The Citizen (KZN)
Pocket rocket to rival the Golf GTI
BMW 128ti: HOT HATCH A ‘FUN’ CAR WITH CHARACTER
➤ Going head-to-head against local favourite is a long-term project for carmaker.
BMW has unearthed an audacious rival to the VW Golf GTI’s undisputed throne as South Africa’s most popular hot hatch in the form of the 128ti. While many have scoffed at the idea that the GTI has reason for concern, VW would be foolish to not take note of BMW’s commitment to the hot hatch segment.
Many car manufacturers have tried and dismally failed at taking on the GTI, but BMW believes its attempt offers an appealing overall proposition.
“The 128ti isn’t a limited edition aimed at selling a few models. It’s a long-term project BMW is fully committed to and we realise that we it’s something we can’t just achieve overnight,” says Ryan Warnasuriya, BMW South Africa product manager.
“No one can argue the GTI’s heritage, especially in SA. And it has established itself for offering much more than pure numbers.
“Other competitors in the past might not have always covered all the pillars to make it a proper proposition in the hot hatch segment. We want to give it our best shot have therefore placed huge emphasis on the value side of things.
“This includes the packaging, performance and technology to give it its own unique character.”
Although it officially fits into BMW’s 1 Series, the 128ti is in many ways a species on its own. Its siblings, the 118i and M135i, are a mild-mannered, front-wheel drive offering and performance model utilising all-wheel-drive respectively.
The 128ti, on the other hand, is a charming old-school, frontwheel driven pocket rocket.
It offers great handling to match the grunt, sounds good and looks the part, too, with the help of distinctive styling cues. A true “driver’s” car, as BMW puts it.
The lettering “ti” refers to “Turismo Internazionale” and has a special place in BMW’s history, reserved for particularly sporty models. This nomenclature has featured on the legendary 2002 TI (1986-71) and 325ti (1997-2000).
The 128ti is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that produces 180kW of power and 360Nm of torque, and is mated to an eight-speed Sport Steptronic transmission.
BMW claims it will reach 100km/h from a standstill in 6.3sec, edging the GTI’s claimed number of 6.4sec.
The hardware includes M Sport brakes and suspension tuning, Torsen limited slip front-axle differential and adapted BMW Performance Control, while launch control comes a standard.
BMW Live Cockpit Plus and Connected Package Professional adds to the comprehensive list of features.
Signature red details and ti-specific badging on the outside and inside the cabin give the 128ti its own unique character.
At R687 418, it has a price to match its performance and looks.
It is cheaper than the R689 200 GTI TCR, which will make way for the Golf 8 GTI later this year.
“The 128ti is not only a fun car, but a functional one, too,” says Warnasuriya. “We want it to become a cult car and it is aimed at not only youngster, but anyone young at heart.”
➤ We were pleasantly surprised after a week with the flagship 1.4 TEC Auto.
Believing statistics can be costly. When – many decades ago – this writer was young, statistics indicated that more than 70% of car crashes happened within 20km of the owners’ places of residence.
Furthermore, more than 90% of car hijackings happened within 10km of the owners’ homes.
So, to be safe, I did not go home for months at a time. This played havoc with my finances.
Three wives left, one after the other, because I was never there, causing me huge monetary hardship in divorce settlements. Damn. The fourth – deciding she preferred me almost never being around, decided to stay forever. Double damn.
These days, of course, car hijackers are outnumbered by tenderpreneurs, whose profits in a single day of negotiation makes stealing luxury cars look like minor shoplifting. And, if caught with their hands in the till, the cadres can rely on the statistic that no South African politician has ever been held accountable for being a liar and a thief.
All of which has turned this writer into an incurable sceptic, unable to believe any statement of improvement. Thus, when tasked with the evaluation of the refreshed and revised Kia Rio, we initially viewed the newcomer with a jaundiced eye.
We have driven a Kia Rio before and found it to be thoroughly competent. Why would enhancements to its exterior design and increased standard specification make it even more competent?
We were pleasantly surprised – after a week with the flagship 1.4 TEC Auto as a house guest, we gave it a “competent plus” rating.
The newcomer still boasts the normally aspirated, four-cylinder, 1 396cc petrol engine since its local launch in 2017. It produces 73kW of power at 6 300rpm and 135Nm of torque at 4 200rpm, all sent to the front wheels via a new six-speed automatic transmission.
As familiar as the engine, the new Rio’s exterior updates have been kept low-key, being restricted to a grille redesign, a lower, wider front bumper and a different fog lamp housing.
The test vehicle boasted 17inch alloy wheels in 205/45 R17 rubber, which added much to the car’s looks plus, a huge bonus in our book, a full-sized spare wheel.
The Rio comes with safety features like driver’s, passenger’s, side and curtain airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, side door impact beams front and rear, child locks, and impact sensing door unlocking.
ISOFIX child seat anchors are standard, as are ABS brakes, Electronic Stability Control and Hill-start Assist Control.
Interior enhancements have been kept to a minimum, with the previous Rio already boasting an impressively user-friendly living space.
If it is not broken, do not fix it.
Which means the main update is an upgrade of the colour touchscreen interface from seven to eight inches.
Good stuff carried over from the prior model include leather upholstery, automatic air-conditioning, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, LED rear combination lamps, cruise control, a park assistance system with rearview camera, electric windows, electric side mirrors, central locking with an alarm and immobiliser, six speakers, rake and reach adjustable steering and manual headlight adjustment.
A leather covered steering wheel houses remote audio controls and Bluetooth hands-free telephone connectivity.
Front passengers can benefit from USB and auxiliary-in ports, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, while a 12V power socket is available for additional charging devices.
Fuel efficiency was impressive – after being driven mostly in the city, the test vehicle’s average consumption was 7.2l/100km.