Front-wheel baby plan
BMW’s Mini experience could pay off, writes Neil Dowling in Germany
THE first front-wheel-drive BMW is coming. After a lifetime of sporty rear-drive motoring, the German brand is about to tap its front-wheel-drive experience as owner of the Mini brand to create a new baby car.
The new car will compete with the Audi A1 and new-generation A-Class from Mercedes-Benz, but it could be difficult to find a name, because BMW is already right at the bottom with its 1-Series.
An insider says: ‘‘It’s definitely something we are looking at, but there’s no timing on this.’’
The Mini is made as a frontwheel drive or all-wheel drive — with the latter perfectly suiting BMW’s reputation as a builder of sports-oriented vehicles.
It also eases BMW from its straitjacket policy as a manufacturer only of rear-drive — and in some cases all-wheel-drive — cars.
A BMW spokesman admits the company is seriously considering a model smaller than the current 1-Series.
The proposed BMW could use the Mini Countryman platform that, in one form, is all-wheel drive. And, unlike other Mini models, the Countryman is made in Austria, close to BMW’s Bavarian base.
Mini and BMW have, until now, not shared components. But the rumour of the compact BMW with Mini underpinnings coincides with the next Mini diesel, which has a BMW turbodiesel powerplant.
The new 1.6-litre turbodiesel, which arrives in the Mini later this year to replace the existing diesel, is a modified version of the 2-litre BMW engine.
Go baby: a computer-generated image of what BMW’s new front-wheel-drive car might look like.