The 1 Series Sedan is Alive and Headed to Production

For years we’ve collectively held our breath wondering if this would happen. Would BMW go against long standing traditions and build a front wheel drive sedan. We now have a very convincing answer. This week BMW began testing its UKL based front wheel drive 1 Series sedan for the first time on public roads.

How do we know its UKL based? The size of the overhang and the overall proportions give it away. As does the shape of the sloping bonnet and headlights. Perhaps more telling is the fact that BMW’s ending production of it’s rear wheel drive small car platform when the F22 2 Series ceases production in 2020. That would make basing a four door sedan off of this older platform simply not ideal as BMW will want to naturally stop supporting it with new technology like hybrid drive etc (remember how long in the tooth the E46 based first generation X3 got?).

So it’s front wheel drive and it’s a sedan. Could it possibly be any good? Early returns on the UKL based 2 Series Active Tourer have been mixed with praise for the overall build quality and materials. But driving impressions have been lukewarm to warm at best. It’ll be interesting to see how BMW responds to this and potentially dials-up driver involvement.

The big question in our minds is what this means for the next generation 2 Series (released around 2020). The 1 Series Coupe and now 2 Series have represented an ode to BMW’s celebrated past of small rear wheel drive two door coupes. Could that lineage die out in 5-6 years? We for one hope not but it’s easy to see where this is headed.

Photo credit: Autocar

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  • Dr Obnxs

    So, when the 3 Series was broken into the 3 and 4, the explanation was that odd numbers were 4 doors and even numbers were two doors. Seems like BMW can’t keep a marketing paradigm straight for even a year!

    This was gonna happen, for sure, when that survey a few years ago showed that 60%+ of 1 series owners in Europe thought it was ALREADY a FWD car. Seems that those that want small BMWs don’t really care about all the things that BMW used to stand for. BMW can either sell the people what they want and grow, despite product history, or they can sell what they used to and not get the changing demographics and sales to younger people who, on average, just aren’t into cars the way people used to be.

    If one is hoping for a relatively inexpensive small performance sedan from BMW, give it up. There will never be one of those again with a Roudel on it, unless you buy used. There may be performance sedans that are on the smaller size for BMW, but they will sticker for over $45k, probably about $55k with options and that ain’t really inexpensive. But the 2002 is gone forever, and I can’t see BMW ever making it’s like again.

    • JRobUSC

      it wasn’t “odd numbers are four doors, even numbers are two doors”. According to BMW it was “odd numbers are practical (sedans, wagons, GT’s) and even numbers are emotional (coupes, gran coupes, convertibles).” The 1-Series sedan fits that structure, as does every vehicle BMW currently sells (the one that doesn’t is the upcoming 2-Series Active Tourer, but BMW will have to explain that one, we’re talking about the 1-Series here).

      As for there never again being “a relaively inexpensive small performance sedan from BMW”, hold your horses there, that’s what the 1-Series is supposed to be. What it won’t be is rear wheel drive, but that isn’t mutually exclusive with performance by any stretch. BMW has clearly shown with Mini that they are capable of making fun, tossable, excellent handling FWD and AWD vehicles, so let’s not give up on the car and the brand just yet. It’ll also be priced like the MB CLA and Audi A3, which means mid-high $30’s nicely equipped. If you see one in the $45-55k range you mentioned, it’ll be a performance variant to go up against the S3 or CLA45 AMG.

      A lightweight, fun, E46-sized BMW sedan that you can actually fit people in? Sign me up. And the sooner the better — Mercedes and Audi are killing it with CLA and A3 sales, BMW needs this sucker NOW.

      • BimmerFile_Michael

        The problem with all this down market approach to the product portfolio and sales is that the low end becomes the bread and butter and what the company is known for.

        Audi and MB are regretting the decision to launch lower end sedans for several reasons- First being that in the EU many businesses provide employees with vehicles as part of compensation and positions that yielded the low end sedan (C, A4, 3) are now (CLA, A3, and will be 1) meaning that the price per vehicle sold is decreasing and that the profit per vehicle decreases lower in the range. The need to sell 1.5 cars to achieve the profit of 1 in the past.

        BMW is following suit because they have no choice as they can’t compete at the price point right now.

        The other reason they are regretting it is that the brand cache has dipped to the lowest levels and the “premium” brands are not all that “premium” any longer and it will hurt the long term as there is no longer the aspirational quality that once was. The difference between a VW and an Audi is narrowing…. and MB is losing its upper clientele because of the personality of those driving the lower end.

        It is a fine line with “premium”. What BWM could have done (and is something I have been arguing for as long as this site has existed) is launch a sub-brand with old architecture- this would be a cash cow as the platform is paid for and the cosmetic changes would be minimal (like VW does with SKODA/SEAT) and they could compete with price point of premiums and not kill the BMW brand.

        I for one would be all over an E90 based Triumph (or VOLVO as BMW was in a on that ’til it was sold to China) sedan- priced like an A3 sedan and would out drive it any day of the week.

        The relative failure of MINI to offset BMW is what this is all about now, BMW is going FWD, producing mass appeal vehicle because MINI has not reach the targets they imagined to help with economies of scale. They can market MINI as a success in press releases but behind closed doors it has been a bust as even with MINI BMW has been forced into FWD and niche vehicles to remain independent.

        BMWi may be the godsend, not because of the electric vehicles but because of the research and discoveries made that can improve the BMW portfolio- the next generation “G” cars will be tough to compete with and “F” cars will be viewed as the stop gap we have said they were- from the E60 there was a distinct pause…. and play will be pressed again in terms of BMW as a whole showing its technological prowess (outside BMWi).

        It is a time that is both confusing and exciting.

        Personally I hope the F24 (or whatever the F code is) 1 Series sedan never gets built and it is decided to become a MINI…. but then again the 2 AT was supposed to be a MINI and that never happened because the gimmicky MINI does not have mass appeal like a BMW.

        I am not hating on MINI, the wife rocks a clubby, but there are some real issues with the brand from a product/profit standpoint and BMW should look elsewhere to float itself. The joint agreement with Toyota might help as well; that is coming soon.

        • JRobUSC

          BMW is already most known for their “bottom” car, the 3-Series, so coming out with something underneath that isn’t as much of a stretch as Mercedes, who is most well known for $100k cars like the S-class and AMG’s, coming out with the CLA. The existence of the CLA is not stopping Mercedes from absolutely demolishing the segment sales-wise with the new S-class. They’re also leading the segment sales-wise with the E-class.

          I’m not a fan of “racing to the bottom” either, but the fact is BMW needs this car. They need new top end cars, too, but they need a 1-Series sedan and a new X1 a lot more than they need an X4 or a Z2.

          • Herr26

            It’s been brought about by response to the global market and the ever changing customer dynamic. Customers want premium cars more than ever and they want them in the compact segment. It is all about adapting to market trends in other words adapt or die.

            FWD has been introduced at BMW to not only sustain MINI by making it far more profitable than it has been previously but also to gain a competitive edge in a very crowded and important segment.

            A family car needs to provide decent room in order to appeal to customers in that particular segment in amongst other areas in order to appeal to customers. In Europe where these cars are the leading models there is no such qualms about what drivetrains. They want style and they want practicality. Of course BMW enthusiasts want the opposite but its a 90% greater market than the 10% enthusiast market.

            The F52 will succeed because customers will be looking at style , status and connectivity

          • Herr26

            I hate Disqus too much crap.

            Anyway, The F52 will succeed in many markets because customers will be looking at style, status, efficiency and connectivity. It will still be a drivers car but the market will be wide open to everyone that puts the listed above over anything dynamically aligned with the car.

            The G cars lead the radical revolution and the first Carbon shared cars to BMWs portfolio apart from BMWi and BMW M. The new 7er is already involving Stuttgart as they are mentioning to the press how radical the next S-Klasse in 2020 will be. The 7er arrives in under twelve months with a 200KG drop in weight , augmented HUD , Passenger interface , autonomous driving features and enough Carbon fibre to embarrass a high priced sports car. Not in 2020, but 2015.

            The next 5er drops 100KG , Mercedes cannot offer any excessive weight loss in the next E-Klasse it is too costly to apply. The M5 receives a drop of around 180KG as the 5er forgoes Carbon body panels which will feature on the M5 aswell as

          • Herr26

            Drive train and suspension areas on top of using the Carbon weight-load bearing area from the 5er and 7er. All new G cars also use innovative cost-cutting featured on the BMWi8 to remove every ounce of weight. Any section with excess metal is hollowed out such as wheel and axle mounts.

            It is no secret that sports cars and roadsters are declining in sales and BMW wants to revolutionise this market along with their sports car collaborator Toyota. With both companies using their most innovative resources. The joint scaleable architecture provides that edge the BMW Z models have been missing.

            Effectively because of joint resources Z becomes i. BMW want to adapt the futuristic looks of the i cars as well as their state of the art innovation. The design language is a progression of the Vision ConnectedDrive and 328 Homage concepts but within the forthcoming BMW design language previewed with the Vision Future Luxury concept car. The joint Toyota partnership will allow a scaleable architecture for

          • Herr26

            Innovative and lightweight Toyota and BMW models. Both companies will be able to introduce a scaleable architecture with high-strength steel , magnesium , aluminium and Carbon fibre in greater use than any of their competitors. Each manufacturer handles the responsibility of dynamic development as well as design. With the UKL based Z1 exempt the main beneficiaries will be the Z3 , Z5 and 6er the greatest achievement is for the 6er a 250KG loss over today’s car. Both Z3 and Z5 will be RWD and in the interest of keeping weight down return to soft-top roofs. In the case of the Z3 BMW are considering a slightly powerful three cylinder model dubbed internally as the ZMM for Mile Miglia . Adapting that philosophy of superb dynamics through lightweight materials. The resorting back to Z3 is to provide continuity with the Z1 and Z5 but also a hopeful return to the days of the mid-nineties when the Z3 was so popular that it was practically sold out in nearly every major market. But also provide a new stepping stone for enthusiasts.

        • Fascinating thoughts here. I would love to have seen MINI projections circus 2007 for 2015.

  • Nick Dawson

    BMW has said recently that it will decide before the end of this year whether or not to retain rear-wheel drive for the next generation 2-series coupe and convertible, due in 2019/20.

    All other next generation 1 and 2-series variants are now fully committed to using the UKL1 platform.

    • Herr26

      Interesting update – UKL is a modular chassis and can be adapted/subtracted as FWD or RWD.

      Full decision on the 2er is not final yet (full decision will be taken by the end of the year) and can use the UKL chassis but can adapted for RWD. (BMW M are fighting for RWD because the M2 is apparently even more outstanding than the 1er M Coupe)

      What the strategy aims to show is a split between the 1er and 2er , but vehicles that cannot compromise on space and versatility will be addressed via FWD namely the 1er , X1 , X2 and Active/Gran Tourers. This is the 1er Sedan but the strategy involves a 2er Gran Coupe. So that compact entry lines will mirror the upper segments in the BMW portfolio.

      The G chassis or 35Up is too expensive to use for smaller compact cars and therefore starts with the 3er or in the case of the first entry model the G01 X3.

      This the 1er Sedan and when I saw it today along with the Discovery Sport-ish X1 X-Sport. First thing immediately is you get E46 Goose-pimples. It is that similar in profile. But the detail is modern BMW, the headlights connect to the grille similar to the 1er Render but to distinguish sedan from hatch there is a flick at the inner edge close to the grille. The rear lights are in the typical L shape but more angular in shape. The model was a styling model so no interior. But I seen a preview of the new interior which includes extra surfaces and additional (as optional) passenger display interface. The ergonomics are as evolutionary as today’s car with controls placed high for easy reach.

      The X1 X-Sport (extended X1) is having an “Outdoor” version prepared that adds thicker wheel arches and more cladding to the underbody with a slight raise in suspension height. The X1Xsport is exclusively xDrive and a seven seater. There will be base models what with X line etc. it brings back a more utilityappearance like the first generation X3 which surprisingly some customers missed on the LCi because it was far more durable and could handle stone chips better than the painted surface updates. Originally intended for China exclusively. This model will now be available in all key markets.

  • eldorado

    Well all this means is that the BMW 1M will be worth $200k in 15 years. Truly the last of its kind with proper steering, proper RWD, and proper fun. BMW is heading downhill fast…