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BMW Golf-beater gets early start

BMW has reportedly pulled forward the launch of its much anticipated 1-series in order to keep pressure on VW's slow selling Golf, according to rumours swirling through Munich.

The radical Golf-sized 1-series turns contemporary small car design on its head by being rear-wheel drive, sharing much of its platform, suspension and powertrain componentry with the next-generation 3-series. The car is being developed with an emphasis on driver appeal, rather than space efficiency.

The car seen here is the five-door hatch model, which will go on sale this autumn priced from about £15,000. It will be followed in 2005 by a cheaper three- door version. Two-door coupe and four-seat convertible variants, with styling inspired by the CS1 concept car shown at the 2002 Paris Show, are scheduled to appear in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

In line with BMW's new strategy of assigning sporty two- door coupes and convertibles even model numbers, these will be badged as 2-series.

The five-door 1-series also borrows many styling elements from the CS1, most notably the sculpted front wings and bodyside with the boldly curved sill panel, and the crisp bone line that starts at the top of the front wing and runs right around the rear of the car. BMW's trademark double kidney grille and Hofmeister kink C-pillar treatment are retained, however.

Engines will be strictly four-cylinder - 125bhp 1.8- litre, 165bhp 2.0-litre, and a 200bhp turbo 2.0-litre, as well as a 150bhp common rail diesel. There are no plans for a six-cylinder unit.

The front suspension is by way of MacPherson struts, while the rear end features a smooth riding multi-link axle. To keep a lid on costs the 1-series' body is all-steel, and the car will not be available with costly options such as Active Steering or iDrive.

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