As many of you know BMW will be releasing the 1 series later this year. In fact today BMW released the first official photos and info about the car. The 1 series will eventually be available in several configuration; a four door hatch, two door hatch, two door coupe and a convertible (the latter two to be named the 2 series). BMW designed the car to slot just above the MINI in both size and price with some key differences; the 1 series will be available only in wheel rear drive configurations and will offer a small inline six (among the many engine choices).

Expect the 1 series to be released late this fall just about everywhere… but the United States. For some reason BMW has determined it's biggest market won't be getting the initial 4 door/hatch configuration. In fact Jack Pitney (head of BMWUSA) recently spoke about the 1 series possibly not coming to the US at all due to marketing and economical concerns. For one BMW is worried that with the Euro/Dollar exchange being what it currently is the 1 series won't be able to be priced well enough below the US 3 series to justify it's existence here. How quickly BMW seems to forget the new small premium market they've just invented with the MINI.

Why would BMW not to bring the hatchback models to the US? It is assumed that this will be the biggest selling configurations around the world. Yet somehow BMW doesn't believe the US market sales can sustain the investment to bring them over. This fear would seem a bit misplaced considering how successful the MINI has been in the US. The MINI has gone against all rational thinking in terms of the US automotive market and been a huge success for BMW. MINI has proven that there is a growing small premium car market in the US – despite what had been assumed before hand. Now why would BMW decide to not push the envelope and release the full 1 series range here? Dilution of the brand? I'd say the X5 has done more to dilute the brand than a small sporty BMW hatch would. In fact the 1 series is closer to the soul of past BMWs than some of what's in showrooms now. Further with the 1 series BMW wouldn't have to create an entirely new brand and dealer network. Because of this costs could be substantially lower for dealers and BMWUSA than with the MINI's introduction in the US two years ago.

So why is all this related to the MINI? Well for one a four door MINI and a four door 1 series would surely compete against each other in the market. With the US not getting a four door 1 Series the case for a four door MINI could be stronger here. Further the 1 series is built on a version of the next 3 series platform. One would gather there's quite a bit of next MINI in the 1 series. For instance the current MINI shares it's electrical system with the current 3 series. And of course the Z-link rear suspension is also a design based off of the current 3 series. So what changes lie in store for the next MINI based on what we see today in the 1 series? Only time will tell.

You can see a gallery of the 1 series here. And for more information on the car here is BMW's official release concerning the new 1 series:

Sheer Driving pleasure now also to be found in the compact class:

(The BMW 1 Series 5-door hatchback model will not be offered in the US. The availability and introduction timing of future 1 Series variants in the US has not been determined.)

Munich. In the autumn of 2004 BMW will unveil for the very first time a compact class automobile – the BMW 1 Series with five doors and a length of 4.23 metres, making this new model series precisely 24 centimetres shorter than a 3 Series saloon. The typical BMW drive concept, powerful engines, high-grade equipment and the experience of sheer driving fun offer a new and unique alternative in this particular market segment.

Right from the very first glance there is no doubt that this new five-door sports-hatch is a BMW through and through: The long wheelbase with a short front overhang, the lower roof line with the typical C-pillar kink and the characteristic front end with the “kidney” grille and double headlamps give the 1 Series a face that stands out in a crowd. The practical hatch opens to reveal a variable luggage compartment that offers the driver and passengers 330 to 1150 litres of storage space for even larger items of sports equipment for a variety of leisure activities.

Unique agility and steering precision.

Whether loaded or not, the 1 Series is always sheer pleasure to drive: The seating position offering long-distance driving comfort and the exemplary, clearly structured cockpit provide the driver with perfect ergonomics during his “driving experience”. After starting the engine at the push of a button, one immediately senses that typical driving pleasure only a BMW can induce. Thanks to its agility and steering precision unique in the compact class, the BMW 1 Series not only ensures sporty but smooth handling of winding country roads, but also facilitates effortless urban driving pleasure. This is because – like all other BMW automobiles – the 1 Series has a front-mounted engine and rear wheel drive. Even in the tightest of bends there is no torque steer to be felt, the rear wheels having optimal traction when transferring the engine's power onto the tarmac.

Moreover, this concept offers an ideal balance of weight between the technically elaborate aluminium front axle and the five-link rear suspension. Together all of these characteristics facilitate further advantages such as optimal traction even when fully loaded and on hills. The drive and suspension concept is further enhanced by a particularly stiff body and excellent aerodynamics with a drag coefficient of just 0.29.

On the whole no other vehicle in the compact class offers such a distinctively harmonious symbiosis of sporty driving characteristics and suitability for long-distance travel as the BMW 1 Series.

Four engine variants from 115 to 163 bhp.

When the car is launched customers will have an immediate choice of four four-cylinder engines. The models 116i (85 kW / 115 bhp) und 120i (110 kW / 150 bhp) feature further developed and refined BMW petrol engines. The two diesel versions, the 118d (90 kW / 122 bhp) and the120d (120 kW / 163 bhp) are equipped with high-torque diesel engines. Needless to say, all BMW 1 Series cars meet with EU4 emission standards. A smooth-shifting manual six-speed gearbox (five-speed on the 116i) or, optionally, a comfortable six-speed automatic deliver power to large-size 16-inch wheels with emergency running properties, thereby contributing to the most dynamic performance available in this segment. Furthermore, the BMW 1 Series is one of the most economical in its class.

Active and passive safety at the highest level.

Robust, large disc brakes provide supreme stopping power in any situation. By means of two-stage brake light clusters the BMW 1 Series indicates to vehicles behind whether the brakes are being applied normally or hard. And the extensive range of standard safety equipment, which includes DSC Dynamic Stability Control, DBC Dynamic Brake Control, Electronic Differential Lock as well as a complete airbag system comprising head airbags for all seats, complies with the most stringent safety requirements. These safety features and an exemplary protective body structure are the best prerequisites for achieving five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test.

Equipment options normally associated with more luxurious classes.

In addition to the wide range of basic equipment, there are a myriad of possibilities to individualize the BMW 1 Series with optional equipment available in the usual high BMW quality. Many of these have previously only been seen in higher vehicle segments. These include: Convenient keyless access, Bluetooth mobile interface, sports seats with backrest width adjustment, acoustic PDC Park Distance Control at the front and the rear, Bi-Xenon headlights and a choice of high-performance audio and navigation systems, which can also be operated centrally or by voice control utilizing the BMW state-of-the-art iDrive operating concept.

With its unique concept, the BMW 1 Series is intended to target customers who have always appreciated the practical aspects of previously available compact vehicles but have, until now, searched in vain for an automobile that takes into consideration their increased demands in terms of driving pleasure and individuality. Whilst fully meeting these customer requirements, the BMW 1 Series offers in addition high-quality product substance wrapped up in a modern and attractive design.

Overview of specifications

116i 85 kW /115 bhp at 6000 rpm; 150 Nm at 4300 rpm; cubic capacity 1.6 litres; 0-62 in 10.8 s; top speed 200 km/h (124 mph); fuel consumption 7.5 ltr/100km

120i 110 kW / 150 bhp at 6200 rpm; 200 Nm at 3600 rpm; cubic capacity 2.0 litres; 0-62 in 8.7 s; top speed 217 km/h (135 mph); fuel consumption 7.4 ltr/100km

118d 90 kW / 122 bhp at 4000 rpm; 280 Nm at 2000 rpm; cubic capacity 2.0 litres 0-62 in 10.0 s; top speed 201 km/h (125 mph); fuel consumption 5.6 ltr/100km

120d 120 kW / 163 bhp at 4000 rpm; 340 Nm at 2000 rpm; cubic capacity 2.0 litres; 0-62 in 7.9 s; top speed 220 km/h (137mph); fuel consumption 5.7 ltr/100km

The BMW 1 Series made in Germany.

The BMW 1 Series is manufactured at the ultra-modern Regensburg plant, utilizing production facilities which provide some of the highest possible levels of flexibility and model diversity in the automotive industry, but which at the same time offer the best possible standard of present-day workplace ergonomics.

With the BMW 1 Series, the BMW Group is laying an important cornerstone for further profitable growth. Market researchers see the premium segment of the compact class as the market with large potential worldwide. Thanks to its unique vehicle concept, the BMW 1 Series will gain a disproportionately large share of the market and contribute to a further sharpening of the BMW brand profile.

Prices for the BMW 1 Series are shortly to be announced. The market launch is planned for the autumn of 2004. The BMW 1 Series will celebrate its auto show debut at the Paris Motor Show.