BMW 1 series VS Mini Cooper
BMW 1 series
- Sense of occasion
- Great practicality
- Entertaining drive
- That grille
- Weaker engine tune
- Short warranty
- Unique looks
- Cool cabin
- Great on-road dynamics
- Low on standard advanced safety equipment
- Limited rear legroom
- Small boot
BMW 1 series
It wasn’t that long ago the notion of a front-wheel drive (FWD) BMW was unheard of, but along came the third-generation 1 Series five-door hatchback in September 2019.
The 'F40' 1 Series' predecessors were based on rear-wheel drive (RWD) platforms, as was every other model in BMW's long history – to that point.
Ironically, though, the F40 1 Series' performance flagship remains the all-wheel drive (AWD) M135i xDrive, but now it has a FWD counterpart, the Volkswagen Golf GTI-baiting 128ti.
Critically, this represents the first time since the late 1990s range of 3 Series Compact three-door hatchbacks that the ti, Turismo Internazionale, badge has been affixed to a BMW.
So, does the 128ti hot hatch live up to the ti lineage of sporty BMW small cars? And perhaps more importantly, does it prove a FWD BMW can be truly desirable? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
I want to hug you. Or maybe we could just high five if you’re uncomfortable with the whole hugging thing. Why? You’re looking at buying a Mini Hatch or Convertible, that’s why. And that’s not a decision somebody makes lightly.
See, Minis are small, but they’re not cheap; and they’re so different looking that if they were a fish many people would throw it back if they caught one. But for those brave enough to buy a Mini the rewards these little cars will give you in return could make you a fan for life.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
BMW 1 series7.9/10
It might not be rear-wheel drive, but the 128ti is a thoroughly enjoyable BMW to steer, proving the 'f' in front-wheel drive can stand for fun. It’s a very good hot hatch.
And given how expensive mainstream hot hatches have become, the 128ti is a bargain, giving would-be Golf GTI, Focus ST and i30 N buyers a thing or two to think about.
After all, the 128ti is a premium hot hatch by virtue of the BMW badges it wears and the higher quality of its parts, but not its price. And for that reason, it cannot be ignored.
If you’re buying a Mini Hatch or Convertible because they look unique and are fun to drive, then you’re doing it for the right reasons. But if you need a small family car then think about the Countryman or something bigger in BMW’s range like an X1 or 1 Series – these are the cousins of Minis and share the same tech but offer more practicality for similar prices.
The sweet spot in the Hatch and Convertible range is the Cooper S, whether it’s the three-door hatch, the five-door hatch or Convertible.
Are Minis the coolest small prestige car out there? Or overpriced and ugly? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
BMW 1 series8/10
You can count me among those who aren't fans of the 1 Series' version of BMW’s 'kidney' grille. It’s not just out of proportion, but arguably, misplaced.
In fact, it just spoils the front end, although I'm also not a fan of the bumper's 'smiling' centre air intake.
But, thankfully, that’s where my unfavourable opinion ends, as the angular headlights and hexagonal DRLs look the part, while the 128ti's red-trimmed side air intakes bring a sense of occasion.
And you better be a big fan of red trim, as the 128ti liberally applies it around the side, where the brake calipers have some presence behind the attractive 18-inch Y-spoke alloy wheels. And don’t forget the side skirt insert and 'ti' decal!
At the rear, aside from the obligatory '128ti' badge and the relatively subtle red-trimmed side air intakes, there isn’t much to separate the 128ti from a garden variety 1 Series, but that’s no bad thing as it's its best angle.
The sporty rear spoiler, sleek tail-lights, stupendous diffuser insert and scintillating dual exhaust tailpipes are gorgeous. And the 128ti is attractive in profile, thanks to its appealing silhouette and smoothly sculpted lines.
Inside, the 128ti stands out from the 1 Series crowd with the red stitching applied to the steering wheel, seats, armrests and dashboard, while the floor mats have – you guessed it – red piping.
The most interesting design flourish, though, is the red-stitched ti logo on the centre armrest. That's one way to make a statement, and it all combines to make the 128ti feel special.
And being a 1 Series is a leg-up in the first place, as high-quality materials are used throughout, in concert with a simple but effective design.
Mercifully, the centre stack features physical climate and audio controls, while the centre console has an appropriately sized gear selector and a rotary dial to control the multimedia system.
That's right, the 128ti has multiple input methods aside from the 10.25-inch central touchscreen and voice control, making it a relative breeze to operate, especially with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support of the wireless variety.
That said, there's plenty of room for improvement for the 128ti's 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, which lacks the breadth of functionality of its competitors.
There are those googly eyes, the tiny flat bonnet, the snub nose with that angry mouth grille, those wheel-arches which eat way up into the body and are filled with wheels, and that little bottom. It’s tough and cute all at once, and still has stayed so true to the original look that if you were to push somebody from 1965 into a time machine and take them to 2018, they’d get out and say "that’s a Mini".
The original three-door Mini was less than 3.1m long, but over the years the Mini has grown in size – so the Mini still mini? The new three-door is 3.8m end to end, 1.7m wide and 1.4m tall – so yes, bigger but still mini.
The Hatch comes with three doors (two front and the boot’s tailgate) or five doors, while the Convertible is a two-door. The Countryman is Mini’s SUV and the Clubman is a wagon – both of these are yet to be given the update.
That update is super subtle, however. Visually the only differences between the latest Hatch and Convertible and the previous models is that the mid-spec Cooper S and top-grade JCW have the new LED headlights and Union Jack tail-lights. The entry-level Cooper has halogen headlights and regular tail-lights. That’s it – oh, and the Mini badge’s styling has been tweaked, almost unnoticeably.
On the outside the differences between the grades is obvious. Reflecting its more potent performance the JCW gets the biggest wheels (18-inch) and an aggressive-looking body kit with a rear spoiler and JCW dual exhaust. The Cooper S looks pretty mean, too, with its centre dual-exhaust and 17-inch wheels. The Cooper appears tamer but still cool with its chrome and black grille and 16-inch alloys.
Step inside the Mini Hatch and Convertible and you’re entering either a world of pain or world of awesomeness - depending on who you are - because it’s an extremely stylised cabin full of plane cockpit style switches, textured surfaces and dominated by the large circular (and glowing) element in the centre of the dash housing the media system. I’m quite fond of it all.
Seriously, can you think of another small car on the road which is as quirky as the Mini Hatch and Convertible but also prestigious? Okay, the Fiat 500. But name another one? Sure, Audi A1, but what else? Right the Citroen C3 and (now defunct) DS3. But apart from those can you name any? See.
BMW 1 series9/10
Measuring 4319mm long (with a 2670mm wheelbase), 1799mm wide and 1434mm tall, the 128ti is a small hatchback in every sense of the term, but it makes the most of its size.
The boot's cargo capacity is competitive, at 380L, although it can be increased to a more accommodating 1200L by stowing the 60/40 split-fold rear bench.
Either way, there's a decent load lip to contend with, but four tie-down points, two bag hooks and a side storage net are on hand for securing loose items.
In the second row, there's a welcome four centimetres of legroom behind my 184cm driving position as well as a centimetre or two of headroom, even with our test car’s optional panoramic sunroof.
Three adults can sit on the rear seats on short journeys, but they will have next-to-no shoulder-room, plus a large central tunnel (necessary for AWD 1 Series variants) to deal with.
Young children are accommodated, though, with two ISOFIX and three top-tether anchorage points available for fitting child seats.
Amenities-wise, those in the back have access to the storage nets on the front seat backrests, clothes hooks, the centre console's directional air vents and two USB-C ports.
The door bins can take a regular bottle each, but there isn't a fold-down armrest with cupholders.
Up front, the glove box is surprisingly large, while the driver-side cubby is not only decently sized, but two-tiered. The central storage bin is also solid, and has a USB-C port hidden inside.
Ahead of that are a 12V power outlet, a pair of cupholders, a USB-A port and a narrow, open cubby that should house a wireless smartphone charger (but doesn't). And yes, the door bins are ready to swallow a regular bottle apiece. So, pretty damn good overall.
The name of this car is a bit of a clue as to how practical the insides are.
In the three-door, five-door Hatch and Convertible the car feels roomy up front, even for me at 191cm tall with good head, leg and elbow room. My co-driver on the launch was my size and there was plenty of personal space between us.
Can’t say the same for the back seats – in my driving position the front seat back is almost up against the rear seat base in the three door and the second row of the five-door isn’t much better.
Now you need to know that the three-door Hatch and Convertible have four seats, and the five -door has five seats.
Boot space is tight, too, with 278 litres of cargo capacity in the five-door Hatch, 211L of luggage space in the three-door, and 215L in the convertible. In comparison, the Audi A1 three-door has 270L of boot space.
Cabin storage for the Hatch includes two cup holders up front and one in the back of the Cooper and Cooper S Hatch, and two in the front and two in the back of the JCW. While the Convertible has two up front and three in the rear. Top down driving can be thirsty work.
There’s not much in the way of other storage places, apart from the glovebox and map pockets in the seat backs – those door pockets are only large enough to slide in a phone or your purse and wallet.
As for power connections Coopers have a USB and 12V in the front, while the Cooper S and JCW have wireless phone charging and a second USB port in the front armrest.
Price and features
BMW 1 series8/10
Priced from a tempting $55,031, plus on-road costs, the 128ti finds itself right in the thick of the hot-hatch action, with its M135i xDrive big brother at least $10,539 dearer, while its most direct rival, the Golf GTI, is just $541 cheaper.
Either way, the 128ti stands out from the 1 Series crowd with its bespoke steering tune, lowered sports suspension (-10mm), black grille, unique two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, upgraded brakes with red calipers, and black side-mirror caps.
There's also red trim on the front and rear air intakes, and side skirts, with 'ti' decals positioned above the latter. The steering wheel, seats, armrests, dashboard and floor mats have similarly coloured accents.
Other standard equipment includes a body kit, dusk-sensing adaptive LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a tyre repair kit, power-folding side mirrors with heating and puddle lights, keyless entry and start, a 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system, satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio and a six-speaker sound system.
And then there’s a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, a 9.2-inch head-up display, dual-zone climate control, a sports steering wheel, power-adjustable front sports seats with memory functionality, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, black/red cloth and synthetic leather upholstery, 'Illuminated Boston' trim, ambient lighting and M seat belts.
Options include a $3000 'Enhancement Package' (metallic paintwork, panoramic sunroof and adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality), which was fitted to our test vehicle for an 'as tested' price of $58,031.
Other key options include a $1077 'Convenience Package' (power tailgate, boot storage net and ski port), a $2000 'Executive Package' (alarm, rear privacy glass, 10-speaker hi-fi sound, gesture control and tyre pressure monitoring) and a $1023 'Comfort Package' (heated steering wheel, and front seats with lumbar support).
If you’d read the section above (Did you? It’s exciting and full of sex scenes), you’d know that the Mini Hatch and Convertible come in three grades – the Cooper, Cooper S and JCW. What I didn’t point out up there was that while this is true for the three-door Hatch and Convertible, the five door is only available as a Cooper and Cooper S.
So how much do Minis cost? You’d heard they can be expensive right? Well, you heard right.
For the three-door Hatch line the list prices go: $29,900 for the Cooper, $39,900 for the Cooper S and $49,900 for the JCW.
For the five-door Hatch you’re looking at $31,150 for the Cooper and $41,150 for the Cooper S.
The Convertible costs the most with the Cooper listing for $37,900, the Cooper S for $45,900 and the JCW for $56,900.
That’s way more expensive than a Fiat 500 which starts with a list price of about $18K and tops out at $37,990 for the Abarth 595 Convertible. But the Mini is more prestigious, higher in quality and far more dynamic performance-wise than a 500. So, unless it’s just about the looks it’s better to compare it to Audi’s A1 which begins at $28,900 and maxes out with the S1 at $50,400.
High in quality, but a bit light-on for standard features for the price is typical for prestige cars and the Mini Hatch and Convertible are no exception.
The three-door and five-door Hatch and the Convertible in the Cooper grade come as standard with cloth seats, velour floor mats, three-spoke leather steering wheel, a new 6.5-inch touch screen and updated media system with 4G connectivity, sat nav, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, wireless Apple CarPlay and digital radio.
The Hatch has air-conditioning, while the Convertible has dual-zone climate control.
As mentioned in the design section Coopers come with 16-inch wheels, single exhaust tip, a rear spoiler for the Hatch, while the Convertible gets an automatic folding fabric roof.
The Hatch and Convertible in Cooper S form pick up cloth/leather upholstery, JCW steering wheel with red stitching, LED headlights and Union Jack pattern tail lights, and 17-inch alloys.
The Convertible also gains dual-zone climate control.
Only the three-door Hatch and Convertible models are available in the JCW grade, but at this level you’ll get lots more in the form of an 8.8-inch screen with a harman/kardon 12-speaker stereo, head-up display, JCW interior trim, cloth and Dinamica upholstery (‘eco-suede’), stainless steel pedals, and front parking sensors.
There’s the JCW body kit too, along with the upgrade in brakes, engine, turbo and suspension which you can read all about in the Engine and Driving sections below.
Personalisation is a massive part of owning a Mini and there’s a billion ways to make your Mini more unique from colour combinations, wheel styles and accessories.
Paint colours for the Hatch and Convertible include Pepper White, Moonwalk Grey, Midnight Black, Electric Blue, Melting Silver, Solaris Orange and of course British Racing Green. Only the first two of those are no-cost options, however, the rest cost only $800-$1200 more at the most.
Want bonnet stripes? Of course you do – those are $200 each.
Packages? Yep, there’s a stack of them. Say, you’ve bought a Cooper S and want a bigger screen, then the $2200 Multimedia package adds the 8.8-inch screen, harman/kardon stereo and a head-up display.
Engine & trans
BMW 1 series8/10
The 128ti is motivated by a familiar 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, with its version producing a promising 180kW of power at 6500rpm and 380Nm of torque from 1500-4400rpm.
Disappointingly, Australian examples are detuned relative to their European counterparts, which are 15kW/20Nm more potent due to their market-specific set-up.
Either way, drive is sent to the front wheels via a dependable ZF eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) and a determined Torsen limited-slip differential.
This combination helps the 128ti sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in a brisk 6.3 seconds while on the way to a not-in-Australia top speed of 243km/h.
For reference, competitor outputs are: M135i xDrive (225kW/450Nm), Golf GTI (180kW/370Nm), i30 N Premium (206kW/392Nm), and Focus ST X (206kW/420Nm).
This is simple. The Cooper is the least powerful with its 100kW/220Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine; the Cooper S is the piggy in the middle with its 2.0-litre 141kW/280Nm four-cylinder while the JCW is the hardcore one with the same 2.0-litre engine but tuned to make 170kW and 320Nm.
All are turbo-petrol engines and all Hatches and Convertibles are front-wheel drive.
Okay, this is where it gets a bit messy - the transmissions. The Cooper, Cooper S and JCW hatch come standard with a six-speed manual, but optional is a seven-speed dual-clutch auto on the Cooper, a sports version of that auto on the Cooper S and an eight-speed auto on the JCW.
It’s the other way around for the Convertible which comes standard with those autos as you step up from Cooper to JCW, with an optional manual gear box.
How fast is the hardcore one? The three-door JCW can do the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.1 seconds which is quick, while the Cooper S is half a second behind that and the Cooper is a second behind that.
BMW 1 series7/10
The 128ti's fuel consumption on the combined cycle test (ADR 81/02) is a promising 6.8L/100km, while its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 156g/km.
However, in real-world testing, I averaged a reasonable 8.4L/100km over an even combination of urban and highway driving. Without my heavy right foot, an even better return could be had.
For reference, the 128ti's 50L fuel tank takes more expensive 98 RON premium petrol at minimum. Its claimed driving range is 735km, but in my experience, I got 595km.
The Cooper’s three-cylinder turbo petrol is the most fuel-efficient engine in the range, with Mini saying you should see 5.3L/100km in the three-door Hatch, 5.4L/100km in the five-door and 5.6L/100km in the Convertible using an automatic transmission.
The Cooper S’s four-cylinder turbo according to Mini should use 5.5L/100km in the three-door Hatch, 5.6L/100km in the five-door and 5.7L/100km in the Convertible.
The JCW’s four-cylinder is the thirstiest of the pack, with Mini claiming that in the three-door you’ll use 6.0L/100km while the Convertible will need 6.3L/100km (you can’t get a JCW five-door Hatch).
Those figures are based on driving on a combination of urban and open roads.
During my time in the three-door JCW the trip computer recorded and average of 9.9L/100km and that was on mainly country roads.
BMW 1 series8/10
Yes, you get the feeling you’re being pulled rather than pushed, but the 128ti attacks corners with entertaining vigour.
Of course, the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine’s 180kW/380Nm outputs can easily overwhelm the front wheels off the line, and torque steer is a threat, particularly when pushing hard around bends, but they’re welcome characteristics.
After all, corner exits are improved by the 128ti’s Torsen limited-slip differential, which works hard to optimise grip when you need it most.
Read more on the BMW 1 Series
When going for the jugular, understeer still rears its ugly head, but wrestling the 128ti into shape is half the fun.
That said, body control isn't quite as strong as hoped. Turn in sharply and the 1445kg 128ti generates a surprising amount of roll.
It’s worth noting the lowered sports suspension goes without adaptive dampers, its fixed-rate set-up attempting to find the delicate balance between comfort and dynamic response.
All in all, the 128ti's ride is firm but well judged, with short, sharp imperfections the only real bother. Needless to say, it’s capable of being a daily driver, and so it should be.
As mentioned, the electric power steering has a unique calibration, and it's nice and direct, with a good amount of feel. But if you prefer more heft, simply engage 'Sport' mode.
Speaking of which, the Sport drive mode also releases the full potential of the engine and the eight-speed auto, sharpening up the throttle and raising the shift points.
The 128ti engine is a gem, offering up plenty of punch, especially throughout the mid-range, where torque is at its fattest and power is about to peak. The accompanying soundtrack also has some presence, even if it is artificially 'enhanced.'
But the smooth yet relatively quick shifting automatic transmission can take plenty of credit for the brisk performance on offer.
That said, the 128ti's first and second ratios are surprisingly short, so pay attention if you take matters into your own hands via the steering wheel’s paddle shifters.
I’m yet to drive a Mini that wasn’t fun, but some are more fun than others. At the launch of the updated Hatch and Convertible I piloted the three-door in Cooper S and JCW form, and the five-door Cooper.
You can’t go wrong with any of these from a driving perspective – all steer precisely and directly, all feel agile and manoeuvrable, all are easy to drive and yup, fun.
But the Cooper S’s bump in power over the Cooper adds the grunt to match the great handling, making it my pick of the bunch. I drove the three-door Cooper S, and to me this is the quintessential Mini – plenty of grunt, great feel and the smallest of the family.
Stepping it up several notches is the JCW, which is sniffing around in high-performance territory with its powerful engine with its JCW specific turbo and sport exhaust, bigger brakes, adaptive suspension and bigger brakes. I drove the three-door Hatch in the JCW grade and loved shifting with those paddles, the barks on the upshifts are awesome, and the crackles as you step down though the gears is, too.
The eight-speed dual-clutch transmission in the JCW is a beautiful and fast thing, but the seven-speed sports auto in the Cooper S is mighty fine, as well.
There wasn’t a chance to steer the Convertible this time around, but I’ve driven the current generation soft-top before, and apart from the lack of roof making it easier for somebody my size to climb in, the ‘indoor-outdoor’ driving experience adds to the fun factor.
BMW 1 series8/10
The 128ti and the wider 1 Series range received a maximum five-star rating from independent Australian vehicle safety authority ANCAP in 2019.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the 128ti extend to autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, cruise control, speed sign recognition, high-beam assist, driver attention alert, blind-spot monitoring, active rear cross-traffic alert, park assist, rear AEB, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and 'Reversing Assistant.'
That said, annoyingly, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality is part of the 128ti’s optional Enhancement Package fitted to our test vehicle, or as an individual option.
And tyre pressure monitoring is tied to its extra-cost Executive Package. Both should be standard.
Also included are six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), anti-skid brakes (ABS) and the usual electronic stability and traction control systems.
The Mini Hatch was given a four-star ANCAP rating in 2015 (that's four out of five), while the Convertible has not been tested. While both Hatch and Convertible come with the usual safety equipment such as traction and stability control, and airbags (six in the Hatch and four in the Convertible), there is a lack of standard advanced safety technology. The Hatch and Convertible don’t come with AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) as standard, but you can option the tech as part of a Driver Assistance pack.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and two top tether anchor points in the second row of the Hatch and Convertible.
BMW 1 series7/10
Like all BMW models, the 128ti comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years off the five years/unlimited km premium benchmark set by Audi, Genesis, Jaguar/Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo.
The 128ti also comes with three years of roadside assistance, while its service intervals are average, at every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.
Capped-price servicing packages are available, with three years/40,000km starting from $1350, while five years/80,000km kicks off at $1700. The latter, in particular, offers great value.