The 2021 BMW 128ti has been announced this week, with the brand's Australian arm confirming the model will be arriving here early next year.
Slotting between the all-singing, all-dancing, all-wheel-drive BMW M135i xDrive and the three-cylinder, entry-level 118i, BMW's new 128ti hot hatch will be pitched as a rival to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz A250, Ford Focus ST and the fabled Volkswagen Golf GTI.
In doing so, it will revive the ‘ti’ suffix – which stands for ‘Turismo Internazionale’, Italian for ‘international touring’ – first used on the 1800 TI of 1963, and later affixed to the rear of the original 1 Series’ predecessor, the 3 Series Compact.
While the car’s official reveal isn’t expected to take place until next month, the German marque has confirmed the model’s specifications.
Under the bonnet of the 128ti is the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine as the M135i, though a unique tune sees power fall to 195kW (from 225kW). Torque is expected to be rated at 400Nm – down 50Nm over the all-wheel-drive flagship.
For reference, the latest Golf GTI offers 180kW and 370Nm, while the A250 puts out 165kW and 350Nm.
Drive is sent solely to the front wheels through an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.
Despite the 128ti’s fun-to-drive focus, a manual isn’t expected to be offered, as uptake would be low, and the gearbox would reportedly require long gearing to meet Europe's strict emissions regulations – which would pacify acceleration out of tight bends and hurt the driving experience.
BMW claims a 6.1 second dash from zero to 100km/h. Top speed has yet to be confirmed, though international reports suggest it will be electronically limited to 250km/h.
Chassis upgrades under the skin are designed to deliver “driver-oriented driving dynamics” and are said to make the 128ti a more enjoyable to drive than its regular and M Performance range-mates.
These include a 10mm-lower ride height than standard 1 Series models, M Sport brakes and front anti-roll bars borrowed from the M135i, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, retuned steering and torque vectoring systems, and a mechanical Torsen limited-slip front differential.
Overseas media report an additional roster of tweaks compared to the M135i, including less underbody bracing, 8 per cent stiffer springs, and a lower locking ratio for the differential (at 31 per cent, versus the M135i’s 38 per cent).
The deletion of drive to the rear axle enables the 128ti to tip the scales in 80 kilograms lighter than the flagship M135i.
Images released by BMW of prototypes undergoing late-stage testing suggest the 128ti will largely share its exterior styling with existing, M Sport-equipped 1 Series models, complemented by the addition of a unique set of 18-inch alloy wheels and red-painted brake calipers.
The German brand claims "many differentiating exterior and interior features", though we'll have to wait to the car's full reveal to find out what that entails.
The 2021 BMW 128ti is expected to make its official debut next month, ahead of a confirmed European sales launch in November.
An Australian arrival has been locked in for the first quarter of 2021, with full local pricing and specifications to be announced closer to launch.