Mike Stevens | Mar 18, 2010

FOLLOWING REPORTS LAST month that BMW is developing a new small car that will enter below the 1 Series, BMW Chairman Norbert Reithofe has confirmed this week that a rival to the Audi A1 is in the works.

Speaking with British magazine Autocar last week, Mr Reithofe said that the German carmaker is planning to grow the small car offerings of both BMW and MINI, with front-wheel-drive being the likely layout.

"We will be extending the BMW and Mini brands into the small car segment with new models and variants," Reithofer told Autocar.

"For these new vehicles, we are developing a common architecture for both front and four-wheel drive."

With an all-new MINI Cooper expected to arrive in 2014, the new models would likely utilise the same front-wheel-drive layout.

Mr Reithofer said that the new models will be entirely separate from BMW's upcoming Mega City electric vehicles, with internal studies at BMW showing growing demand for 'premium vehicles' (such as the Audi A1) in the small car market.

He also said - perhaps a little alarmingly for purists - that the next-generation 1 Series is not guaranteed to be rear-wheel-drive. At BMW's annual financial results press conference in Munich today, Mr Reithofer reiterated his earlier comments, leaving no doubts as to the carmaker's plans.

“There will be front-wheel-drive BMWs in the smaller vehicle classes in the future,” Mr Reithofer said.

We expect the premium small car segment to grow by 4-6 percent annually until 2020."

BMW development boss Klaus Draeger added that the new FWD platform will feature in the next-generation MINI Cooper, set to debut in 2014. The new architecture will be compatible with vehicles measuring 3800mm to 4300mm long, covering city cars through to compact/small cars such as the 1 Series (4239mm).

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