BMW 1 Series 128ti – long-term review - Report No:6 2021 | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Long-term review

BMW 1 Series 128ti – long-term review

Published: 11 Oct 2021


  • SPEC




  • BHP


  • 0-62


The BMW 128ti: your questions answered!

In today’s edition of 'Some Questions The Internet Asked About A Car’, we tackle a specialist subject: BMW’s latest hot hatch, the 128ti.

What is a BMW 128ti?

The BMW 128ti is a car. This means it is capable of transporting you, up to four additional humans be they familiar or unfamiliar, and an assorted number and size of chattels.

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More specifically, it is a BMW 1 Series fitted with a 128ti badge, a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine driving the front wheels, an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a limited slip differential.

Even more specifically, it is a five-door thorn in the side of the new, eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf GTI.

What does 'ti' stand for on the BMW 128ti?

It stands for ‘Turismo Internazionale’, and was first applied to 1963’s 1800 TI. Caps lock ‘ti’, you’ll note. This three-box saloon (designed by one Signor Giovanni Michelotti) with the TI badge meant it was the faster one.

For a brief, short history of BMW's 'ti' badge, you can click here.

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How much does the BMW 128ti cost in full, and on PCP?

A very pertinent question. Prices for the BMW 128ti start at £33,885, which is exactly £3,815 less than what the most potent BMW 1 Series - the M135i -  costs.

Doing a quick search on BMW’s website, you can lease one for £385 a month over 48 months, with a £5,255 deposit down. Naturally, this can vary depending on the level of deposit you have.

Where is the BMW 128ti built?

In a BMW factory. Actually, two BMW factories, one in Leipzig – where the very first ‘F40’ generation 1 Series rolled off the line – and the company’s Regensburg plant. Both of these are in Germany.

What’s the difference between the BMW 128ti and the BMW M135i?

A good question, but before that, a quick recap on the difference between the old M135i and the new M135i. The old one was a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder rear-drive hot hatch. The new M135i downsizes to a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, driving all four wheels (but mostly the fronts in day-to-day).

So, the (new, F40) M135i is the range-topping 1 Series; the quickest, most powerful and most expensive 1 Series BMW makes and sells. The 128ti sits just underneath this in the range.

The M135i is four-wheel-drive (and can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 4.8s), while the 128ti is only front-wheel-drive.

How fast does the BMW 128ti accelerate?

Deploying its many horses through that diff and into the front tyres, the 128ti records a 0-62mph time of 6.1s and tops out at 155mph. Not Slow, then.

What is the BHP of the BMW 128ti?

A hearty 261bhp, delivered between 4,750rpm and 6,500rpm, from an “offshoot of the BMW Group’s most powerful four-cylinder unit”. Torque sits at 295lb ft, available from just 1,750rpm right through to 4,500rpm.

How many MPG does the BMW 128ti get?

During's time with the little BMW hot hatch, we hovered around the 40mpg region without really trying. Being impressed by fuel economy in a 261bhp hot hatch doesn't scream Captain Excitement, but for such a mature, well-rounded product, it pays to be sensible. There's always the i30N if you really like petrol stations.

Came in handy during the UK's recent fuel crisis too - before striking it lucky and finding a forecourt that actually had any fuel, the 128ti was only showing 30 miles left of range. A quick dab of 'Eco Pro' mode allied to some judicious driving - easy on the throttle, engine braking, Jedi-levels of foresight and anticipated overtakes - and we actually added to that range figure.

Does the BMW 128ti work on a track?

Yes, it really does, but literally any car works on a track. The question as to whether it's any fun on a track is a slightly different matter. Out in the so-called Real World, the Bimmer impressed with its tidy, drama-free handling, great pace, and well-judged ride comfort (which erred on the firmer side). But on track... it felt a little numb, if we're totally honest. It wasn't embarrassed by any stretch, resolutely refused to unstick itself, and was quick along the straights. Just felt a little distant, that's all.

And that's actually fine - it's not a Nürburgring monster with cut slicks and a roll cage. As you'll see further down this Page Of Questions, it's practical, too.

Can you talk to the BMW 128ti?

Absolutely. As part of the car's standard-fit 'Connected Package Professional', you're offered online speech processing, meaning you simply push the little mic button, ask a question - like, 'play xx song' or 'call xx number' and so on - and the little digital assistant will scurry along and action your request.

It worked flawlessly throughout. Indeed, when asked the 128ti if we could be friends, it replied "I think the two of us make a great team".

No you've got something in your eye.

BMW 128ti vs Golf GTI

Sorry, Internet, this doesn’t qualify as a question. However, using our powers of deduction, we suspect you’re after a verdict. And luckily for you, we have a verdict, following a triple test of the 128ti/Golf GTI/Focus ST back in January 2021.

“The sweetly judged 128ti wins this test.”

Read the full triple test here.

Ford Focus ST vs VW Golf GTI vs BMW 128ti

BMW 128ti vs Ford Focus ST

Again, not a question. Also: see above.

BMW 128ti vs Hyundai i30N

An interesting one, this. While both cars are very evenly matched on paper, our most recent verdict resulted in a very slim victory for the (newly updated i30N).

Check out the full test here.

Can I fit a family of Golden Retrievers in the boot of the BMW 128ti?

And lo, the most important question we have yet faced on the new BMW 128ti; one asked by literally three people*. Can an actual family of Golden Retrievers – mum, two offspring – fit into the boot of a car pegged as an actual small family hatchback?

First, a note on the 128ti’s boot space. It measures 380 litres with the seats folded up, and 1,200 litres with the seats folded down.

Using sophisticated methods and some human assistance, can confirm that an actual family of Golden Retrievers fits perfectly well in the boot of a BMW 128ti: son (left), mum (centre) and daughter (right). Judging by the picture below, now regrets not attempting to fit in a fourth Golden Retriever from the same family into the boot where a space clearly exists.

*actually just one person

Three Golden Retrievers in the boot of a BMW 128ti
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