BMW Hot Hatch: The 128ti Roller Skate

Let’s get this out of the way right now: the BMW 128ti won’t be rolling into the US. We had our chance with the hatchback version of the 3 Series back in the 1990s. BMW could hardly give away what was known as the E36. With the chopped off rear they looked pretty good-but the Beemer aficionados felt otherwise. It was too funky for the BMW set and too expensive for the hot hatch crowd.

But this BMW hot hatch would be welcome to the US with its specs alone. The “ti” stands for Turismo Internazionale. It is the first hatchback on BMW’s new front-wheel-drive architecture. In Europe, it is meant to go head-to-head with the VW Golf GTI. 

The ti will need all of that 265 hp as it weighs over 3,350 lbs

BMW 128ti | Photo: BMW

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder is turbocharged and is the same one as used in the M135i. It makes a decent 265 hp while the M135i gets 305 hp. The ti will need all of that 265 hp to seem nimble as this hatchback weighs over 3,350 lbs. 

With the mechanical limited-slip differential the 0-62 time is 6.2 seconds. While a six-speed manual is floating around somewhere for this platform the ti is stuck with the eight-speed automatic. “We wanted to make the car as active as possible and create a basis that is even more neutral in its basic balance than the existing 1 Series,” BMW Driving Dynamics Manager Andreas Stumm told BMWblog. “The goal was not to create a racing car that would only drive the fastest lap on the ring. We wanted to build a car that is fun on the country road, that gives direct feedback, and that the driver can play with.” 

BMW 128ti | Photo: BMW

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To that end, the ti gets M Sport springs that lower the car 10 mm. Revised elastokinematics for the front axle are new. BMW fine-tuned the steering so that it is not overly direct. M Sport brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires along with the ARB system makes for that roller skate feel.  

The neutral weight distribution of the 128ti helps as well

BMW 128ti | Photo: BMW

The dampers are not set to kidney pain but, instead, are said to keep things comfortable while still making for a handler on the track. BMW has taken the 128 ti’s weight into account to give a more nimble feel than one would expect. The neutral weight distribution helps as well. 

To announce what it is, the ti features Shadowline trim on the grille and headlights. M Sport trims in red adorns the front air curtains, side skirts, and ti script on the rockers. Inside the ti gets standard sport seats with the ti logo embroidery, and plenty of red trim to match that on the exterior. 

BMW 128ti | Photo: BMW

The eighth-generation VW Golf GTI will be in the US by 2021. If VW can make a business case for the GTI we wish that BMW would take a look at it. Though we understand that BMW would like to keep its rep in the US as a more premium manufacturer, the 128ti seems more than worthy of a run in the US.