The little BMW hatchback is coming back to America

We didn’t get a chance to enjoy the second-generation 1 Series here in the States, but with the introduction of the third-gen model, BMW has decided we are worthy yet again. So far, very little is known about the new 1 Series, but one big factor could be rather detrimental to its success: it’s shifting from a RWD architecture to a FWD architecture. It’s a move that’s surely ruffling some feathers in the Bimmer community. This switch is made possible by UKL platform that debuted in the 2014 Mini Cooper and now underpins the new 1 Series Sedan, 2 Series Active Tourer, and the X1. Outside of this, the new 1 Series will shed its homely exterior design in favor of a more aggressive look with a slightly longer wheelbase than previous models. Rumor also has it BMW is dropping the three-door model, leaving just the five-door hatch to fight against models like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, among others.

More importantly, however, is the fact that the UKL platform will translate to more space inside for rear seat passengers and cargo. Compared to the Mini Cooper, the new 1 Series will be a bit longer and is even said to be coming back to the U.S. And, to add even more fuel to the fire, the BMW 1M could come back with as much as 360 horsepower on tap – just enough to put the Focus RS and Golf R in their place. But, before we get too far into all of that, let’s take a short walk down memory lane before diving into hints offered by the first round of spy shots.

Updated 12/27/2017: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming BMW 1 Series out for a new testing session, this time during its first winter testing.


12/27/2017 - BMW 1 Series caught playing in the snow

2019 BMW 1 Series Spyshots Exterior
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2019 BMW 1 Series Spyshots Exterior
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11/02/2017 – Take a peek inside the 1 Series crystal ball

2019 BMW 1 Series Spyshots Interior
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So, let me start off by saying that we’ve gone over these spy shots multiple times attempting to find something new, but nothing on the outside has changed. It’s only been a couple of months, and, it happens. But, what’s important here is what came at the end of our photo roll, and that was a look at the interior. It’s pretty wild considering BMW rarely changes much, but the truth is, there’s a lot going on here – even if we can’ see most of it because it’s covered up. First of all, let me point out the more obvious items like the new shifter for the automatic transmission, and there’s also a button for the ugh electronic emergency brake. Dear God, don’t get me started on the addition of the electronic E-brake.

2019 BMW 1 Series Spyshots Interior
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The real changes are what’s happening under the covers. In case you don’t see it, those center HVAC vents are sitting much lower than on the current model and take a look at the infotainment display. Sure, it’s covered up but notice how much larger it is? Oh, and look at the controls down below the vents for the HVAC, there’s only one control knob there. The instrument cluster also looks to have grown a bit while the infotainment display itself will actually sit more forward toward the driver instead of hovering above the dash. In the end, the dash and center console are more integrated into the vehicle and appear to have a much cleaner fit and finish. The center console itself should be revised to a varying degree while the door trim panels should be all new.

2019 BMW 1 Series Spyshots Exterior
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For now, that’s all we really have to go by, and while it may be a little disappointing that the new 1 Series will be switching over to FWD with the UKL platform and least the interior will be nice and fresh – should make for a breath of fresh air, to say the least. And, it shouldn’t be that surprising that the interior is getting such a makeover since the UKL platform and FWD layout mean more room inside. Instead of giving it all to the boot or the rear passengers, the extra space should spread out evenly through the cabin, a smart move for such a small vehicle. Oh, and in case you forgot, the three-door model isn’t going to be around for this generation, so you’re stuck with the five-door model. Best of luck with that…

09/08/2017 – The 1 Series drops some camo and shows face for the first time

2019 BMW 1 Series Spyshots Exterior
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2019 BMW 1 Series Spyshots Exterior
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The last time we saw the 1 Series, it was sporting a look that told us that it was very early in the test phase. It didn’t feature any important defining features in the front, with the grilles and vents all square in shape. Meanwhile, there was enough whacky camo to send your eyes into a goofy spiral if you looked at it a little too hard. Well, a lot of the camo is still there, but this time around the 1 Series is sporting kidney grilles that aren’t production ready but show off the official shape. We can also make out what the fascia will look like thanks to a nice view of the left corner, and we can see what appear to be the production headlights as well.

So, what does any of this tell us about the production model?

The 1 Series will ditch the headlight style of the newer BMW’s and go with a single LED projection unit that is mounted pretty much in the center of the lens

Let’s start with the headlights. The last prototype we saw didn’t give us a very good look, but this time around we can make out just about everything. For starters, the 1 Series will ditch the headlight style of the newer BMW’s and go with a single LED projection unit that is mounted pretty much in the center of the lens. We can’t make out the LED strips that will be in the lights, but based on the camo they will be along the top and lower edges. The side/corner markers will also feature a clear lens with amber reflectors and bulbs, so that will be a nice, Euro-like touch. Of course, BMW could have just made these decoys look really nice to throw us off, so try not to take that too much to heart quite yet.

Next up, we’ve got those kidney grilles that look like they were 3D-printed in a rush. They are larger than those of the current model and feature wider but fewer louvers. The outer, lower corners are also more rounded and longer than those of the current model too. It’s a nice look and seems to be a trend, as all recently revamped models from Bimmer seem to have larger grilles up front. As you can see from the close-up shot of the front, the grilles are almost entirely blocked off, allowing very little air through so this isn’t a hint toward extra performance or a need for increased cooling either. Further down, we can back out part of the air dam which is also largely blocked off. It features a louver in the center that connects to the lower lip. There also appears to be a sensor or camera of some sort that hints toward some kind of semi-autonomous features – most likely things like active cruise control and automatic emergency braking.

2019 BMW 1 Series Spyshots Exterior
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It will rock vents that are similar to those found on the BMW M2 with a small inlet at the bottom and a vertically oriented inlet on the side

Finally, in the corners of the fascia, or more specifically on the front driver’s side, we can spot out the shape of the corner vents and the overall design. From the look of things, it will rock vents that are similar to those found on the BMW M2 with a small inlet at the bottom and a vertically oriented inlet on the side. There’s an overhang or insert in the middle with a smaller overhang just above. The chances are that there will be LED fog lamps found on the center inserts as the circular units from the current gen have obviously be nixed.

Around back, there’s nothing new to really speak of, but this model happens to be sporting a single exhaust outlet on the driver’s side. This could mean that this prototype is rocking a smaller engine. But, at the same time, the rear end is sitting just a little lower, so this could be some kind of higher-performance prototype or a hybrid model testing without any adaption to the rear suspension to support the extra weight of the batteries. My bet would be on the latter as there is only one exhaust outlet, but we’ll just have to wait and see. Either way, the little hatch is starting to come together nicely. And, before I sign off from this update, I should point out that the new 1 Series will be built on the UKL platform which means power will be sent to the front wheels. It will be a bit larger for better interior space but don’t expect a driven axle in the rear. And, rumors are suggesting there will be no three-door model, just the four-door model with a hatch out back, so if you’re hoping to get a sportier three-door model, you might be out of luck.

What do you guys think so far? Is the new 1 Series something you might be interested in? Let us know in the comments section below.


2019 BMW 1 Series Exterior Spyshots
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This thing is rocking a relatively low ride height, beefy brakes, and large dual exhaust outlets.

Before we dive too far into the looks of this prototype, I want to point out that this thing is rocking a relatively low ride height, beefy brakes, and large dual exhaust outlets. This all points to this being a higher-trimmed model, most likely the M140i. As such, it’s probably hiding a good number of aggressive cues under the camo that include rounded and defined corner air intakes and a larger air dam. And, if you peak through the screen in the corners, you can actually see the lip of the fascia curving up on the bottom, reinforcing my thoughts on the more aggressive nature. As is the usual case, we can’t make out anything about the grille at this point, but it appears as if it’s going to grow in size a bit. It will still have the usual rounded appearance and chrome trim but should grow by at least five to 10 percent.

Moving onto the headlights, these units will be a little sleeker than before and appear to have a triangular top. It looks as if they will have a single projection unit, but a smaller unit could be hidden under the camo that covers up the inner corner of the lens. It looks like the hood will still get the same body line that runs from each of the A-pillars toward the headlights, but the central lines found on the current model seem to have been smoothed out for the next generation. Moving over to the sides, however, leads us to a whole new world of change.

2019 BMW 1 Series Exterior Spyshots
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The most noticeable thing about this prototype, when viewed from the side, is that this model is significantly longer than its predecessor.

The most noticeable thing about this prototype, when viewed from the side, is that this model is significantly longer than its predecessor. First off, the nose is clearly four to five inches longer while the rear overhang adds a few more inches to overall length. This can also be justified by the added space between the rear door and the rear hatch, which as extended by several inches as well. As far as the roof goes, it’s not quite as bubbly as before thanks to the extra length while the beltline itself actually grades upward a bit from the front to the rear. The rear door glass also takes on an all-new shape, now featuring sharp angles and less of the rounded appearance. With the new slope of the rough, the elevated beltline, and the overall length of the next-gen 1 series, this could turn out to be quite a looker, but what’s going on in the rear?

In the rear, we find that the next-gen 1 Series will actually feature much smaller taillights that are more triangular in shape and feature a single module inside that’s split in half – the top half will function as a reverse light while the lower half will handle tail- and brake light functions. There could be some kind of lens overlay on the lower rear hatch, but it doesn’t appear that way as of now. The rear hatch now has slightly shorter glass while the lower half of the hatch doesn’t have the sharp curvature around the taillight areas. Down below, we can spot dual exhaust outlets, and if you look close enough, you can see a valve inside the left outlet, pointing toward an active exhaust system that is controlled via the various driving models.

Finally, I want to point out the both the front and rear fascias have a few holes cut into them, which could point to the next-gen 1 series featuring advanced camera and radar sensors. This could point to the 1 Series having some form of a semi-autonomous feature. For now, it’s just speculation, of course, but those holes wouldn’t be there for no reason, right?


2017 BMW 1 Series Sedan High Resolution Interior
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There’s really no telling what BMW will do for the interior of the next-gen 1 Series, but we may have a hint thanks to the recently released 1 Series sedan for the Chinese market. It’s based on the current-gen model but was updated to have its very own look inside. As such, BMW could very easily use this interior, or a derivative of it, for the next-gen 1 Series hatchback. Compared to the current 1 Series, the dash will be a bit smoother with redesigned trim, while a reworked, two-gauge instrument cluster will serve as the centerpiece ahead of the driver. The steering wheel should shrink in size a bit thanks to a smaller air bag unit, while the thumb buttons on the steering wheel should be refined.

On the infotainment front, the same display found in most BMW models should float above the center stack, but it will get the latest software that includes 3D, street-level map rendering and a phone-like interface for better usability. If this model does indeed come with some semi-autonomous functions, there should be some kind of controls for that system as well, or the instrument cluster could take on a digital presence instead of the standard analog readouts. Seats in the base model should provide decent support, but the higher trim levels – namely the M140i and M1 – will receive more supportive seats up front to accommodate the spirited driving style that undoubtedly comes with owning any BMW with some form of an M badge. But, as a 2019 model, we still have a while longer to wait, so BMW could have something completely different planned as well.


This is where things really get interesting. With the next-gen 1 Series making use of BMW’s UKL platform, it will undoubtedly be offered standard with front-wheel drive. A whole range of three- and four-cylinder engines are on the table depending on trim level with anywhere from 100 horsepower up to as much as 360 horsepower in an M1 or what we suspect to be in this photo, an M140i. As such, the M-branded variants of the new generation could be offered with all-wheel drive based on a hybrid system that puts an electric motor at the rear axle. A plug-in hybrid version is on the table as is the possibility of an all-electric model at some point down the road. Plug-in models are more likely considering BMW already has a few plug-in models based on the UKL platform, but an all-electric model definitely isn’t out of the question.

Transmission options are still up in the air, but a six-speed manual should be available. For those that prefer a more automated experience, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters could be on the table as well. M-branded models like the one you see in the images here will get an M-Sport suspension system that lowers the ride height by nearly an inch, while an active exhaust system will keep things audibly comfortable during day-to-day commutes or obnoxious when you decide to piss off the neighbors on Monday morning when you leave for work. M-branded models will get beefier brakes and larger wheels compared to the base models.


2019 BMW 1 Series Exterior Spyshots
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The current 1 Series stats out for around $36,000 in China at current conversion rates. Here in the U.S., a $36,000 price point would be much too high considering the 2 Series starts out at $33,150 and the 3 Series starts at $33,450. Knowing BMW, however, it’s not going to want to offer the 1 Series too cheaply here in the U.S., so it’s likely the 1 Series will be priced quite close to the 2 Series (much like the 2 Series is to the 3 Series). As such, expect pricing for the 1 Series to start out around $31,000 and climb to as much as $43,000 for the range-topping model. Of course, it’s still way early for this kind of talk, so we’ll have to discuss pricing again a little further down the road.


Mercedes A-Class

2016 Mercedes-Benz A-Class High Resolution Exterior
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This wouldn’t be your traditional party if we didn’t pit BMW against Merc, and Mercedes has a strong contender in this niche. I’m, of course, talking about the Mercedes A-Class. By the time the new 1 Series makes it to U.S. showrooms, the A-class will be in its fourth generation. The last we saw of the next-gen A-Class left us with more questions than answers thanks to heaving padding and camo, but we do know that it should offer more interior space, sportier looks, and more powerful engines, among other things. It will be fitted with the latest infotainment and system technology and could, in fact, be offered with semi-autonomous capabilities as well. Like the 1 Series at this time, the A-Class isn’t available here in the U.S., but over in Europe, the A-Class can be had in as many as 10 trim levels that offer as little as 109 horsepower or as much as 381 horsepower in AMG A45 trim. Pricing ranges anywhere from £20,715 ($26,794) to as much as £48,660 ($62,941) for the A45 Yellow Night Edition.

Find out more about the Mercedes A-Class.

Audi A3

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A party of German vs. German wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t throw Audi in the mix, and as such, you’ll want to look to the Audi A3 as your four-ringed go-to in this segment. The A3 is currently available here in the U.S., but we’re limited to the A3 e-tron Sportback. Over in Europe, the A3 comes in a variety of flavors. To start off, the A3 can be had with as little as 113 horsepower or as much as 181 horsepower. Pricing for these models start out at £20,365. The, you’ve got the S3 which offers up just a little over 300 ponies with a starting price of £33,505. Finally, for those who want the absolute best in this niche, there’s the Audi RS3 with a 2.5-liter five-cylinder that delivers nearly 400 ponies. Pricing for this model isn’t available quite yet as the order books don’t open until late 2017.

Learn more about the Audi A3.


2019 BMW 1 Series Exterior Spyshots
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At this point, we’re still at least a year out from seeing the new 1 Series in the metal. But, it will be a pretty big deal as BMW will be bringing it back to the U.S. which could trigger Mercedes to finally bring back the A-Class and Audi to offer something more that the A3 e-tron Sportback. This could also open up the niche that currently dominated by models like the Volkswagen Golf R and the Ford Focus RS as well, which is good news for those of us here in the States. We’ll get another round of spy shots for the upcoming 1 Series sometime later this year or in the beginning of next, which will be followed by the official unveiling at the Detroit Auto Show or Chicago Auto Show in 2018. Until then, check out the spy shots and let us know what you think in the comments section below.


BMW 1 Series Sedan

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Read our full review on the BMW 1 Series Sedan.

BMW 1 Series

2016 - 2018 BMW 1 Series High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the current BMW 1 Series.


2006 BMW 1-series
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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 system. Worldwide, the 1 Series was available as either a three- or five-door hatchback, a coupe, or a convertible. However, here in the U.S. we only saw the coupe and convertible. 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.

The new, third-generation 1 Series is set to become front-wheel drive and is reportedly coming back to the U.S., so let’s take a closer look at it and see what kind of changes are in store for the smallest Bimmer in the lineup.

Update History

Update 11/02/2017: It’s been two months, but the BMW 1 Series has finally been seen testing on public roads yet again. Nothing has changed on the outside, but boy do we get an exciting look at the inside. Check out the spy shots section below to see it for yourself.

Update 09/08/2017: It’s been months since we’ve seen the next-gen 1 Series testing on public streets, and it’s finally be spotted again. As it turns out, BMW has been quite busy inching the 1 Series closer to production. Check out the “Spy Shots” section below to learn about what’s new this time around.

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