First review BMW 128ti (2021): a hot hatch from the makers of the M3

What is striking about the BMW 128ti?

The red sticker on the sills: ti. Don’t we know that letter combination from somewhere? Yes, the classic 1800 ti that brought BMW great success in touring car racing in the 1960s already bore the abbreviation of International Tourism, and the later 3 Series Compact already carried the ti badge on the hatchback. Although the popular variants of the 3 Compact did not give this originally sporty badge a sporty shine. The 128ti does that better: the sporty promises do not lie. And we’re not just talking about the fun red letters at the rear wheels or the sporty interior decoration.

Also noteworthy: this is BMW’s first hot front-wheel drive hatchback. At least, with its own blue and white logo on it. After all, the BMW does not lack experience, with fast front-wheel drives. It has been exactly 20 years since the first New Mini was introduced. And it has probably not escaped you that Minis are damn nice steering cars. In other words: the BMW 128ti is immediately serious.

Until now, the BMW 120i with 178 hp was the most powerful engine variant of the 1-series with only front-wheel drive. Of course, you still have the M135i xDrive (306 hp), but it operates on a stage where, for example, the Golf R, the Audi S3 Sportback and the Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic (all with four-wheel drive) give full rein to their overactivity. Between the BMW 120i and M135i xDrive, there was still plenty of room (also price-wise). An area where cars such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Hyundai i30 N and the Ford Focus ST had the exclusive right.

What’s good about the BMW 128ti?

Perhaps the best news is that BMW is not patting itself on the back by charging a much higher price than the competition – because it happens to have BMW on the 128ti. The car costs 51,164 euros, which puts it right in between the Golf GTI and the Focus ST. Also in terms of power, by the way: under the bonnet of the 128ti lies BMW’s well-known two-liter four-cylinder turbo engine, which is tuned to a power of 265 hp. At least then the tires on the front wheels do not immediately go up in smoke.

BMW has chosen to supply the 128ti with an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard. If necessary, you can operate it manually with your ears behind the wheel. The nice thing about this transmission is that it does not impose its own will on you by shifting to a higher gear at the rpm limit without further consultation – as the DSG of the Golf GTI and Audi S3 does …

BMW also has a lot of confidence in the chassis of the 128ti: adaptive shock absorbers are considered unnecessary. What you get is a purely mechanical suspension / damping, and that makes the 128ti a great steering car. By the way, you have to encourage the BMW before it shows the rear of its tongue. But you are guaranteed a lot of fun, if you choose the Sport program, accelerate the revs of the engine, shift the automatic transmission manually and explore the limits of the chassis. And as a reward, the sports exhaust will roar!

What could be better about the BMW 128ti?

When hot hatch the BMW 128ti is very successful. This is a car that clearly shows its sportiness. Maybe that makes it a little less suitable as a long-haul cruiser. Because those rock-hard shock absorbers always predominate. Of course that is a matter of taste: we did not experience it as disturbing in the week of the test. But if you enter into a long-term relationship with the car, it does not seem inconceivable to us that you will get tired of its bumpy and lumpy handling.

But that’s the only discord – which not everyone will experience. After a week of intensive work with the 128ti, we quickly became convinced that this is perhaps the best offer in the sports department of the C-segment. Against recognized pocket rockets like the Volkswagen Gofl GTI, the Ford Focus ST and the Hyundai i30 N, it is certainly up to the task. And she may even be able to outdo it in a direct confrontation.

When will the BMW 128ti come and what will it cost?

The 265 hp BMW 128ti is now at the dealers. As said: his mirror has a price tag that the starting amount of 51,164 euros. This makes it only a few hundred euros more expensive than the Volkswagen Golf GTI (245 hp, standard DSG, 50,995 euros), but a lot cheaper than the Ford Focus ST with automatic transmission (280 hp, 54,830 euros). We are not used to such a competitive pricing, from BMW!

What do I think of the BMW 128ti?

BMW has switched from rear to front-wheel drive for the smaller models. Many BMW enthusiasts view this transition with a heavy heart. Well, maybe the BMW 128ti had one unique selling point could have had if BMW had stuck to the classic configuration, but do you sacrifice driving pleasure with front-wheel drive? None of that!

BMWs first hot hatchback with front-wheel drive is a bull’s eye. It steers fantastic, and does not add any electronically controlled nuance to its sportiness. There is plenty of speed, the steering is razor-sharp and full of feeling, and the strong chassis gives the car an exciting, frayed edge. Exactly as a sporty C-segmenter should be.

At the editorial staff of we hold very high regard for cars such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Ford Focus ST, but it is the BMW 128ti that is sometimes the best. hot hatchback could be.

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