BMW 1 Series 128ti – long-term review - Report No:4 2021 | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Long-term review

BMW 1 Series 128ti – long-term review

Published: 21 Sep 2021


  • SPEC




  • BHP


  • 0-62


BMW 128ti: does a hot hatch need lairy red decals?

Famously, a Volkswagen Golf GTI is the car that ticks all boxes; something that sits as happily outside a country manor as it does on a high street. It’s a classless performance icon honed over decades to be all things to all people. Even though the current one has an annoying interior...

The reason we’re spelling out the virtues of a Golf GTI in a report about its main rival, is because its main rival has – at least to my eyes – one rather glaring flaw.

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Plastered along the rear side sills of our long-term BMW 128ti are bright red ‘ti’ decals. I’ve already noted how the 128’s target audience might not necessarily care nor appreciate the revival of a badge that BMW holds dear to its heart. Indeed, it stands for ‘Turizmo Internazionale’, first applied on the 2002ti from the 1960s. On a front-drive, 260-ish horsepower hot hatch. Yeah, exactly.

Anyway, that’s been covered. But what hasn’t is the manifestation of that badging. Does the 128ti need additional ‘ti’ badging plastered across the sides? Do the badges have to look like they came from the Nineties? Does it really need those bright red air intake accents up front and at the back just behind the rear wheels?

Spoiler alert: no, it really doesn’t. It’s a minor point but ruins an otherwise quite lovely spec (‘mineral’ grey with 18in ‘Y’ spoke alloys). The addition of those decals means the 128 suddenly doesn’t feel as classless as that GTI; it’s a little more Fast and Furious. A personal matter of course, and you may disagree.

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If you’re in the ‘they need to be destroyed’ camp, you can of course swap them for black decals free of charge, which has the handy side effect of suppressing any random pointing at the sills from passers-by.

Elsewhere, it’s worth ticking the ‘Technology Pack’ box, which is £1,500 worth of adaptive LED headlights, a parking assistant, an excellent head-up display (invaluable when exploring that wonderful chassis), ‘enhanced’ Bluetooth, wireless charging, and WiFi hotspot prep.

Now you might be thinking, ‘wow, a whole article on a couple of decals, get a life’ etc etc. And you’d be right. It’s only because the 128ti gets so much stuff so very right, this is literally all we had to pick on. It’s a cracking car and continues to impress. So much so, I haven’t even mentioned the grille.

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