Scaring the GTI: the new BMW 128ti

Eat Sleep Drive Repeat

07 October 2020

BMW's front wheel drive contender for the Golf's crown

Having recently teased images of their new “GTI killer”, BMW have released official details on their new front-wheel drive hot hatch, the 128ti.

With lots of exterior bits to show off its sporty drive, the 128ti stands out from the rest of the 1 Series family. It takes the range’s M Sport specification and adds red finishes for the air intake and Air Curtains. For selected body colours, the side sills are also in red. The extended Shadowline trim includes black kidney grille, window surrounds and 90mm tailpipe pipe finishers; the bi-tone 18” wheels are exclusive to the model.

Powering the 128ti is a 198kW / 400Nm 2.0 4-cylinder turbo, matched to an 8-speed Steptronic Sport auto gearbox. 0-100km/h happens in 6,1 seconds, and top speed is pegged at 250km/h. Combining that kind of power with a front-wheel drive layout always brings up the fear of hysterical torque steer, which the 128ti keeps under control with a combination of a mechanical limited slip and BMW’s incredibly nerdy-sounding near-actuator wheel slip limitation, which is an electronic program that works with DSC. The differential - the same one found in the M135i xDrive - is an all-round stability and traction manager, keeping things in check during enthusiastic driving.

The M Sport suspension found in the M135i xDrive has been cut & pasted into the 128ti. It includes the stiffer anti-roll bars, but also has additional tuning. Stiffer springs and dampers, a 10mm lower ride height and a specific steering design (another element in the battle against torque steer) mean the setup is bespoke for the model. M Sport brakes are standard.

On the inside, the bespoke feeling continues, this time with a lot of red stitching and highlights - including a not very subtle red “ti” stitched into the centre armrest. An M Sport S steering wheel, M Sport seat belts and backlit trim strips are all standard.

It’s going to be interesting to see at what price the 128ti lands in SA. Currently, the Golf 7.5 GTI costs R620 000, which is roughly the mid-point between the BMW 118i and M135i xDrive. With Golf 8 GTI and its 180kW on the way, there’s potentially a very large battle looming for the King of the Hot Hatches title!