BMW is a brand that honours its heritage, paying tribute to its roots while continually being at the forefront of road car technology. And bringing back an iconic badge after 15 years is no small gesture by the Bavarian outfit. When BMW announced that their 'ti' (touring international) moniker will be returning on a front-wheel-drive hot-hatch, we became cautiously hopeful.
Called the 128ti, BMW has placed the newest addition to their 1-Series line up just below their range-topping M135i xDrive. Pushing out 265hp and 400Nm of torque from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the 128ti produces around 40hp less than the M135i and is exclusively front-wheel drive.
Who BMW has it in its crosshairs cannot be more precise — the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Peugeot 308 GTI and the Renault Megan RS280 are all fair game. More powerful, all-wheel-drive rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf R, Audi S3 and Mercedes AMG A35 have been left to be dealt with by the M135i.
A Torsen limited-slip differential, tuned M sport suspension and anti-roll bars lifted from the M135i promises agile handling despite its front-wheel driven nature. The eight-speed Sport Steptronic automatic transmission harnesses the power of the turbocharged 2.0-litre to propel the 128ti from 0-100kph in just 6.2 seconds, all the way to limited top speed of 250kph. An 80kg diet and 360mm ventilated front brakes paired with M Sport four-piston callipers keep all that speed in check.
To differentiate the 128ti from the rest of the 1-Series range, BMW has added several distinctive visual cues, ensuring this hot hatch doesn't get lost in translation. A revised front apron features red air curtain shrouds. Besides, the side sills feature prominent 'ti' decals finished in the same hue.
On the rear, the 128ti is very much identical to the M135i, and that's not a bad thing. The car still looks very sporty with twin exhaust outlets and a more expansive, deeper rear diffuser. Customers can further personalise their 128ti with either gloss black or carbon fibre M Performance goodies, with front splitters, rear diffusers and roof spoilers available as options. 19-inch double-spoke light-alloy wheels are also available should you feel the 18-inch forged wheels to be a bit too mundane.
The interior layout is standard 1-Series fare, the 128ti has some unique touches that make the interior that much more special to be in. There are red accents throughout the cabin, with the dash, door panels, Sensatech sport seats, and the M Sport steering wheel all featuring contrasting red stitching.
For added sportiness, customers can opt for an M Performance steering wheel, complete with red marking in the 12 o'clock position and finished in either leather/carbon fibre or Alcantara/carbon fibre combination. The centre armrest features a prominent 'ti' badge stitched into it in the same red stitching, making sure you never forget what car you're travelling in.
Despite all its performance credentials, the 128ti is still a practical hatch, with 380 litres of boot capacity. Folding mirrors, heated seats and cabin ambient lighting coming as standard, with an electrically opening tailgate as an option.
Over on the tech department, BMW's latest OS 7.0 will be available via the 10.25-inch touchscreen and BMW Live Cockpit Professional option. Gesture control and a crisp 9.2-inch heads-up display will also be available options on the 128ti.
Performance has continuously been a key area of development for carmakers, with every model generation expected to have more and more power. However, the chassis' balance and driving purity tend to get lost when power is insanely increased. BMW, the creators of the world's best driving machines, know this, which is why their decision to give the 128ti less power is possibly the right one.
The E46 generation 3-Series of the mid-2000s was the last BMW to carry the 'ti' badge, and it was known for its sublime handling characteristics. Now, with the brilliant 1-Series chassis being given a chance to showcase its true handling capabilities, the BMW 128ti looks set to be one of the sweetest drives to come out of Bavaria. But will it be a worthy successor to an iconic badge?