We recently just gave you the first look at the Chinese-market only BMW 1 Series sedan, which will be the first sedan built on BMW’s new front-wheel drive UKL architecture. We’ve only seen the one photo of the exterior, but it’s a rather handsome looking car and will compete well with the front-wheel drive-based sedans from Mercedes-Benz and Audi in China. However, the fact that it will only be made available for the Chinese market has some enthusiasts upset.
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BMW enthusiasts are a strange group of people, and I’m including myself in that group. We whine and complain about BMW’s recent switch to front-wheel drive in its cheaper cars, yet we bemoan the brand’s decision to not bring it to Europe and North America. So we’re a strange bunch. But count me as one of the BMW fans who wants this 1 Series sedan to make it ‘Stateside.
Despite the supposed heresy of BMW creating a front-wheel drive sport sedan, the little 1 Series might actually be a very good car to drive. Yes, front-wheel drive is inferior to rear-wheel drive, in terms of driving feel and performance. However, that doesn’t mean front-wheel drive cars can’t be fun. Drive a Volkswagen GTI or MINI John Cooper Works and try to tell me they aren’t fun, I dare you. Those two little hot-hatches are proof that front-wheel drive-based cars get get the blood pumping. And BMW’s proved it itself.
The current BMW X1, now in its second-generation, is based on the same UKL architecture that underpins this new 1 Series sedan and modern MINIs. Fans cried blasphemy at the arrival of the new X1 because it replaced the beloved rear-wheel drive model. However, the new X1 really is a great car and a great BMW, regardless of its driven wheels. And, BMW has worked very closely with the development of new MINIs and that’s a company that knows a thing or two about front-wheel drive sports cars. I just spent a day driving a MINI JCW and it was one of the more fun driving experiences I’ve had in a very long time. Just a riot of a little car. This new 1 Series sedan shares some of that DNA, so it would definitely go a long way to helping young BMW enthusiasts get themselves into an inexpensive BMW sport sedan that actually has the driving merits to back up the blue and white roundel on its hood.
Plus, it would sell like crazy. Drive down any major highway in the US and you’re bound to see at least five BMW 320is. These base-model lease specials are incredibly popular here in the ‘States and it’s not because of their performance. The BMW 320i is slow, looks boring and comes with very little as-standard equipment, yet Americans lease them like it’s a fad that will soon go out of style. Why, you might ask? Because they’re a cheap way to get into a BMW sedan. Want to impress the neighbors that don’t know any better, get a 320i and that badge will prove that you’re moving up in the world even if your wallet doesn’t.
If BMW were to sell the little 1 Series sedan in America, dealerships wouldn’t be able to keep them on the lot because young college kids and middle-class, badge-obsessed buyers will snatch them up like crazy. People will be frantic to get their hands on a sub-$30,000 BMW sedan. Want proof, look at the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA. As soon as those two cars went on sale, they immediately jumped to the top end of each brand’s respective sales charts. People love ’em because they’re cheap, drive nice, are comfortable and come with a premium badge.
But that’s just the incentive for BMW to sell them here. The real reason is that the 1 Series sedan will likely be a great little enthusiast’s car. It will be incredibly affordable, so young BMW fans can get their hands on them pretty easily. The UKL platform will allow it to actually be fun to drive, despite its front-drive nature (xDrive will also likely be available for those who absolutely cannot have FWD). And the money saved on getting the 1 Series over a 2/3 Series will allow enthusiasts to customize or tune them pretty easily. This will cause a pretty big enthusiast and tuner scene for the little 1 Series sedan, much like there was with the BMW 318ti in America.
So to recap, BMW should sell the 1 Series sedan in the ‘States because it will make BMW a lot of money with a ton of sales, help it compete with Audi and Mercedes in a new segment and it will allow young BMW enthusiasts to get into the brand early, making fans from a young age. Plus, it will likely be a damn good car that we want.