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BMW’s 1 series is now deep into its 3rd generation. Being a BMW, the brand is synonymous with the M Power badge which represents the crème dela crème within the brand’s ranges, albeit focused on athletic pedigree.

Additionally, although less potent, are the “is” “and “ti” badging for niche products in the ranges. The BMW 128ti breathes new life into a long tradition at BMW. Since the 1960s, the “TI” (later “ti”) badge has stood for “Turismo Internazionale” and marks out particularly sporty models – from the iconic BMW 1800 TI and BMW 2002 TI to the BMW 323ti Compact and BMW 325ti Compact of the late 1990s.

And now we have the introduction of the 128ti. A front wheel-drive hot hatch from BMW. Sacrilege? Hmm, let’s unpack the technical prowess of the car.

Exclusive distinguishing features on the inside and outside of the BMW 128ti give the car a distinctive appearance. Taking the M Sport model as a basis, it adds specific covers and trim mouldings, side skirt trim and a “ti” badge ahead of the rear wheels in a sporting red colour. If the BMW 128ti is ordered with the Melbourne Red or Misano Blue metallic paint finishes, the accents and “ti” badge (which can be deleted, if desired) come in black.

Standard specification includes extended Shadowline trim with black BMW kidney grille and black mirror caps, while the optional BMW  Individual Shadow Line lights for the headlights creates a darker appearance, helped by the absence of various chrome trim elements.

The BMW 128ti carries over the firmer anti-roll bars and anti-roll bar mounts with high preload from the BMW M135i xDrive. Stiffer springs and shock absorbers adapted accordingly provide excellent driving dynamics. In addition, the front-wheel drive 128ti is around 80 kilograms lighter than the flagship model.

As in the BMW M135i xDrive, the standard-fitted M Sport braking system with red-painted brake callipers (a first for a BMW 1 Series model) provides good braking performance. The 18-inch Y-spoke 553 M bi-colour light-alloy wheels are reserved exclusively for the BMW 128ti, while sport tyres (Michelin Pilot Sport 4) can be specified as a no-cost option.

With its specially tuned M Sport suspension (lowered by 10 millimetres), a Torsen limited-slip differential and a bespoke steering application, the exclusively front-wheel drive compact sports model is focused squarely on highly engaging driving pleasure.

The 2.0-litre engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology is a direct offshoot of the variant in the BMW M135i xDrive – the BMW Group’s most powerful four-cylinder unit – and develops 180 kW/380 Nm. The eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission is fitted as standard.

The interior also contains a host of red accents, including a large Race Red surface in the backrests of the standard sport seats, the embroidered “ti” badge in the central armrest and contrast stitching in the other armrests, door panels and instrument panels. The steering wheel rim and airbag cover in the M Sport steering wheel feature red stitching.

So, what is it like to drive? It certainly is a hot hatch. Fast and exhilarating to drive. The suspension is certainly firm, which plays into the car’s character. The eight-speed gearbox is a testament to outstanding engineering. Perhaps the only draw back is the front-wheel steering under harder acceleration, which requires the driver to grasp the wheel and be involved in the car’s spirited sprint. To be honest, torque steer issues are part and parcel of all front-wheel driven hot hatches. Is it a worthy challenger to the iconic VW GTI? In a word – yes! 

 

The Competition

Audi A3 Sportback/S3 Sportback, Alf Romeo Giulietta, Mercedes A-Class Hatch, MINI Cooper S Hatch, Renault Mégane RS Trophy and VW GTI.

 

Pricing

128 ti R699 500

 

Service and warranty

The BMW 1 Series as sold with a 5-year 100 000 km maintenance plan as part of the selling price.

www.bmw.co.za

 

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