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Car reviews - BMW - 1 Series - 128ti


Is BMW’s 128ti ready to take on its mainstream hot hatch rivals?

4 Jan 2022

THE ti badge – short for Turismo Internazionale – has a long and occasionally colourful history with BMW, but the designation has also appeared on some of the brand’s more insipid models.


It was first applied to the 1963 1800 TI, which was something of a precursor of the M3 sedan and incorporated improvements courtesy of Alpina, which still enhances BMWs to this day. Featuring an 82kW 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine fed by dual Solex carburettors, the 1800 TI had a nifty 15kW extra (18% more power) compared with its bread-and-butter sibling.


However, perhaps the most memorable ti-badged model was the 1970 2002 TI. At first, the humble sedan featured a 90kW 2.0-litre four, again with dual carburettors, before being updated to include mechanical fuel injection a short while later. 


That model, which was badged Tii, produced around 98kW, but was topped by a turbocharged variant – the 2002 Turbo, which was notably BMW’s first forced-induction production car, three years later. The 2002 Turbo produced a whopping 127kW and 240Nm.


The ti badge was retired in the mid 1970s, but eventually made a comeback in the E36 3 Series Compact (hatchback) range in 1990. The 318ti mustered around 83kW of power from its 1.8-litre four-cylinder motor and the more powerful 323ti (with its 2.5-litre inline six) did a little better with 127kW – the same output as the 2002 Turbo of the early 1970s…


In 1997, BMW’s follow-up E46-based 3 Series Compact (hatch) range was again blessed with a ti badge. Unfortunately for BMW fans, the applique was nearly as dreary as it was in the preceding line-up – the 316ti, 318ti, and 325ti produced 77kW, 87kW, and 137kW respectively. Yawn.


Fast forward to today and the ti badge has made yet another comeback. 


Now adorning the tailgate (and numerous other parts) of the front-wheel-drive 1 Series, the moniker feels deservingly placed this time around; the 128ti features a range of sporty enhancements, including a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an electronic limited-slip differential, as well as a bespoke steering setup. Think of it as an M135i xDrive without the additional 80-odd kilograms of all-wheel drive infrastructure. 


The F40-series 128ti is powered by a 2.0-litre motor that produces 180kW at 6500rpm and 380Nm from 1500 to 4400rpm… those outputs are 15kW and 20Nm lower than in the Euro-spec version. It features an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard and is said to accelerate from zero to100km/h in 6.3 seconds. Combined fuel consumption is listed at 6.8 litres per 100km.


Above the donor model, the 128ti includes M Sport suspension (lowered with stiffer springs and firmer dampers), BMW Performance Control (torque vectoring), firmer anti-roll bars and pre-tensed anti-roll bar mounts. Braking comes courtesy of four-piston M Sport calipers that grab 360mm ventilated rotors at the front and single-pot clamps (on 300mm discs) at the back.


The feisty 128ti rides on unique 18-inch Y-spoke M alloy wheels wrapped in 225/40-series rubber.


Equipment highlights include a black-themed interior with cloth and Sensatec upholstery, keyless entry and push-button ignition, M seatbelts and steering wheel, velour floor mats, electric seat adjustment, head-up display, digital instrumentation, 10.25-inch infotainment array, adaptive LED headlights with high-beam assist, dual-zone climate control, M rear spoiler and BMW Individual high-gloss Shadow Line trim.


The 128ti is optionally available with several comfort and convenience packages that add items such as a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, premium paint and seat heating – each pack commands up to $3700 on top of the vehicle purchase price.


Priced from $56,900 plus on road costs, the BMW 128ti sits between the 118i ($46,900) and M135i xDrive ($69,900). It is backed by a three-year/unlimited-kilometre factory warranty.

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