Quite a lot of hype is floating around the internet about the world premier of BMW’s Concept Compact Sedan. This concept shows a future design for BMW in the premium compact sedan segment, currently populated by the Mercedes-Benz CLA Class and the Audi A3. There’s much debate as to whether or not this will become a 1 Series sedan or possibly a 2 Series sedan or maybe even 2 Series Gran Coupe. We think it will eventually become a 2 Series sedan or Gran Coupe, as it has a somewhat rear-wheel drive styling to it, with the way the C-Pillar sits atop the rear wheels and how short the front overhang is. Though, this is still just a design concept, so things could change and it could end up being a 1 Series based on BMW’s new front-wheel drive UKL architecture. There are good arguments for both front and rear-wheel drive, however, and it will be important to BMW either way.
BMW will be entering into a new segment with this car, one dominated by Mercedes-Benz and Audi. This segment is one of the hotter selling segments in the automotive world, as it gains customers entry into luxury brands. It also brings people into dealerships with low advertised pricing and then slams them with optional extras. For example: the Mercedes-Benz claims that the CLA Class starts at $29,999, but good luck finding one for under $35,000 on a dealer lot. Audi does the same with the A3. It’s just the nature of the segment. And this brings in a ton of money for both of those brands.
So BMW could enter this segment with either a 2 Series sedan or GC, or a 1 Series sedan. The main difference between the two would be the platform and drivetrain. A 2 Series sedan would be based on the 2 Series coupe and would be rear-wheel drive-based, with optional xDrive. A 1 Series sedan would likely be front-wheel drive on BMW’s UKL platform, with optional xDrive.
If BMW brings a 2 Series sedan to the segment, it will have a clear enthusiast advantage. Young enthusiasts first drooled over the idea of a Mercedes-Benz costing under $30,000 to start, when they first heard of the CLA. However, upon finding out that it would be front-wheel drive, most, if not all, enthusiasts lost interest. Same goes for the Audi A3, as the base model is front-wheel drive with the VW Jetta’s 1.8 liter turbo-four. So if BMW offers a cheap rear-wheel drive sedan in the same segment and price range, it would be the clear enthusiast’s choice and have a distinct performance advantage.
However, the problem with that line of thinking is that the majority of buyers in the segment are not enthusiasts. Unfortunately, 90 percent of buyers in that segment are middle class folks who want to get into a luxury brand and only care about the badge on the hood, not driven wheels. Nor can the majority of them tell the difference between rear or front-wheel drive. So It would probably make more business sense to make this a 1 Series sedan and front-wheel drive, as it’s more cost-effective and BMW would stand to make more profit in an already highly profitable segment. Plus, BMW already has the 2 Series coupe, that’s rear-wheel drive, which is pretty much in the same price range as the baby Merc and Audi. So that can be the enthusiast’s choice.
Regardless of which it becomes, though, this car will be very important to BMW. The 2 Series coupe competes well in the segment now, but it doesn’t sell nearly as much as the Mercedes CLA or Audi A3. You’ll see ten of each of those aforementioned cars for every one 2 Series’ on the road. That’s because of the 2 Series’ coupe-like lack of practicality, versus the other two sedans. Admittedly, the 2 Series actually has better interior head than both and better rear legroom than the A3 and a bigger trunk than both, but people would still prefer to have two extra doors. Because of this, BMW is losing out, in terms of sales, to Mercedes and Audi in this segment and could seriously stand to profit from having a small, cheap sedan of its own, regardless of drivetrain, as most would be bought with xDrive anyway.
Us enthusiasts are hoping for a 2 Series sedan, as a small rear-wheel drive BMW sedan with a manual transmission is what we’ve been wanting since the departure of the E46 3 Series sedan. So just the idea of this Concept Compact Sedan is getting most of us giddy with excitement. And it should, as it will be quite excellent, regardless of front or rear-wheel drive. Having sampled BMW’s latest UKL architecture, I can tell you that it could very well be the most fun front-wheel drive platform. However, it does end up being a rear-wheel drive 2 Series sedan and is available with a manual transmission for a starting price of under $30,000, it might become the enthusiast’s favorite.