BMW has given the world its first look at its front-wheel drive future, revealing the BMW Concept Active Tourer ahead of its debut at this month's 2012 Paris motor show.

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The small car-sized BMW Concept Active Tourer rides on an all-new vehicle architecture, and for the first time in BMW's history features a transversely mounted 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that powers only the front wheels.

The Active Tourer is technically an all-wheel-drive concept, as its drivetrain incorporates an electric motor that turns the rear wheels, although the new front-wheel-drive platform and engine layout previews the configuration that will find its way into a number of new compact BMWs as well as the third-generation Mini Cooper range from 2014.

The BMW Concept Active Tourer is expected to preview the design of the upcoming BMW 1 Series Gran Turismo, which will follow in the footsteps of the BMW 5 Series GT and soon-to-be-released BMW 3 Series GT in offering a chunkier design and added interior space and versatility. The 1 Series GT will become Bavaria’s answer to the popular Mercedes-Benz B-Class compact MPV.

At 4350mm long, 1834mm wide, 1560mm tall and riding on a 2670mm wheelbase, the Active Tourer is 26mm longer, 69mm wider and 139mm taller than the current BMW 1 Series hatch, and is 20mm shorter between the wheels, while its front-wheel-drive layout promises to enhance cabin space.

The Concept Active Tourer is a plug-in hybrid and previews much of the technology that will be applied to the BMW i8 sports car from 2014.

The brand-new three-cylinder engine teams with the rear-mounted electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. The system produces a combined output in excess of 140kW, while the electric motor can send 200Nm of torque instantaneously to the rear wheels.

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The concept’s impressive efficiency is matched by solid performance, with a sub-8.0-second 0-100km/h acceleration time and a top speed of approximately 200km/h.

The BMW Concept Active Tourer abandons the polarising bulbous styling of the 1 Series hatch for a broader, more mature look reminiscent of the brand’s larger and pricier models.

The minimalistic cabin sports a cockpit layout, incorporating a head-up display, large central screen and iDrive controller all directed towards the driver. The rest of the space is designed to enhance passenger comfort, with seatback-mounted screens for the rear passengers and a full-length panoramic glass roof adding to the sense of spaciousness.

The BMW Concept Active Tourer will debut at Paris on September 27.

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