BMW Australia is hoping to get its hands on a long-overdue front-wheel-drive 1 Series sedan model to rival the popular Audi A3 sedan and Mercedes-Benz CLA in 2017, provided it can secure right-hand-drive production.
It's no secret that BMW is developing a compact sedan. We've been seeing spy images for some time now, and the company even showed us a concept called (imaginatively) the Concept Compact Sedan in China last November.
These latest spy images lobbed in our inbox this week, showing clearly that development is well and truly nearing completion. A global reveal is expected later in 2016. BMW naming convention dictates it be named either the BMW 1 Series sedan or BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, though the styling here makes the former seem the better bet.
Naturally, China is a key market for the compact BMW sedan. Some reports, including Australian, have indicated this might preclude development of a more global version, with RHD availability. But there's an obvious need for a version covering key markets across Europe, including the UK, and the US.
We spoke recently with BMW Australia managing director Marc Werner, who said this car was of big interest to the company's local operation and a case was being explored.
"First of all, if you see the growth in the UKL segment [the platform that underpins the Mini range and BMW's X1, 2 Series Active Tourer], 1 Series and 2 Series segment, it is by far the fastest-growing within the premium segment," he said.
"We are exploring globally what kind of additional opportunities we have for further derivatives. A 1 Series, or 2 Series, sedan, would be one feasible option."
So far, so obvious. But the key comes next.
"This is certainly something that would also be interesting for the Australian market, [though] it's too early to tell when, if we are going to launch that car. Our constraints here are RHD - we need to make sure this car, if it will be launched, will include a RHD version.
"But [it's] definitely interesting, [we are] in discussion with the German engineers and product management."
BMW Australia would no doubt feel aggrieved should it fail to get the 1 Series sedan here, given the significant sales performance in the premium small car market in 2015. Without a small sedan, BMW has been ceding thousands of potential sales here to the CLA and A3.
Pictured: BMW Concept Compact Sedan concept.
As we know, the next-generation 1 Series will port across to BMW/Mini's UKL front- and all-wheel-drive architecture, as used on the 2 Series Active Tourer and X1 crossover.
It is expected the new sedan might premiere this platform ahead of the next-generation 1 Series hatch derivative, given the latter only recently got a mid-life update.
Given the modular nature of BMW's line-up, expect the company's 1.5-litre turbo three-cylinder and 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines to feature.