BMW’s 128ti has a lot more soul than it’s given credit for

The compact sportster has a truly sporting feel, similar to the classic offerings of the 1960s and 1970s

26 September 2021 - 18:21 By Brenwin Naidu

The current BMW 1-Series wasn’t launched to rapturous applause, was it? Compared with the previous F20-designation model, the new F40 chassis was the subject of vehement criticism, especially from pundits of the blue and white propeller. For starters, the shift from rear-wheel drive to the front-driving architecture synonymous with products from the Mini division. Yes, it made for easier packaging, freeing up interior space because there was no longer a transmission sitting under rear passengers’ buttocks. But that configuration was what made the 1-Series such a compelling choice against the Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Volvo V40. It gave the vehicle a dynamic alacrity and entertainment factor its peers could not match. Then there was the styling. The fairly lengthy hood and shooting brake flavours of the former car were replaced with a bulbous front and blobby overall shape.

Luckily, the 128ti offers some redemption for the model. It’s easily the pick of the contemporary 1-Series range, yes, even over the range-topping M135i, with its 225kW and 450Nm output. In this derivative you get slightly less — 180kW and 380Nm — but it uses the same engine as the more powerful counterpart, just in a different state of tune. The displacement remains at two litres, with four cylinders. But because the rear is not encumbered by the task of transmitting power, as it is in the M135i, this stablemate is lighter. And, seemingly, more agile. While it is slower to 100km/h on paper (6.3 seconds instead of 4.8 seconds), getting to that figure is likely to be a smidgen more thrilling in the 128ti...

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