BMW to bring back ‘Isetta’ to compete with Smart and Fiat

If there’s one car maker that knows ow to resurrect a motoring legend, it’s BMW.

And the firm that brought us the MINI has delved into the design archive once again – to produce a 21st-century Isetta microcar! With its tiny dimensions and simple cabin, the Fifties origi­nal was hard to beat in town, even if it had no reverse gear.

The car was only 2.4 metres long, with space for two adults inside – and even some luggage. And now it looks as if the Fiat 500 and Smart ForTwo could have a new rival. Bringing the concept up to date, the modern Isetta’s dimensions are bigger. That’s to help it accommodate a fourth wheel, as the post-war version had only three.

A distinctive feature of the ‘bubble car’ was its unique front access. Safety regulations don’t allow that today, but the cute shape will remain. And while the classic delivered only 12bhp, the newcomer will easily keep pace with urban traffic, thanks to the efforts of BMW’s powertrain development team.

The rear-mounted en­gine layout will be retained. This gives the car similar packaging advantages to Volks­wagen’s up! concepts, as seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. And, due to its tiny size and light weight, the new Isetta will have the lowest CO2 output of any car in BMW’s range.

That will help it to cut the line-up’s average emissions to meet future targets. A zero-emissions electric variant would also provide a similar benefit. BMW has given no official confirmation of the new Isetta’s existence, but company bosses are said to be considering design proposals.

One issue to address is brand image. Could such a car live up to the firm’s “ultimate driving ma­-chine” slogan? If so, expect more about the new Isetta in 2010.