…or saloon if you must.
We could easily be excused for missing the first official pictures of the BMW 1 Series four-door. It’s reported to be strictly China-only, and a built in the BMW-Brilliance Auto joint venture factory in Shenyang. The design isn’t wholly unfamiliar, having broken cover as the ‘Concept Compact Sedan’ at the Auto Guangzhou salon last November.
The BMW Entwicklung code is given as F52, which aligns it with the current MINIs on the UKL platform; the latest Clubman is F55. I’ll leave the reader to ponder on how well the world would take to the variant, to me it certainly looks the part.
As for whether the world is ready for a front wheel drive mainstream BMW, it’s a done deal, with the next generation 1 Series hatch designed on the UKL platform. The target buyer is more likely to be interested in the features of “Connected Drive”, than which wheels are connected.
We might also recall that BMW were contemplating the possibility of front wheel drive in low-end 3 Series, going by an intriguing scoop photo in CAR, from long before Alec Issigonis’ Bavarian nephew pounced on Rover Group.
The UKL platform also offers the possibility of four wheel drive, and a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
Given the scant official information, all I can usefully add is some observations on the UKL2 platform. The principal dimensions – 2670mm wheelbase, 1561mm front track, 1562mm rear track are shared by the F45 2 Series Active Tourer, F48 X1, and F55 MINI Clubman. The F46 2 series Gran Tourer adds another 110mm to the wheelbase.
The X1 is much the most successful design of the quartet. The MINI looks more like an 1800 estate, a latter day Landcrab. I wasn’t surprised that the first Active Tourer I experienced ran on Hankook tyres – it still looks more like a Hyundai or Kia than a BMW; as for the Gran Tourer, whenever I see one, I find myself wondering if a proper van version is sold somewhere. Opportunity missed here, BMW.
The present RWD 1 Series has a 2690mm wheelbase, 1535mm front and 1569mm rear track. I’d idly speculate that the new sedan would be very close in dimensions to the F22 2 Series Coupe, which matches the E36 3 Series almost to the millimetre in length and wheelbase, but is 64mm wider than the 1990-98 original. The E36’s rather raw character, compared with the contemporary C Class and Audi 80, is unlikely to be replicated in its tech-laden, front wheel driven Chinese cousin thrice removed.
There is hope, for those hoping to re-kindle that ‘90s romance. Speculation abounds about a 2 Series Gran Coupe – RWD, six cylinder engines, four, or possibly five doors. For once, the curse of proliferation might return BMW closer to its true soul.