BMW’s entry-level 1 Series, originally unveiled 15 years ago at the 2004 Paris Motor Show, has now undergone a paradigm shift as it enters its third generation. From now on, the 1 Series cars will feature a transversely mounted engine and front-wheel-drive.

The shock of BMW going FWD has been softened by earlier UKL2 platform cars taking after BMW’s MINI offerings in recent years, and the X1, X2 and the 2-series MPVs have already shared the MINI DNA for quite some time. Still, this latest 1 Series introduction can be considered a watershed moment as the vehicle takes a step towards the modern school of hatchback design while the new 2 Series coupes align more with the M3 and M4.

BMW mentions packaging benefits as one reason behind the front-wheel-drive layout, with its family hatch doing the re-orientation most competing hatchback offerings did in the early 1980s. The new car is only available in five-door configuration. It’s a touch shorter than the outgoing model, and the wheelbase has also shrunk. Still, the rear passengers now reap the benefits of the FWD structure and get an additional 1.3 inches of leg room as a result. But FWD isn’t the only drivetrain option for the new 1 Series: there’s also BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive for some models.

Along with three diesel powerplants ranging from 114 to 188 horsepower, the new 1 Series is offered with two gasoline engines. The more humble of those, the 118i, has a three-cylinder 1.5-liter turbo that provides 140 hp and 162 lb-ft, and takes 8.5 seconds to hit 62 mph. Then there’s the 302-horsepower M135i xDrive, which is able to do the same acceleration run in just 4.8 seconds. BMW says the M Performance package is able to shave a tenth of a second off that achievement. Manual gearboxes are only available for the more basic cars, while there are both seven- and eight-speed Steptronics available in the higher end. The M135i xDrive comes standard with the eight-speed Steptronic Sport box.

Speaking of M Performance, BMW is already discussing forthcoming sport packages. There’s carbon fiber aero, large sports brakes with four-piston calipers up front, M Performance themed wheels and much more.

U.S. availability for the new 1 Series looks unlikely, but the X2 crossover already offers much of the same, just in a taller package – including the aforementioned 306-horsepower engine. We should see this new 1 Series make its official debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.



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