BMW’s local arm has announced that its first front-wheel drive hot hatch, the 128ti, is set to be offered in local showrooms from the second quarter of 2021. A limited number of the fizzy front-driver will be offered, with just 30 destined for our shores.
The news contrasts BMW New Zealand’s initial statements. When the 128ti was initially unveiled last October, a local spokesperson told NZ Autocar that the model wasn’t going to come to New Zealand. But, we’re not complaining. It’s always a good day when a new hot hatch breaks cover.
As reported previously, the ‘ti’ in 128ti stands for Turismo Internazionale. It’s a name that’s been attached to numerous models in the past, most significantly the 2002 ti and 2002 tii. The 128ti stops short of being a bonafide M car, instead sitting underneath the all-wheel drive M135i while delivering what BMW calls a more “unfiltered” driving experience.
In layman’s terms, it’s designed to be a more ‘pure’ hot hatch — like a BMW version of Volkswagen’s Golf GTI ClubSport. Indeed, the 128ti and GTI are set to be firm rivals given that the former comes with a detuned version of the M135’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder.
It produces 180kW of power and 380Nm of torque — 11kW and 30Nm more than a Golf GTI, with torque equalling the Honda Civic Type R and Golf R. Unlike both the GTI and Type R, the 128ti will be exclusively automatic, coming equipped with a torque converter eight-speed.
These output figures are good enough for a 6.3-second 0–100km/h time according to BMW. That’s a second quicker than the standard 120i but 1.5 seconds slower than the M135i. Indeed part of why BMW chose not to fit the car with a manual is because of the harm it would do to that acceleration time, it says.
There are some M bits of note in the 128ti. These namely comprise the specifically tuned M Sport suspension, anti-roll bars from the M135i, stiffened springs and shocks, and a 10mm reduction in ride height. There’s a Torsen limited-slip differential, and the new model also borrows the M135i’s brakes, too.
Pricing sees the 128ti falls neatly into the hot hatch equation. It starts at $69,900, planting it at the top end for front-driven hatches, but at the more affordable end for European performance hatches.