Tony O'Kane | Jan 26, 2012

While it's summer down here in Australia, it's the middle of winter in the Northern hemisphere.

Snow, icy roads and plunging temperatures might not sound appealing to most, but to car manufacturers it's perfect weather for testing and refining their next-generation products before they hit the showroom floor.

BMW has been hard at work putting its upcoming front-wheel drive hatchback through its paces in Northern Europe.

Last week we got a glimpse of a MINI-bodied test mule (the new BMW hatch will share its platform with the next-gen MINI Cooper), but this week we can finally lay eyes on a more correctly-dimensioned prototype - albeit one that's heavily camouflaged.

Despite the heavy body cladding, this prototype's silhouette reveals a profile quite similar to the Audi A1 - one of the primary competitors for BMW's new hatch, which may wear a 1 Series Gran Turismo, or 1 Series GT badge.

The 1 Series GT will also compete with the next-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class at the budget end of the luxury small car class.

Powerplants are expected to consist of a range of direct-injected three-cylinder turbocharged petrols and diesels, which will utilise BMW's TwinPower twin-scroll turbocharger technology and be shared with several MINI models.

A hybrid powerplant may also eventuate. BMW recently reached an agreement with French consortium PSA Peugeot Citroen to expand the powertrain sharing arrangement between the three brands, so expect a petrol or diesel-electric hybrid to join the 1 Series GT range.

An all-electric variant is also a possibility.

The 1 Series GT will be a seperate entity to the upcoming i3 city car, which will be sold as an entry-level sub-compact and feature a rear-mounted electric powertrain and rear-wheel drive.

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