Remember the BMW 1 Series?
We Americans only knew the BMW 1 Series for a few short years, and only as a coupe. This hatchback model has technically been around in Europe since 2004, and it was always rear–wheel drive, with all-wheel drive as an option for some models. With the 2020 BMW 1 Series, however, “was” is the key word there.
Yes, to the chagrin of die-hard BMW enthusiasts the world over, this brand new one series runs on a front-wheel drive architecture. Now, we already have front-wheel drive BMWs here, in the form of the BMW X1 and X2. Like those crossovers, BMW underpinned this latest hatchback with the Mini platform, so it’s more like its conventional competition. Sadly, that means no one gets to say their hatchback is different because it’s rear-wheel drive.
But BMW kept the 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six engine, right? Why, even the pocket-sized 2 Series coupe has that! Again, BMW most likely consigned part of the old 1 Series to the history books. Instead, the top-dog M135i model gets a turbocharged four-cylinder engine instead. BMW claims that model has a 4.8 second 0-60 time, along with 302 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque that’s available in first and second gear with Launch Control. That would mean the performance model has the same torque as the previous N55 inline-six, but surely some will still miss the larger engine.
Don’t hold your breath for a U.S. launch
Of course, the big news here is that BMW is shifting ever more over to front-wheel drive platforms. With a car brand that’s been known for generations as a go-to for rear-wheel drive models, that is a bit worrying. We won’t see this car on our shores for two reasons. Buyers in this market are turning away from hatchbacks in droves, and BMW already has two (count ’em) offerings that compete in this same space.
Among hot hatchbacks, the 1 Series had the rear-wheel drive option as its unique selling point. And now? It’s stepping right in the same pool as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and every other front- or all-wheel drive hatchback.
It still looks fun, but can we go back to having some variety in our cars? Please?