By taking out the “ti” badge from the boxes, BMW returns to a genre that it had abandoned in the early 2000s. The 128ti thus takes over from a line of edgy compacts and acts as a Bavarian GTI, 265 hp and weight down in support. Only, meanwhile, the Series 1 has become traction …

We would tend to forget that at BMW, when it comes to concocting models with a strong temperament, everything does not come down to the thunderous 6 in line of the M3 / M4 or the big V8s. The BMW story also has another part, just as sympathetic as the heavy artillery of the Motorsport models, and just as iconic. The name “ti”, for Turismo Internazionale, appeared in the mid-60s with the 1800ti, followed by the 2002ti … Sonner Latin was fashionable at the time, to give the reply to the Alfa Giulia Ti. It was not a question of large over-motorized GTs, but of compact, light, powered by nervous 4 cylinders, and relatively affordable. The recipe has continued (although watered down and heavier) with the two generations of the 3 Series Compact, ancestor of the 1 Series that disappeared in 2004.

The 128ti therefore does not come out of nowhere and looks like a homecoming … that the nostalgic will see as a marketing cache of misery. We too have deplored it enough: by becoming traction, this generation of BMW 1 Series has lost what made its spice and its peculiarity. It was the only compact propulsion on the market. Let’s try all the same to find our account there, since the lamentations will not change anything. The 1 Series certainly does not have much to stand out from the Audi A3 and Mercedes Class A, and appears to be suitably successful traction. The 128ti, 265 hp and chassis sharpened to support, nevertheless presents an interesting score and is thus placed in direct rival of the most popular Renault Mégane RS, Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI. Strange, yes.

A little more than stickers

After the specific coating (M Sport shields, 18-inch rims) and the “ti” reminders that are popping up everywhere (monograms, side sill stickers, embroidered on the central armrest), the 128ti hides known undersides. In fact, BMW has taken the basis of the M135i, the most efficient of the range, here simplified and lightened. It loses its all-wheel drive, the weight drops by 80 kg in passing (1,445 kg empty), and the power of the 2-liter 4-cylinder is reduced from 306 to 265 hp.

BMW 1 Series 128ti test (2021): GTI Bavarian sauce

The 128 ti can be summed up as follows: a simplified, less powerful, lighter and more affordable M135i. Minimum 46,550 €, all the same.

Good to know: anticipate the purchase and resale.

It is possible to know the resale or trade-in value of your vehicle thanks to the auto Turbo rating of your BMW 1 Series, the alternative to the Argus rating.

It is entitled, on the other hand, to a real mechanical limited-slip differential (Torsen), to the big brakes of the M135i (360 mm discs at the front), to its anti-roll bars and its sports chassis, which loses at switch to its piloted suspension. Lowered by 10mm, and severely firmer than that of a conventional 1 Series. The first turns of the wheels set the tone: at low speed, it’s steep! Over the kilometers, the feeling is fortunately far from unbearable and the roughness is properly erased. Relatively considerate, but it’s sport. The extremely precise direction, recalibrated, seems cut like a scalpel: ultra-direct, the touch of road of the front axle confirms the orientation of the car. We confirm, BMW did not just stick a few logos …

Forget what a Series 1 was

A 4 cylinder, still going. BMW has been able to make some very good ones in the past. Here, he knows how to give voice, at start-up and up to intermediate speeds in any case. For once, no backlash or outrageous cracklings. Even if the exhaust is very worked, the sound is pleasant and sounds much less artificially than other engines of the same architecture. In the register of compact scent, this 128ti rumbles loudly and delights the eardrums … on condition of forgetting the 6 in line of the old M140i or even 130i. They too could just as easily have earned this famous “ti” label.

BMW 1 Series 128ti test (2021): GTI Bavarian sauce

The lap times are there, the sound is pleasant … But nothing to do with what was a Series 1 or, more distant, a 323ti. Four-cylinder turbo, single traction: the 128ti has become a sporty compact like any other.

And the observation is confirmed for the whole car, during our test on the demanding and wet roads of the Cotentin. The 128ti reveals a very endearing temperament, a little turbulent, but light years away from its ancestors. The times are there, strong besides: 6.1 s from 0 to 100 km / h, and muscular revivals as it should be, well served by a quick and well-managed 8-speed gearbox. In Sport mode, we let it do its job on its own, without touching the paddles, and we even benefit from a slight jerk when upshifting. For the sensations, it’s great!

Then the feeling is more mixed. As you climb in the towers, the thrust remains linear as possible, without roughness … and without the flights of a good old 6-cylinder approaching the red zone. In fact, his character could be that of any turbo “4-legged”. This is not the most confusing: torque increases in the steering (400 Nm to be channeled all the same), a BMW steering wheel which guides the go-around, it will be necessary to get used to it! Trend accentuated in the wet, where it should apply to the work and hold the hoop firmly, given that the very incisive front axle has the annoying habit of closely following the irregularities of the road. The bias will appeal to fans of “all front” sports.

BMW 1 Series 128ti test (2021): GTI Bavarian sauce

The interventions of the ARB, improved traction control, are sound and fairly transparent. Combined with the mechanical self-locking, the whole eliminates understeer most of the time … but does not prevent torque increases.

At least the understeer is erased, unless you really force the stroke. The Torsen, combined with improved traction control (dubbed ARB), does a great job : we pivot, traction remains at a high level and the behavior is reassuring. The rear remains padlocked on the ground, body movements are held as they should. And then, the abandonment of the four-wheel drive and the weight loss are good: what it has lost in efficiency compared to the M135i, the 128ti gains in agility and liveliness. Nothing very playful in absolute terms, but the compromise is interesting.

Almost affordable, really?

Technically, the 128ti therefore remains a more stripped-down and elementary M135i. Its prices are also slightly softer: € 6,400 less, or a call price of € 46,550. And good news, for once, the penalty does not look like an extortion in order (€ 1,172 CO2 tax, for the basic configuration approved at 157 g / km). Note also that the appetite of the Bavarian 4-cylinder has remained surprisingly low, given our rather sustained pace: about 11 l / 100 km recorded, a figure that easily drops to around 9 l by adopting a more moderate driving.

BMW 1 Series 128ti test (2021): GTI Bavarian sauce

The interior differs little from a classic 1 Series. Specific upholstery, reminders of the M colors on the belts, “ti” logo on the armrest. As always, the finish is neat and the driving position flawless.

This “accessible” sports car nevertheless remains very typical … BMW, financially. The equipment is quite complete (sports seats, specific “ti” finish, media interface, camera and parking radars) but the rivals are much less expensive: a Golf GTI is 3,000 € cheaper, just as powerful, and a Focus ST goes much further in radicalism for 10,000 € less (enough to compensate for more than 6,000 € of malus). On the other hand, the 128ti is better placed than a Megane RS, weighed down by nearly € 10,000 in penalties. When the French tax system kills its own products … we will unfortunately have the opportunity to return to the subject, the Peugeot 308 GTi did not survive.

BMW 1 Series 128ti test (2021): GTI Bavarian sauce

It’s hard to confuse the 128ti with a simple 1 Series: logos, red elements, M Sport shields… A little flashy, it’s assumed. A Mégane RS seems almost more sober!

Technical characteristics BMW 1 Series 128ti (2021)

BMW 1 Series 128ti Technical Sheet
Model tested: BMW 1 Series 128ti
Dimensions L x W x H 4.319 / 1.799 / 1.434 m
Wheelbase 2,670 m
Min / max trunk volume 380 / 1,200 l
Unloaded weight 1.445 kg
Engine displacement 4 cylinders petrol, turbo – 1.998 cm3
Power 265 hp at 4,750 rpm
Couple 400 Nm at 1,750 rpm
0 to 100 km / h 6.1 s
Max speed 250 km / h
CO2 rate 157 g / km (WLTP)
Consumption announced – recorded 6.9 l – 11 l / 100 km (sporty driving)
Malus 2021 1,172 euros
Prices from 46.550 €