Ever since the BMW 128ti came out, the world rushed to compare it to the Volkswagen GTI. While many agreed that’s the right thing to do, other were reticent in doing such a comparison, for rather obvious reasons. The Golf GTI has had a much longer track record in the hot hatch performance game and it was only natural to have it dominate the scene. Furthermore, the BMW is supposed to be a premium offering, so the two weren’t exactly in the same bracket.

Nevertheless, if you take a look at the specs of the two, it’s impossible not to notice some similarities. They both have 2.0 liter four-cylinder turbocharged engines, both have similar levels of power and both are front-wheel drive alone. That’s why the guys from Cars.co.za decided to review the BMW 128ti using the GTI as a reference. It’s not necessarily a bad call and they do make some good points.

From the get go, there’s talk about the old 1 Series, the one that came with the rear-wheel drive setup, that being the one thing separating it from the rest of the platoon it was running in. While that was its USP back in the day, few customers actually appreciated the effort, while the vast majority simply wanted more space, technology and practicality. Since BMW has to make a profit to remain in business, the Bavarian company quickly adapted.

The new 1 Series does come with xDrive all-wheel drive, but it’s a system based on the front-wheel drive platform. In the case of the 128ti though, the main goal was to create a fun to drive model that’s exclusively front-wheel drive. Did BMW succeed? And did BMW manage to beat the Golf GTI at its own game? In a nutshell: not really. The track test performed by the guys from Cars showed that the BMW is about 2 seconds slower than the GTI on the same track. But is there something in the arsenal of the BMW 128ti that could make customers choose it over the VW? Let’s find out.