BMW builds a Golf GTI rival

BMW is preparing a front-wheel-drive hot hatch in the form of the new 128ti, based on the automaker’s latest 1-Series hatchback.

Prototypes are now in the final stages and a launch in Europe is slated for November. The latest 1-Series hatch isn’t sold in the United States, so don’t expect to see the 128ti here.

BMW’s ti badge dates back to the 1800 Ti of 1963. Short for “Turismo Internazionale,” it signified a practical car that was also sporty. It was later revived for the unloved 318ti of the 1990s. With only two doors and a wimpy 138-horsepower engine, the car was neither practical nor sporty.

Thankfully, the new 128ti is closer in ethos to the 1800 Ti than the 318ti. It comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 good for 261 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic and spins the front wheels only, which is rare for a performance-focused BMW. It also means the new 128ti is an alternative to front-wheel-drive hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Honda Civic Type R, as well as the Hyundai i30 N and Ford Focus ST sold overseas.

2021 BMW 128ti prototype

Beyond the drivetrain, the suspension has also been made stiffer (via higher spring rates and reduced damping), and the locking ratio of the front differential reduced compared to the M135i.

And by losing the all-wheel-drive system of the M135i, the 128ti weighs 176 pounds less, or about 3,350 in total.

Performance numbers include 0-62 mph acceleration in 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph.

The latest BMW 1-Series hatch shares its front-wheel-drive platform with the 2-Series Gran Coupe we do receive. However, the 2-Series Gran Coupe is offered exclusively with all-wheel drive here, meaning a version with a similar mechanical setup to the 128ti is likely off the cards.

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