Mar 25, 2004 This is the first BMW to compete in the premium lower medium European car class defined by cars such as the Audi A3 and Alfa Romeo 147, although spiritually it follows the significantly smaller BMW 2002 Touring produced from 1968 to 1976.
Proportionally the car is clearly rear wheel drive, and this unique attribute in this class will be key to its appeal.The five door is on the hatchback side of being an estate and this careful balance enables it to compete with hatchbacks whilst retaining the appeal and status of the 'lifestyle estate'.
Classic BMW design cues such as the Hofmeister kink in the DLO and the kidney grille are evolved in a design that also features the flame surfacing now typical of smaller and more sporting orientated BMWs.
Unlike the 7, 6 and 5 Series cars, the 1 Series does not have indicator lamps shrouding the top of its headlamps, or a bonnet surface that extends over the top of them as previous BMW designs had, which is the reason the car has a slightly startled, wide-eyed appearance.
Inside the car evolves design themes similar to the X3, but has a more playful design identity; witness the sweeping door grab handles, gear shift surround and passenger side IP split.
The 1 Series is uniquely rear wheel drive in this class and has an aluminium front axle and a battery mounted in the boot floor (run flat tyres so no spare wheel) to help provide the 50/50 weight distribution (for the lighter petrol engine variants) that BMW strives for in all of its cars.
At launch there will be two petrol and two diesel engines, all 1.6 or 2.0 litre four cylinder engines, with more to follow. The five door car will be joined by a three door and later a two door 2 Series coupe and cabrio.
With a length of 4230mm, width 1750mm and height 1430mm, it is marginally wider and taller than the current E46 3 series, but 248mm shorter (than the 5 door Touring). Interestingly it has exactly the same length as the old BMW 2002 sedan, although it is much wider and a little higher.
I-drive is an option on the car and all 1 Series have a starter button and high level of safety equipment.
BMW are to produce approximately 150,000 1 Series per year (now not to be sold in North America), less than half the number of the 3 series sold in Europe and a little more than Audi typically sells of the A3 in Europe.
On the roads in Autumn, its unique rear wheel drive package, brand appeal, classical lifestyle-estate proportion and modern form language will combine with what shall likely be exemplary performance characteristics to ensure that this is a very successful product. BMW will be watching carefully to see that the 3 Series doesnt become a victim of its new small brothers success
Geneva Motor Show 2002 Highlights: BMW CS1