Here it is, in all its undisguised glory. The front-wheel drive, 261bhp BMW 128ti we called “more up on its toes and game for a laugh than the locked-down, ultra-serious M135i”. Yup – we’ve done this one the wrong way around, by having a go in a (very) lightly-disguised, basically finished prototype a month before BMW’s big reveal.
The headlines are thus: same 2.0-litre engine as the M135i, but with less power. Same eight-speed auto, too, but no more all-wheel drive. It’s more than just a less powerful, front-drive M135i, this thing – BMW has totally redesigned the rear suspension, messed with the steering and Torsen diff’ and much besides to make the 128ti feel more tenacious than the 80kg heavier M135i.
Sounds fun, no? It goes on sale next month, with prices starting at £32,995. That’s a little less than the new Golf GTI, which starts at £33,460 (the DSG auto is £1,500 more), but more than the £32,820 Honda Civic Type R or Ford Focus ST. All very much in the same ballpark, though. And the BMW’s spec is generous, with 18-inch alloys shod with sticky Michelin rubber, big brakes, iDrive and M-Sport bumpers, skirts and spoilers. Thankfully you don’t have to have the ‘ti’ badge on the sill, or the red highlights.
We’ll try the finished article soon, then get it together with a Golf GTI and others for the all-important group test. Watch this space.