The old shibboleths are invalid. Not only has BMW launched a five-seater, front drive hatchback, they now have revealed a 7-seater as well. Zafira watch out. BMW watch out too.
I think the doctored photo shows the 7-seater but I am not entirely sure. It probably doesn’t matter a whole lot. It’s very much just a car that was bound to happen. It isn’t hard to turn a five seater MPV into a 7 seater. This is the version of the car that has finally erased my core image of BMW which is a gleaming black 1986 528i (E12) with grey cloth and a manual transmission parked outside an ad agency on Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin. Now my core image of a BMW is
a blobular black 5-series (F10) parked outside a suburban supermarket in the middle of Jutland. I don’t think of the CX when I think Citroen and I don’t think of that E12 when I think BMW. The 7-seater, five-door front-drive hatchback (above, top) has shifted the centre of gravity of how I perceive BMW firmly into the middle ground. A BMW 5 series is just a Cortina for our times.
There are good short term and medium term reasons for BMW entering this market, mostly to do with selling more cars. One of the reasons for having a BMW was the snob appeal that they only made cars with a certain configuration and with a determinedly sporty outlook. These days their range is heading in the direction of being a fully generalist one. This kind of car is a step towards that end, a very big step.
It used to be possible for some BMW drivers to feel their cars were in some way quantitatively and qualitatively different from the other makers but now I definitely don’t think so. BMW’s image as a purveyor of tight, focused sport saloons is as dead as Citroen’s reputation for fascinating and carefully styled vehicles of considerable technical interest. Subaru’s USP is, as I may have said, getting stronger.