Brought to the United States as a 2008 model, the BMW 1 Series was billed as the answer to the question, "What happened to the 3 Series, and how did it get so big all of the sudden?" Only available here as a coupe or convertible, the 1 Series won praise for its small size, sharp handling, and especially in the case of the 135i, powerful engine. Following that first generation, the 1 Series left the US market, as BMW sold the second generation model exclusively in Europe. The third generation will be returning to the US, but some big changes are on their way.
If a BMW is front-wheel drive, is it really a BMW anymore? In a sense, this question applies to the i3 , but as an electric car, accepting that it’s going to be a bit easier than it would be if it had a traditional drivetrain.
The upcoming 2018 1 Series, however, is not an electric car . It actually does have a traditional, internal-combustion engine, and even though it’s relatively young, it’s traditionally been rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive came as an option later, but even though it was small and relatively inexpensive, the 1 Series has always been a very capable handler. Not content to make a vehicle that wasn’t still the ultimate driving machine, BMW produced a car that was nimble, well balanced, and a hoot to drive.
The third-generation 1 Series, however, is coming our way, and the news is that it’s going to be front-wheel drive. Is this an abomination? Should BMWs only be rear-wheel drive (or all-wheel drive)? Isn’t front-wheel drive something for those other family sedans? It looks like we’re about to find out because ready or not, a front-wheel drive BMW is coming.
Note: Upcoming revised BMW 1 Series pictured here.
Click past the jump to read more about the 2018 BMW 1 Series.
2018 BMW 1 Series Speculation
Despite the seemingly heretical nature of a BMW’s power making it to the ground via the front wheels, a 2010 survey of 1 Series owners showed that 80 percent of them assumed that their car was already front-wheel drive. This is good news for BMW, as it is convinced that drivers of the new 1er won’t notice a difference where the power is sent.
The change to front-wheel drive isn’t the only thing that will be different from the previous generation. The rather homely exterior design has been dropped in favor of sportier, more aggressive styling. Expect a much more taut, athletic appearance out of the now Mini -based 1 Series. The biggest departure from previous generations will be the inclusion of narrower headlights that are less of a focal point of the fascia.
New generations of BMWs are routinely larger than their predecessors, and there’s no exception here. You can expect the wheelbase to be stretched longer than a five door Mini’s, giving it more legroom and a larger trunk. Despite growing in size, the 1 Series will likely lose weight, thanks to its front-wheel-drive architecture and even more aluminum used in its construction.
The most exciting news, however, is the rumor of an all new, all-wheel-drive 1M that could put out as much as 360 horsepower. Power is rumored to come from a twin-turbo, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that may even use an e-boost system to eliminate turbo lag. Whether it’s made available with a manual transmission or not, the new 1M should be an absolute blast to drive, especially with BMW having several years to make sure that it’s faster and handles better than Mercedes’ CLA45 AMG .
Depending on the sales of the 2 Series and the sales of its competitors, the next-generation 1 Series may or may not end up making it stateside. The high cost of importation as well as potential overlap with the 320i , X1 , and Mini Cooper could well be enough to keep the latest baby BMW as a Europe-only model. Hopefully, at the very least, BMW sees a case for the 1M though.
Sticking with Audi ’s "same sausage, different length" design philosophy, the A3 looks a lot like every other sedan in Audi’s lineup. While it doesn’t have a particularly distinct appearance, the casual observer will likely think it is much more expensive than its near-as-makes-no-difference $30,000 base price. The interior, likewise, feels like a true luxury car and features both a modern design and the high build quality that Audi is known for.
Quattro and the more potent 2.0-liter are available starting at $32,900, however, making that the model to go for, not the base model. All wheel drive, plus the extra 50 horsepower and 58 pound-feet of torque contribute to a much faster sprint to 60 miles per hour, dropping it from 7.2 seconds to a quite quick 5.2 seconds.
The Mercedes CLA250 is the supermodel of the bunch, packing attention-grabbing good looks at a sub-$30,000 price point. The CLA45 AMG is the bruiser in the lineup, but its significantly higher price makes the CLA250 the true competitor among this group. A sport package is available, but it’s mostly cosmetic, but the addition of 18-inch wheels may be worth it.
While 4MATIC all wheel drive is available as an option, the turbocharged, 2.0-liter inline-four is the only engine available without stepping all the way up to the CLA45 AMG. Sixty mph comes in 6.6 seconds, making it faster than the 1.8-liter A3 but still quite a bit slower than the 2.0-liter.
Introduced in 2004 but not making it to the United States until the 2008 model year, the 1 Series is the smallest and least expensive vehicle in the BMW lineup. Despite its low price, the first-generation baby Bimmer was rear-wheel drive, exceptionally well balanced, and used an aluminum multi-link suspension. Worldwide, the 1 Series was available as either a three- or five-door hatchback, a coupe, or a convertible. The U.S. only saw the coupe and convertible, however.
While the 1 Series was available with a variety of four-cylinder and six-cylinder options, the most potent model was the 1 Series M Coupe, which sported a 335 horsepower inline six and was only available with a six-speed manual transmission.
The second-generation 1 Series was introduced in 2011 with a new look and no plans for sale in the United States. Also available with a variety of engines, the potent trim level was the M135i which came later in 2012. It was then followed by the all-wheel-drive M135xi.