BMW has plans for a new front-wheel-drive entry-level sedan, falling in just below the existing 3-series sedan, a company source said.
The new four-door model has the internal working title NES (New Entry-level Sedan) and it forms part of a new range of front-wheel-drive models set to join the BMW lineup in the near future.
"The NES is integral to our growth plans," a BMW insider source revealed. "It will be an important pillar in the future 1-series lineup, particularly in the U.S. and China, where sales of small premium-brand four-door sedans are on the rise."
BMW wants a 1-series sedan to counter Audi's A3 sedan and the Mercedes CLA, both of which are based around similar front-wheel-drive underpinnings, German press reports have said in recent months. Like the competition, the new BMW model has been developed to support standard front-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive.
The basis for the new BMW is the company's new UKL (Unter Klasse, or entry-level) structure. It will ultimately replace the 3-series sedan as the company's most affordable four-door sedan model. The UKL will make its debut underneath the new Mini hatchback at the Los Angeles auto show in November.
Due to launch in 2017, the 1-series sedan will precede the third-generation 1-series hatchback, whose current rear-wheel drive will be replaced by front-wheel drive.
The NES is described as being in the strategic planning stage, in which designers and engineers are asked to lay down preliminary guidelines for the new model. The following step will be issuing a new official codename -- essential, BMW sources say, as it moves into the test and development phase.
BMW is not prepared to reveal the production location of the 1-series sedan, although sources suggest it could be built in factories in Germany, China and, possibly, Brazil.
Engines will include transversely mounted three- and four-cylinder inline direct-injection petrol and common-rail diesel units. It's also very probable that a plug-in gas-electric hybrid driveline will be offered at a later stage as part of BMW's EfficientDynamics initiative.