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BMW 128ti

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GTi in the Crosshairs? |

Want to make a statement without making a statement? Then the BMW 128ti – a somewhat late entry, albeit welcome addition to the world of hot hatches – will be just the ticket.

BMW is not a new competitor in the high-performance segment; it has produced some of the quickest and most exhilarating small cars in the world. Yet, not all buyers want (or need) a fire-breathing monster; some just want a nice sporty hatchback with decent street cred and a pedigree to boot. For this, BMW needs a pat on the back for jumping in at the deep end, and into the GTI’s territory with its first front-wheel-drive hot hatch – the 128ti.

TI?

The ti name tag is not new. In the 1960s, BMW introduced their first ti, or Turismo Internazionale, and has been a staple addition on various BMWs with a penchant for sportiness. 

The new 128ti is very much an everyday hatchback with surprisingly comfortable seating for five, excellent build quality and just the right mix of visual enhancements that will appeal to a younger buyer.

This leaning is most evident inside the cabin, where it becomes crystal clear that the 1-series now targets a younger market, which fits perfectly with the 128ti’s character. The cabin is peppered with all the functionality a young, up-and-coming, tech savvy person would expect to find – such as a touchscreen information system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Of course, as with all new BMWs, this now connects wirelessly via Bluetooth – a fantastic feature that not all manufacturers offer. The seats provide good enough support for both spirited driving and longer cruises.

UNDER THE HOOD

The 128ti is powered by BMW’s excellent 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, and offers 180 kW and 380 Nm of torque across a broad powerband. Power is pushed to the front wheels by BMW’s ZF-sourced eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. There is a limited-slip diff to limit wheel spin, and make sure the front-wheel-drive BMW escapes every corner as if on rails. The zero to 100 km/h sprint is reckoned with in an effortless 6.3 seconds, while the pocket rocket will keep accelerating to an astounding 243 km/h. 

Even more remarkable than the ti’s performance figures is its fuel consumption. BMW maintains an average of 6.8 l/100 km, and while our real-world driving consumed quite a bit more than that, with a little bit of care, the ti would likely achieve around a solid 7.8 l/100 km for most drivers.

On the road, the 128ti is like most BMWs. It is perfectly comfortable at cruising speeds and is built like few others. Ride quality is sporty, but much softer than some of its competitors. Road holding is impressive once you familiarise yourself with the twitchy steering response that is so characteristic of front-wheel-drive BMWs and MINIs alike.

There’s not a great deal to say about the powertrain. The engine is unobjectionable, but has the grunt to give the 128ti a level of performance that is well matched to our road conditions. I would have loved to see a manual option in this car, but this just isn’t the direction that the world is moving in anymore.

LAST WORD

The 128ti is a welcome competitor in the hot hatch segment. Priced to compete with the current Volkswagen Golf GTi, it is likely to be a staple consideration for younger drivers with a spot of cash to spend. Plus, of course, it’s a BMW, which adds beautiful design, high levels of active and passive safety, and decent standard specification. It might not be as focussed as the pure-breds in this sector, but it blends the refinement and usability of a Golf, with a hefty dose of fun. 

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR |Images © BMW SOUTH AFRICA

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