When the next generation BMW X1 arrives sometime around 2015, it will be based on a front-wheel drive architecture, sharing its platform with the Mini Countryman. This isn't new news – stories and editorials have been parsing BMW's FWD strategy for more than a year, and in April of 2011, now-CEO Ian Robertson proclaimed there could be six to nine new BMW and Mini models as part of a "compact car family" based on a shared platform.
A report in Autocar about the switch adds a few more details, though. In addition to the cost benefits from this arrangement, the next X1 will lose its six-cylinder engines but offer more room. The tranverse-mounted engines preclude the six-pot unless BMW redesigns it, so plans are for nothing any larger than four cylinders and possibly the 1.5-liter, three-cylinder powerplant slated for the 1 Series GT. A Haldex clutch will continue to provide AWD capability, and the upshot with the smaller engine bay and firewall moved forward is more room for passengers and cargo.
The platform is referred to as "UKL," for Unter Klasse (Under Class), and its place in the product portfolio is apparently more complex than simply saying it will form the basis for small Mini and BMW models: stories suggest it has been built with the flexibility to underpin the next generation 1 Series as well as the next generation 3 Series. No, that does not mean the advent of a front-wheel drive 3 Series, since the UKL platform was reportedly designed with features like a movable firewall support enabling transverse and longitudinal engines as well as FWD, AWD and RWD powertrains. It does, however, mean the ads proclaiming "This is why we don't make front-wheel drive cars" will probably never surface again.