When BMW first released the 128ti, it was seen as a sort of savior for BMW’s front-wheel drive architecture, proof that the brand knew how to make a fun car out of it. It came after the more powerful all-wheel drive BMW M135i was criticized for its lack of fun. So the simpler, front-wheel drive BMW 128ti became the budget-BMW for enthusiasts. However, is it actually a genuinely fun car or is it just fun for a 1 Series?

In this new five-way comparison test from Car Magazine, we get to see the BMW 128ti take on some interesting competitors. None of them are proper, direct competitors for the little Bimmer. However, they do put its fun factor into perspective. The test pits the 128ti up against the Toyota GR Yaris, the Toyota GR86, the Mazda MX-5, and a Caterham. Forget the last one because it’s a completely unrealistic to compare it to anything in this test.

However, some of the other cars do add context to “fun” driver’s cars. The Toyota GR Yaris is proof that a turbocharged, all-wheel drive hatchback can be an absolute blast without being compromised for the road. Its turbocharged three-cylinder engine makes more power than the 128ti’s turbo-four but it’s less than the M135i and it’s lightyears more fun. The Toyota GR86 is also proof that truly fun sports cars don’t need big power, speed, or price tags. Simple, cheap, honest fun is always best. The MX-5 has always been the budget backroad blast and it still is.

Where does that leave the BMW 128ti? Sort of forgotten. On paper, the 128ti should be an absolute riot, capable of hanging with every other car in this test. But it isn’t and it doesn’t. It proves that BMW’s priorities are off. Even in its fun car, the one that has its cute little red accents to remind people of its edgy nature, BMW prioritizes comfort and tech over great driving dynamics.

Why is that a problem? Because it’s never been the BMW way. BMWs have always been well made and well built but they always seemed to have been built with driving pleasure as their main goal. And the other cars in this test prove that you don’t need to sacrifice much else to get a great drive.

[Source: Car Magazine]