Back when the BMW 128ti first debuted, we thought of it as BMW’s Volkswagen GTI. While some BMW enthusiasts might find that insulting, we meant it as a compliment. The GTI has long been the best overall hot hatch in the world and the benchmark for the segment. So if BMW can properly take it on, with its first-ever front-wheel drive hatchback, then the Bavarian brand deserves some serious praise. In this new comparison test from Top Gear, we find out if BMW gets that praise.

This new three-way test features the all-new BMW 128ti, the brand-new Mk8 Volkswagen GTI and the newest Ford Focus ST. Both the GTI and the Focus ST are among the best hot hatches you can buy so the Bimmer really is going up against the best in the business here. So how does it get on?

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It’s a tough competition. All three cars are closely matched but the results might actually surprise you. Both the BMW 128ti and Volkswagen GTI are nearly identical on paper. Both use 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines with automatic transmissions (VW offers a manual but this tester was an auto),  and front-wheel drive with clever front differentials. While the Ford Focus ST is the outlier, with its 2.3 liter turbo-four and manual transmission.

The Focus is also comfortably the most powerful of the bunch, with 276 bhp and 310 lb-ft of torque. While the BMW 128ti is next in line, with 261 bhp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Lastly, the VW GTI only makes 242 bhp and 273 lb-ft. Obviously, the Ford is the fastest car, with the BMW a distant second and the GTI not too far behind the Bimmer. But which car is the best to drive?

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We don’t want to spoil the result, as it’s an interesting comparison test that you should read. However, we will say that the results might surprise you and the BMW 128ti is better than you might think.

[Source: Top Gear]