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Next-gen hot BMW 1-series spotted testing - and it ain't rear-wheel drive

Published: 23 June 2017

► New BMW 1-series in 2019
► Front-wheel drive platform
► Potential hot M version spotted

The next-gen BMW 1-series is coming and CAR’s spies have again snapped the new hatch testing, this time on the Nürburgring. Given the current-generation 1-series' recent facelift, we won't see its successor for a little while yet - CAR understands that mid-2019 is when it'll reach the market.

A front-driven future

Most significantly, the new '1' hatch will no longer be rear-wheel-drive. The next generation will use the UKL2 platform that underpins the BMW 2-series Active/Gran Tourer and X1, along with the current Mini Clubman and Countryman. All of these models are engineered with optional four-wheel drive where applicable, so expect to see xDrive models populate the range alongside bread-and-butter front-drive versions.

BMW 1-series 2019

Although rear-drive handling dynamics have previously been considered something a USP for the 1-series, a key advantage of the front-drive platform is more efficient packaging, so an increase in interior space and potential for a larger boot is on the cards. It should also mean that the large transmission tunnel of the current-gen '1' is slimmed down, meaning more rear legroom. 

M140i successor?

The car you see here appears to be a high-performance version, following on from the current-generation M140i. We can see huge brakes behind the black alloys, a notably low ride height and large twin tailpipes of the type that normally only appear on M Division-fettled cars. Regular 1-series models are likely to reach the market first, however, with M Performance variants following some months later down the line. 

BMW 1-series 2019

To ensure the hotter version keeps up with the likes of the Audi RS3 and Volkswagen Golf R, it will likely use BMW’s xDrive-branded four-wheel drive system. The UKL2 platform may mean the end of the sweet-sounding straight-six engine in the top 1-series, too, as a transverse engine layout will almost certainly enforce a switch to a four-cylinder, with twin turbos to boost its power output.

The UKL2 platform also allows the potential for plug-in versions to join later in the production run, like the 2-series Active Tourer iPerformance, Mini Cooper S E Countryman and China-only BMW X1 xDrive 25Le.

This time there may not be a three-door version; industry insiders suggest BMW may follow the wider market trend of a five-door only range, to cut down on production costs.

Read all our BMW reviews

By Jake Groves

CAR's staff writer, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches