Getting ready to fight the Mercedes-AMG A35 and Audi S3.

A lot has been said about the 1 Series being demoted to a front-wheel-drive platform, but will that actually have a negative impact on sales? When BMW introduced the 2 Series Active Tourer and the seven-seat Gran Tourer, many criticized the company for going FWD instead of sticking to the traditional tail-happy arrangement. But did the world end? No. In fact, the two models are proving to be quite popular, even though purists are probably still upset about the existence of a BMW minivan with a FWD platform shared with the Minis.

Here we have the top dog in the next-gen 1 Series lineup, the M140i likely to be offered exclusively with xDrive and possibly to be sold under a different name: M130iX with M Performance branding. A couple of prototypes have been spotted undergoing testing at the Nürburgring and these still had a generous amount of camouflage on their bodies. As with every other spy photo or video showing the new 1 Series, the hatchbacks were seen in five-door guise, and that could be a sign the three-door model will get the axe.

Find out more about the revamped 1 Series:

Unlike today’s six-cylinder M140i – which you can still have with RWD – its successor will lose two cylinders, but even so output from the rumored 2.0-liter four-cylinder is expected to be in the same region as the current 335-horsepower model. Reports are indicating it will have anywhere between 320 to 340 hp. Corroborated with a lighter body granted by the new platform, it means the new 1 Series will still be a fun-to-drive hatchback.

The switch to a FWD platform won’t be all bad news since it will pay dividends in terms of practicality by enabling BMW to engineer a more spacious cabin, especially for passengers sitting on the rear seats. A longer wheelbase will further contribute to a roomier cabin, while an enlarged trunk is going to make the 1 Series easier to live with during extended trips.

As to when we’ll get to see it, BMW could have the 2019 1 Series ready for a Paris Motor Show premiere in October. We might not have to wait more for the M140i as it could debut from day one – fingers crossed. Don’t hold your breath for an M1 as the Bavarians have made it clear they won’t ever launch a full-fat M model based on a FWD platform.

Video: Automotive Mike / YouTube

Gallery: 2019 BMW M140i spy photos

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