BMW's entry-level model has been caught out in the open testing for the next generation.

In roughly a year from now, Mercedes will have two compact sedans (CLA, A-Class Sedan) on sale in Europe, but BMW is still determined not to introduce the 1 Series Sedan on the old continent anytime soon. That could all change with the next generation of the company’s smallest car, which has been recently caught in action by the spy camera testing as the regular five-door hatchback.

With the car still being generously covered in camouflage, it’s hard to say how the design will change for the next installment, but the overall shape appears to be sleeker and we like what we are seeing so far. Bear in mind that although the prototype had the production body, this remained pretty much concealed underneath fake panels held in place by rivets. In addition, the taillights were provisional and will be replaced by the final ones later during the testing phase.

Considering the current 1 Series is not exactly going to win any design awards in the near future, we can only hope its replacement will go through some substantial changes. BMW did make quite a few changes to the existing model and it does look significantly better with the Life Cycle Impulse, but even so it does need to go under the knife for extensive cosmetic surgery to bring it more in line with Bavaria’s bigger models.

Not only will its design change inside and out, but everything else is going to be vastly modified as well. By switching to the UKL platform shared with the latest X1 and the 2 Series minivans, it means the 1 Series will come with a front-wheel-drive layout. Come to think of it, the sedan version sold strictly in China already has this setup and a report is indicating the model is due to go on sale in United States at the beginning of 2019.

Only the lower-spec models will come with a FWD setup as the more expensive ones fitted with stronger engines will benefit from the xDrive layout. It remains unclear at this point whether the U.S.-bound model will simply be an “Americanized” version of the Chinese model or it will be based on the new Euro-spec hatchback.

The hatch will be the first to see the light of day, either in March 2018 at the Geneva Motor Show or later the same year in Paris scheduled for early October.

Video: Automedia

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