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The next-generation BMW 1 Series hatchback has been photographed testing in Europe.

With the BMW X1 and 2 Series Active Tourer already on sale, the new 1 Series hatch won’t be the first BMW utilising a front-wheel drive platform, but it will be the first model from the company’s global core sedan, hatch and coupe range.

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Under the skin, the next-generation 1 Series sits on the UKL front- and all-wheel drive platform that underpins the Mini range, as well as the China-only 1 Series sedan.

While the move to a front- and all-wheel drive platform will have purists, and the internet, up in arms, it will mean the new 1 Series will have a more accommodating interior, even if exterior dimensions don’t increase.

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We can’t make out many of the car’s styling details as BMW is still using temporary lights at both the front and back, and there are false body panels fitted underneath the camouflage wrap.

That said, we can see the car’s overall shape, which sweeps the 1 Series’ long bonnet into history’s dust bin.

Motivation will come from a familiar selection of turbocharged three- and four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. A plug-in hybrid model is also strongly tipped, and a pure electric variant is a possibility.

With this car’s hunkered down suspension, low profile tyres, deep sills, and large diameter dual exhaust tips, we believe this vehicle is a prototype of the rumoured M140i xDrive, which will come standard with a powerful four-cylinder turbo and all-wheel drive.

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BMW is hoping improved space efficiency, especially for rear seat passengers, will make the new 1 Series a more compelling alternative to the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Locally, the 1 Series sits third in the small car over $40,000 category. Last year, 2567 BMW 1 Series models found new Australian homes. Well behind the class leading Audi A3 (6161) and the second-placed Mercedes A-Class (4335).

It’s likely the new third-generation 1 Series hatch won’t make its debut until 2018. If so, the car won’t go on sale in Australia until later in the year.

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