BMW has pulled back the covers off their all-new 1 Series hatch, kicking off a new generation of car that will be the new small Bimmer for years to come. Over the years since its introduction, the model has become known for compact rear-drive thrills, but now all that has been eschewed in favour of front-drive (or AWD) efficiencies and packaging benefits.
Built on the same UKL platform family that has already underpinned the new X1 and X2, not to mention various MINIs, the 1 Series has relegated its unique drive layout in the sporty hatchback space. Instead, this F40 version of the 1 Series will utilise BMW’s xDrive system to send power to the rear axles from its transversely mounted when needed.
Speaking of the engines, in the move to the new platform and new packaging constraints, the longitudinal layout has been sacrificed as well. This means BMW’s signature inline-6 engines will no longer be able to fit, relegating the 1 Series range to an exclusively 4-cylinder affair.
To make up for these perceived dynamic shortcomings, the new car does bring with it a far more practical cabin with ample space for rear passengers as opposed to the cramped conditions found in its predecessors. Despite this, the F40 actually sits more compactly over the road, with an overall length 5mm less than before mostly thanks to shorter overhangs and a reduced wheelbase.
The new car is also taller and quite a bit wider, lending those who say that the new 1 Series looks an awful lot like a flattened X2 quite a bit of credence. Up front we also see plenty of familiar current-generation BMW design cues such as the more pronounced kidney grilles and more angular headlights.
BMW says that five engine options will be made available at launch, starting with the 118i’s 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder that shoves out 103kW and 220Nm carried over from the previous 118i and mated to a new dual clutch transmission instead of the ZF 8-speed torque converter that pervades the rest of the Munich automaker’s portfolio.
That said, the 8HP Steptronic does make an appearance in the new F40’s range-topping M135i hot hatch. Much like the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit in the X2 M35i, this heavily turbocharged engine generates a punchy 225kW and 450Nm as their respective peaks.
While true that the output from the 3.0-litre straight-6 from the prior generation does leave the four-pot wanting, the all-wheel drive traction and lighter construction does mean this new M135i will, as BMW claims, shame its forebear both off the line and in the corners.
To ensure maximum grip is provided to the tyre that needs it most, BMW have even fitted a Torsen limited slip differential to the front axle in addition to making its central differential and traction control system controllable directly by the ECU, improving response.
It is expected that the all-new 1 Series will make its Australian debut later this year, whereupon pricing information and detailed specifications will also be released.