This new Audi S3 Sportback is a great little premium hot-hatch. It’s quick, it’s fun, it looks great and it’s packed with great features. If there’s a complaint, though, it’s that it lacks a bit of the hooligan-levels of fun that some of its competitors have. So the new S3 might struggle to excite with a new BMW 128ti on the horizon.
The BMW 128ti is a very new concept for the brand, as it’s never made a front-wheel drive hot-hatch before. Admittedly, the BMW M135i is a hot-hatch that’s built on a front-wheel drive chassis but it’s only offered with all-wheel drive. The 128ti, however, is going to solely be front-wheel drive, with no all-wheel drive option.
In fact, the entire BMW 128ti seems to be designed to be lighter, simpler and more engaging than its all-wheel drive sibling. Its lack of rear driveshaft and axles make it 80 kg (176 lbs) lighter than the M135i and will actually give it a more exciting hot-hatch balance.
Admittedly, it’s down on power compared to its M135i sibling and, consequently, also down on power when compared with the Audi S3. The BMW 128ti uses a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 265 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s about the same amount of torque as the S3 but almost thirty fewer horsepower. Though, the BMW makes up for that by being lighter.
In an almost Porsche-like fashion, BMW has given the less powerful, lighter 128ti all of the handling and dynamic bits from the more powerful, more expensive M135i. So it gets the same adaptive M Sport suspension, M Sport brakes and anti-roll bars. That means it should be every bit as capable and dynamic as the bigger model, just with less weight to carry around, so it should be the best driving 1 Series yet.
At the moment, there’s a surprising difference in opinion among journalists, when judging between the BMW M135i and Audi S3 Sportback. The BMW is the more capable machine, while the Audi is smoother and easier to approach. So it will be interesting to see if the BMW 128ti poses an even bigger threat, as it will likely be the more enthusiast-driven car.