BMW is taking renewed aim at the premium-brand hatchback segment with its new third-generation 1-Series.
Revealed in a series of official photographs ahead of a planned public debut for the 5-door model at the 2019 Frankfurt auto show in September, the rival to the Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Volkswagen Golf has been comprehensively re-engineered in a move that brings the 1-Series’ mechanical layout into line with each of its premium-brand competitors for the first time.
Gone is the rear-wheel-drive platform that has supported the 1-Series since it joined the BMW lineup in 2004. It is replaced by a more contemporary front-wheel-drive platform known internally as FAAR.
Already used by BMW-owned Mini for its latest lineup of models, FAAR has been developed to support conventional internal-combustion, plug-in hybrid and all-electric powertrains.
The long-anticipated switch to front-wheel drive also sees the new 1-Series forgo the longitudinal engine mounting used until now for a transverse layout BMW says has allowed it to amend a major weakness of its predecessor: its lack of interior space in comparison to its front-wheel-drive hatchback competitors.
Despite the change in engineering philosophy for its most affordable model, BMW claims the front-wheel-drive 1-Series delivers a driving experience that is every bit as sporting as the rear-wheel-drive model it replaces.
Alongside standard front-wheel drive, the new BMW also will be offered with all-wheel drive in select models, including a 302-hp turbocharged 2.0L gasoline 4-cyl. M35i xDrive model that will crown the initial third-generation 1-Series lineup as a rival to the likes of the Audi S3 and recently introduced Mercedes-AMG A35.
Besides underpinning the 1-Series, the FAAR platform is planned to form the basis of the 2-Series GranCoupe recently previewed in an official sketch by BMW. In the continued absence of plans to import the 1-Series hatchback, this new 4-door sedan-cum-coupe model, which targets the Audi A3 sedan and Mercedes-Benz CLA, will form the new entry-level point in BMW’s U.S. lineup when it goes on sale in 2020.
Scheduled for European sale from September, the latest 1-Series hatchback receives a new exterior design featuring a fresh interpretation of BMW’s signature kidney-shaped grille, heavily tapered headlamps, a higher waistline and new-look rear end dominated by L-shaped taillamps that extend across the tailgate to emphasize its width.
In line with its new underpinnings, the proportions have changed, with a shorter hood. Wheels start at 16 ins. in diameter and increase to optional 19-in. rims.
Dimensionally, the new front-wheel-drive BMW is shorter but wider and higher than the rear-wheel-drive second-generation 1-Series introduced in 2011. Length is reduced 0.2 ins. (5 mm) at 170.0 ins. (4,318 mm), width increases 1.3 ins. (33 mm) at 70.8 ins. (1,798 mm) and height is up 0.5 ins. (13 mm) at 56.5 ins. (1,435 mm).
The new 1-Series’ wheelbase is 0.8 ins. (20 mm) shorter than that of its predecessor at 105.1 ins. (2,670 mm).
Inside is an all-new dashboard housing digital instruments (see photo below) and a central touchscreen display featuring BMW’s latest 7.0 operating system and over-the-air software upgrades. Options include head-up display, gesture control and a digital key function allowing entry via smartphone.
BMW says the new front-wheel-drive platform allows for greater interior accommodation, including a 1.3-in. (33-mm) increase in rear legroom compared to the second-generation model. Luggage capacity is up 0.71 cu.-ft. (20.1 L) to 13.4 cu.-ft. (379 L), increasing to 42.4 cu.-ft. (1,201 L) when the split-fold rear seat is lowered.
Among the standard driver-assistance systems are collision and pedestrian warning with city braking function and a lane-departure-warning function.
The new 1-Series hatchback will be sold with a choice of two gasoline engines and a pair of diesel powerplants from the start of European sales later this year.
A turbocharged 1.5L gasoline 3-cyl. developing 138 hp and 162 lb.-ft. (220 Nm) of torque powers the front-wheel-drive 118i.
The all-wheel-drive M135i xDrive runs the same turbocharged 2.0L gasoline 4-cyl. as the recently introduced X2 M35i with 302 hp and 332 lb.-ft. (450 Nm) of torque. The new range-topping 1-Series model boasts an official 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of just 4.7 seconds and limited 155-mph (250-km/h) top speed in combination with an optional M Performance package that BMW says will be available from November.
The entry point for the trio of diesel models is the front-wheel-drive 116d, which uses a turbocharged 1.5L 3-cyl. with 114 hp and 199 lb.-ft. (270 Nm).
Farther up the lineup is the front-wheel-drive 118d and all-wheel-drive 120d xDrive. They run a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cyl. diesel delivering 147 hp and 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) of torque in the 118d and 188 hp and 295 lb.-ft. (400 Nm) in the 120d 4Matic.
The gearbox varies depending on the engine. The 118i, 116d and 118d come with a standard 6-speed manual while the 120d xDrive and M135i xDrive receive an 8-speed torque-converter-equipped automatic, which is optional on the 118d. A 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox is available as an option for the 116d and 118i.
BMW confirms the initial five-model lineup will be broadened with more gasoline-engine options and a new plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain in an upcoming 125e xDrive model once production is ramped up toward the end of the year.
The 1-Series hatchback is produced at BMW’s plant in Leipzig, Germany.