It might be the entry level 1 Series diesel but the 114d isn't the eco champ of the range – that honour goes to the 99g/km 116d EfficientDynamics. At 112g/km and 65.7mpg, however, the 114d is going to be inexpensive to run and is available in three and five-door body styles.
The 114d slots in as the entry level point in the 1 Series diesel range and its engine bears a good degree of similarity to the other diesels on offer. It's a 1.6-litre unit but in this case makes a mere 95bhp which isn't going to underscore BMW's Ultimate Driving Machine credo too wholeheartedly. So it proves against the clock as well, registering 12.2 seconds to 62mph, which is almost two seconds slower than the next model in the range, the 116d. A top speed of 115mph should be adequate for UK roads and a tall top gear means the car won't feel too breathless on a motorway run. A peak torque figure of 235Nm means that it'll drive that big cog without straining too hard.
The 1 Series has always been distinguished by the quality of its driving dynamics and it's good to see that BMW hasn't been tempted to compromise on its principles. Although there has been rumour of forthcoming front-wheel drive versions, right now the 1 Series remains rear-wheel drive. That's a bit of a disaster in terms of packaging but it makes for a nicely balanced car. After all, there's no drive going to the wheels doing the steering, which delights the purist. Mind you, when you've only got 95bhp to contend with, that's not so much of an issue. Chassis technology is so good these days that this car could probably divert all that to one front wheel and still drive well. Still, the 114d is the only rear-wheel drive car in its class, and some people still count rear wheel drive as the right wheel drive.
One consequence of running a transmission tunnel through a hatchback model as compact as this one has been rather compromised accommodation. While this fundamental issue hasn't gone away with this second generation 1 Series, BMW has loosened this model's belt a little. It's 83mm longer, 14mm wider and 30mm longer in the wheelbase than the car it replaced. This means that rear-seat passengers benefit from a further 20mm of legroom. In addition, there's a good deal more storage space, with large front door pockets, two cup holders on the centre console and a roomy glove compartment. There's also 30-litres more luggage space compared to its forerunner, taking the total to 360-litres. Fold the 60/40 split rear seats flat and this can be increased to a maximum of 1,200-litres.
The 114d isn't the most impressive model in the 1 Series line up. It does a job, it's reasonably cost-effective and will put a BMW on people's drives for a modest sum, but it's a vehicle that is more interesting in what it says about the marque. Here's a car that looks to undercut its key rivals by offering less in the way of engine. This isn't clever downsizing, like some of the 1.2 turbo petrol units we've seen: it's merely cost cutting.
You might well be OK with that – and it's a perfectly valid product development choice – but this kind of approach has rarely been the BMW way in recent years, even if there have been a few exceptions. Take for example, models like the old 518, an executive saloon that campaigned with an under-powered four cylinder engine to keep a cap on costs. So it's not as if there's no precedent here.
Ultimately, what matters is that this will be an inexpensive car to run and one that's well built and glossily presented.