Volkswagen Golf 2021 review: GTI snapshot
The GTI continues to be the Golf's core hot hatch, sitting above the regular range with an MSRP of $53,100.
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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.
|BMW 1 Series 2022: 128TI 28TI|
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
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.
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.
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.
|128TI 28TI||2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$57,900||2022 BMW 1 Series 2022 128TI 28TI Pricing and Specs|
|118i M Sport||1.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$48,900||2022 BMW 1 Series 2022 118i M Sport Pricing and Specs|
|1 M135I Xdrive Pure||2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$66,900||2022 BMW 1 Series 2022 1 M135I Xdrive Pure Pricing and Specs|
|1 M135I Xdrive||2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$71,900||2022 BMW 1 Series 2022 1 M135I Xdrive Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||8|