Now we already knew far prior from today that the 1 Series Sedan (F52) will be a China-specific model, though we held out some vestige of hope that BMW will see fit to roll it out into other markets. Nope.
The car itself, first previewed at the 2015 Guangzhou Motor Show as the Concept Compact Sedan, is built by BMW’s plant in Shenyang, China, and developed specifically based on feedback obtained from the Chinese buying market. The front-wheel drive small saloon uses the UKL platform shared with the MINI hatch, 2 Series Grand (and Active) Tourer, and will eventually underpin the next global 1 Series.
But so far, it’s the only BMW to bear the 1 Series badge but have its drive relegated to the front. Naturally, it’s engine is therefore mounted transversely and are the petrol-only range comprises of familiar motors, namely the B38 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder and the B48 2.0-litre four-pot.
Things kick off with the entry 118i, and like the corresponding rear-drive hatch uses the smaller three-cylinder. Here’s it’s tuned to deliver 100kW and 220Nm and mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
A step-up brings us to the 120i which uses the 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo engine and kicks out 141kW and 280Nm, and this same unit is tuned up to 170kW and 350Nm in the fastest 125i guise. Both of these use an 8-speed automatic.
Visually, it shares many cues from the F20 1 Series hatch. Even more unsurprising is the fact that the new roofline and larger boot equate to a longer overall length than the hatch at 4,456mm from nose to tail, which is also longer than the 2 Series Coupe thanks to those second row of doors.
In terms of wheelbase, it’s identical to the 2,670mm measurement of the 2 Series Active Tourer to which it is most closely related. Given its size and powertrain layout, and in spite of the German manufacturer’s unyielding narrative that this 1 Series sedan is and will be a China-specific model, it already has successful competitors occupying busy markets. The Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA come to mind immediately.
Can the Munich-based automaker afford to continue letting their two most key rival brands lap up the market looking for small premium sedan? The Ingolstadt and Stuttgart camps sure hope so.