BMW says that Golf GTI buyers are the prime target for its new aggressively priced 1 Series
Look out Volkswagen Golf GTI as BMW has you in its sights.
The iconic hot hatch – a market leader that’s often held up as a benchmark – is a prime target for the repositioned, restyled and repriced BMW 1 Series hatchback.
It’s the $48,900 BMW 125i – with a 160kW/310Nm 2.0-litre engine and $2100 cheaper than the outgoing model – that BMW sees as a game changer that could tempt some away from its more mainstream German rival.
With larger brakes (painted in M blue) and rear-wheel drive BMW sees the 125i as the perfect step up for the thousands of GTI owners looking for new wheels.
“We’re going for GTI customers,” BMW Australia CEO Marc Werner confirmed to Wheels.
He said market research leading up to the reveal of the facelifted 1 Series had confirmed there were some GTI owners looking for something new.
“I certainly believe there are some GTI customers out there that are considering buying 1 Series,” said Werner.
“I believe we are within reach … so the GTI customers can now make the next step and join us in the BMW brand.”
The GTI has more power than the 125i (162kW/350Nm in regular trim and 169kW/350Nm as a Performance model) and is more affordable ($41,990 as the regular GTI and $48,490 as the auto-only Performance).
But Werner believes the BMW badge and rear-drive dynamics comfortably carry that premium.
“We are more expensive than a Golf GTI but we can be and should be more expensive,” he said.
For those wanting more performance BMW has the M135i, with a 3.0-litre twin-turbo six-cylinder with 240kW and 450Nm and a claimed 0-100km/h time as low as 4.9sec.
Werner said the freshened 1 was positioned to tempt some buyers out of mainstream small cars, including more expensive versions of the Golf and Mazda 3.
“We are definitely pushing for customers from the mass brands,” he said. “We are actually very affordable … it’s a really good price point.”
And despite the imminent shift to front-drive for the next generation 1 and 2 Series models – each will be based on the 2 Series Active Tourer front-drive architecture – Werner says the brand will continue to plug what it sees as the benefits of rear-drive.
“It certainly helps to position the car … rear-wheel drive is certainly one of our unique selling propositions,” he said. “This car offers something our competitors don’t do in terms of driving dynamics.”
As for weaving some front-drive magic on the next generation 1 Series, Werner is of the opinion the engineers have time to nail it.
“BMWs should always drive like a typical BMW regardless of whether it’s front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. I’m more than certain that the 1-Series successor – which is still far, far away from being launched – will certainly drive like a BMW.”