SA's hot hatch game in for a treat as BMW readies its GTI-rivalling 128ti for local launch

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• BMW's new 128ti will launch in South Africa this week.

• The car is priced at R687 418, and will rival Volkswagen Golf GTI.

• The 128ti's 2.0-litre engine produces 180kW and 380Nm.

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BMW's new 128ti is readying for its South African launch this week and will, undoubtedly, offer prospective buyers something different to consider. Different in a good way, because BMW is taking the fight straight to the hot hatch segment's leader, the Volkswagen Golf GTI. On the topic of the GTI, it's by far one of the most revered sports cars on the market today, blending ease of driving with a performance that can rival anything in its segment.

Of course, BMW knows this, which is why they want a piece of the pie that the GTI so boastfully enjoys. But just how does the blue-and-white badged German automaker plan on trumping the Volkswagen at its own game?

Easy: By offering a car that can challenge the Golf on every facet.

BMW 128ti
2021 BMW 128ti
Volkswagen Golf GTI
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Trading power punches

To take on the Golf GTI, BMW knows that the buyer they're targeting is content with a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine. In this regard, 180kW - the same as the upcoming Golf 8 GTI - suffices. Couple that to an eight-speed automatic transmission, one more than VW's seven-speed auto', and you're looking at a front-wheel drive hot hatch that will go from 0-100km/h in 6.3 seconds - the same as the Golf 8 GTI.

It's quite even Stevens between the two cars, but the Beemer offers 380Nm of torque vs the 370Nm of the Golf 8 GTI.

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Interestingly, though, the 128ti's engine is also used in the BMW M135i xDrive, where it produces 225kW and 450Nm. In Europe, this engine has been detuned to deliver 195kW in the 128ti, but our market sees this brought down even more to the GTI-matching 180kW. Local purists would surely have preferred the full-blown 195kW, but that would have impacted the car's base price - pushing it too far out of reach for your average GTI buyer.

Which of the two cars - BMW 128ti or VW Golf 8 GTI - would be on your shopping list, and why? Email us or use the comment section below.

BMW 128ti
2021 BMW 128ti
Volkswagen Golf GTI
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI

And pricewise?

Pricing is something BMW South Africa would have thought long and hard over because if you want to topple the segment leader, you better challenge it where it concerns consumers most. At R687 418, the BMW 128ti is almost R55 000 more expensive than the current Golf GTI (R632 700), but with the new Golf 8 GTI's arrival imminent, we could see the new entrant priced closer to the 128ti.

As expected, both cars will be offered in base specification with as best a package as possible, but the optional extras will not only enhance the individuality aspect, but also aid each car's driving dynamics.

We're in for a stellar hot hatch battle in 2021.

BMW 128ti
2021 BMW 128ti
Volkswagen Golf GTI
2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI
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