There’s a lot of negativity surrounding the next-gen 1 Series from traditional BMW purists. This negativity stems from the fact that the next 1 Series will make the switch from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive, something BMW enthusiasts liken to the work of the devil. However, there is room for optimism, especially with the upcoming BMW M140i, which was just recently caught testing again. (We don’t own the spy photos but they can be seen here)

Judging from its looks, typical BMW fans won’t be happy. While it’s heavily wrapped in camouflage, we can make out its basic shape and the BMW M140i tester in these photos looks more like a typical hot hatch than the previous model. The previous-gen car looks very much like a rear-drive BMW but this new one looks more VW GTI-like than anything else.

Personally, I like that look, as I’m a bit fan of hot hatches like the GTI and the Ford Fiesta ST. But I can see why some enthusiasts will be upset by this.

As previously mentioned, though, there is room for optimism. This BMW M140i is going to be a riot to drive, despite its front-wheel drive nature. That’s because it will pack a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making somewhere between 320-340 hp, which puts it right in line with the outgoing car. But this one will be lighter and stiffer.

It will also be roomier inside, thanks to its UKL architecture, and it will have better interior materials and technology. Plus, BMW knows full well that it needs to be a sporty, fun-to-drive machine to live up to its predecessor’s reputation.

According to Motor1, BMW M CEO Frank van Meel said of the BMW M140i “That challenge is the biggest challenge, because we want to have a typical M feeling which goes more naturally with rear-wheel drive. If you want to do that with front-wheel drive, I think that’s the biggest challenge you can have.”

Not only does van Meel understand the challenge, he has shown he can deliver the goods, with cars like the BMW M5, an absolutely brilliant driving machine. So while this BMW M140i might not look like a traditional BMW and it will power its front wheels, we’re optimistic that it will drive like a proper BMW.

[Source: Motor1]