the Paris motor show in September, although the company is not denying that the concept could be the CAT that has been out and about for road testing in disguised form in Europe.

However, BMW insiders stop short of linking the new vehicle with the 1 Series, the second generation of which was released in five-door hatch form only last October in Australia.

The answer might be in the new F20 platform under the 1 Series, which reputedly has been designed to accommodate both front and rear-wheel drive, for both BMW and Mini applications.

Chances are the new BMW will share the front-drive Mini’s east-west transaxle powertrain, with three-cylinder and four-cylinder engines, perhaps with hybrid too.

But it does not herald an all-new 1 Series any time soon – it is too early for that because the rear-drive 1 Series has at least five more years to run, with coupe and convertible versions among several new models in the pipeline for eventual release.

14 center imageLeft: BMW M135i concept.

This means the CAT could either be an adjunct to the 1 Series or called something else altogether when it arrives about 2014.

Some journalists in Europe have reported that BMW will in fact offer two new front-drive small cars – a five-door lift-back called GT and the CAT (also called Family Activity Sports Tourer).

BMW Group Australia managing director Phil Horton told GoAuto at the 1 Series launch last year that the smallest current BMW would have an expanded range this time around.

So far, the 1 Series is available only in five-door hatchback shape in Australia, with a choice of four four-cylinder engines in petrol and diesel.

The company is preparing to add the hot M135i version of the hatch, but only in the five-door body style, as the three-door shown in Europe has been ruled out for Australia.

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