BMW 1 Series 128ti 2021 long-term review

“Can you both come down? Pleeeeaaaase!?” It was a daughter, chassis number AF/002 as you’re asking, suggesting that an occasion as august as her collection from university at the termination of her first year of studies required nothing less than the full complement of parents.

She had a point, of sorts. It has been a miserable year for anyone in education, but I feel particular pity for those who missed out on that peculiarly enlivening challenge of surviving the full-on freshers’ experience. While her elder sister still won’t discuss what happened on hers (which suits us just fine), the younger one has almost no experience to discuss. So at least we could turn up in force and sweep her away from her halls at the end of the year.

Except we couldn’t. I don’t know if you have daughters, nor do I know if sons are worse, because I’m singularly deficient in that area myself, but what I can tell you is that if you think having a toddler brings an unfeasible amount of clobber, it’s barely a lightly packed washbag compared with what teenage uni students can generate.

And I know it’s not usual to wait until the fourth paragraph of a car review in a car magazine before mentioning the car that’s meant to be being reviewed, but here a certain scene-setting was required: two parents, one daughter and her mountain of rubbish into a BMW 128ti will not go. And that was that.

Actually, I doubted if we would do it with just one parent on site. A while back, I had to collect AF/001 from another uni in another BMW long-termer, but that was a 7 Series, and we only just managed it. If it was a struggle for the largest non-SUV in the range, what hope for the smallest?

Were it not for a mate of mine, the answer would be none at all. But he is a former army officer, used to packing and dispatching not just individuals but regiments of people, and he has in the past shown me that, if properly loaded, using all available space, any car will take about double what at first seems possible. Not having a choice helps, too.

And we did it: groaning under the weight of her lampshades, potted plants and almost limitless bedding, the by-now two-seat 128ti took every last bit of it and staggered home. If I had shown you the pile that was then dumped in the kitchen on her return and asked what kind of vehicle would be required to transport it, your opening bid would have been some kind of van. But it wasn’t: it was a compact BMW hatch. It’s amazing what you can do when you try.


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