BMW recently showed its Compact Concept Sedan at the Auto Guangzhou 2015, which may or may not become a BMW 1 Series Sedan. If it indeed does become the next 1 Series sedan, it’s likely that it will only be bound for the Chinese market, at least at first. BMW has announced this as a Chinese market car, but the door hasn’t yet been closed on bringing the car westward. If it does make its way over to Europe and to North America, it will walk into some stiff competition.
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The Mercedes-Benz CLA class is the main competition for the segment for which the 1 Series sedan would be competing in. Out of the German Big Three (BMW, Mercedes and Audi), Mercedes-Benz has had a horse in this race the longest. The CLA Class has slightly edged out the current Audi A3, in terms of both age and sales. It’s an extremely popular car in the US and is a gateway for young customers to get into the Mercedes-Benz brand.
Its 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine develops 208 hp and sends that power through an as-standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is available, via Mercedes 4Matic system. This package starts at just a hair under $30,000 dollars and is very attractive to young buyers.
Its design isn’t the best to ever wear the three-pointed star, though. With an overall profile, as well as the rear end, that seems to be melting and some very strange taillights, the CLA Class isn’t the best looking car in the segment. It’s interesting, sure, and it’s flashy and shiny and has a lot of bling. But there’s no real substance to its design and it gets stale quick. The interior isn’t bad, though, with decent materials and a sporty, youthful design. Not sold on the column shifter, though. Column shifters belong in trucks and old Buicks, not sporty Mercedes-Benzs.
The interior also lacks a ton of headroom, thanks to its sloping roofline. That roofline might look good on the outside, but significantly hinders its interior space and makes fitting adults in back a near impossibility.
While the BMW 1 Series sedan is still in concept phase, there’s enough to look at to make a comparison. The overall profile is chunkier on the BMW, giving it the appearance of having a more capacious interior. It also looks more muscular and more powerful. It also looks rear-driven to these eyes, with the C-Pillar accentuating the rear wheels and the short front overhand, but it will likely be front-wheel drive and based on BMW’s UKL architecture. But the typical BMW Hoffmeister Kink is there and BMW’s twin circle headlights now have a “sawed-off” look that somewhat point inward toward the kidney grilles. BMW also took a page out of Audi’s book, by putting the side mirrors lower on the door, instead of higher by the A Pillar, to allow for air to flow easier around it, thus greatly reducing wind noise. It certainly looks more premium and upscale than the CLS Class, though it’s important to remember that this is just a concept.
The BMW 1 Series also seems to have a bit nicer of an interior. It’s simpler and more elegant and seems to have pulled some design themes from the new 7 Series, like the center stack and interior trim. It’s not as aggressive or as sporty as the CLS Class, but it looks a bit more premium on the inside as well. Again, this is just a concept and it’s important to remember that things will likely change, but the overall design should remain similar and this new 1 Series could have one of BMW’s nicest cabins.
Overall, it’s tough to compare the two when one is still in concept phase, but I think it shows that BMW is off to a good start. The Mercedes-Benz CLA is the most popular car in its class and BMW seems to have found an answer to it. The new 1 Series Sedan (if that is indeed what it ends up being) could frighten many of the bean counters in Stuttgart.