BMW is planning a performance version of the new 1-Series hatch.
BMW is planning a performance version of the new 1-Series hatch.

BMW targets Golf GTI

BMW wants to get in on the hot-hatch action that Volkswagen has reinvigorated with its Golf GTI.

BMW is sizing up the Volkswagen Golf GTI with an upcoming performance version of the new 1-Series hatch aimed at stealing some of the pocket-rocket's hot-hatch thunder.

BMW will bring a more powerful version of its new 1-Series and price it below $50,000 in an effort to distract some of the performance car attention from Volkswagen's huge advances in sales and brand image over the last five years.

Speaking at the launch of the new BMW 1-Series this week, BMW Australia's product planning boss Toni Andreevski says the Golf GTI is a logical target for a more powerful 1-Series.

"We want to price [an upcoming 1-Series model] it as a Golf GTI competitor," says Andreevski. "It will have Golf GTI-rivalling performance."

Andreevski says the Golf GTI's blend of styling tweaks, handling, performance and value make it a "formula we're trying to carry through" to a more powerful 1-Series variant.

The Golf GTI has long been a king of the hot hatches, winning its category in Drive's annual Car of the Year awards for four consecutive years before being beaten in 2010 by the Renault Megane RS. It has also helped redefine the hot hatch category, stealing sales from rivals such as the once dominant Subaru Impreza WRX.

With a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine driving the front wheels, the Golf GTI's appeal is more about its well rounded package that includes an easy-to-live-with demeanour, decent levels of standard equipment and performance that belies its on-paper statistics.

The BMW 1-Series GTI rival will get a new generation 2.0-litre direct injection four-cylinder turbo engine producing 160kW of power. That's 5kW more than the Golf GTI, although Volkswagen has a more powerful Golf R version that makes 188kW.

Aiding the pricing cause of more powerful 1-Series models is a new pricing structure that means fewer standard features - but for significantly less money.

Some of the equipment lavished on more powerful variants in the past will now be left on the options list in an effort to get the price of the basic car down to a more realistic - and appealing - level.

So instead of, say, a bigger engine that brings extras such as a sunroof and satellite-navigation for an extra $10,000, the engine might bring a $5000 premium with some basic styling and trim updates, allowing owners to decide if they want to pay for additional equipment.

"We are looking at more of our performance models in the 1-Series hatch and bringing them in a lot more sharply priced," says Andreevski, saying it will broaden the appeal of models that often had many features added to help justify a big price hike over less powerful models.

"You'll see from us a lot flatter price structure [in future]. We want to communicate the performance of the car and let the customer choose [what options they want]. It's all about being more customer focused."

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