Front-wheel drive and BMW don't seem to mix, but if you've been following the brand, they have been doing so for the past couple of years, much to the dismay of some BMW loyalists. Purists might want to turn their heads away at BMW's latest model then, as they have unveiled the first ever, front-wheel drive 1 Series hatchback.
The all-new 1 Series hatch is the sixth front-wheel drive model from Bavaria. The other models include the 2 Series Active Tourer, 2 Series Gran Tourer, the China-only (for now) 1 Series sedan, and the two-wheel drive versions of the X1 and X2. The 2020 1 Series hatch won't be the last either, as coming soon is a 2 Series Gran Coupe. Like the other models mentioned, the all-new 1 Series rides on what's called the UKL platform, which underpins all Mini vehicles.
With its shift to front-wheel drive, BMW has explained, at length, the benefits of moving to this layout. They are claiming much more room inside thanks to the more compact packaging of front-wheel drive. Rear legroom and cargo capacity was often criticized on the soon to be outgoing model, due to its rear-wheel drive layout.
As for its design, it gets some elements from the 2 Series Active Tourer, as well as the X1. The wide kidney grill is now a BMW staple, and it makes an appearance here as well. Its side profile on the other hand sees a sloping rear roofline, which tapers into the rear tailgate. Speaking of the back, the tail lights are unique in design and shape, but the signature L-shaped LED light pattern remains.
Instead of borrowing the X1's interior, BMW made an effort to give the cabin its own design. Present is the classic driver-oriented center stack, but the rest of the curves and angles penned for the 1 Series is unique to this model. Opt for the higher-spec models and it gains a fully digital instrument cluster, which is lifted from its big brother, the 3 Series. It also boasts the latest iDrive infotainment software, bringing in all BMW models in line with the new look.
Engine options meanwhile consist of two turbocharged gas and three turbo-diesel mills. For the gas-fed engines, it starts with the 118i with its 1.5-liter three-cylinder making 140 PS and 220 Nm of torque. At the opposite end of the scale is the 135i xDrive with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder with 306 PS and 450 Nm of torque.
On to the diesels there's the three-cylinder 116d with 116 PS, four-cylinder 118d with 150 PS, and the 120d xDrive making 190 PS. Depending on the model selected, the 1 Series can be paired to a six-speed manual, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, or an eight-speed automatic.
For now, it's Europe that will be getting the car first towards the third quarter of the year. The rest of the world will follow soon after.