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Published on Wednesday 20 August 2014 13:40

Ten Second Review

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 3 and 5-door body styles.


Background

If you want to save money, buy a BMW. Don't choose a Ford or a Renault. Instead, go for the more expensive car. After all, it'll work out cheaper in the long run. This is the strategy that has seen the Munich maker's entry-level cars completely decimate sales of more blue-collar brands, but the laws of supply and demand eventually have their say and oversupply of BMWs has dented their once impregnable residual values. The answer? It could well be a car like the BMW 114d, a model with a reasonable up-front price to go along with its minuscule day-to-day running costs.
If you hanker after a new car with a bit of badge equity but don't want to debt yourself up to the eyeballs, this variant might well be worth some serious consideration. It enters a market place that's stuffed with talent though, from the latest Mercedes A Class and Audi A3 models to the Golf Mk 7. The 114d has it all to do.


Driving Experience

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.


Design and Build

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.
Build quality on second generation 1 Series cars seems to have improved as well, with more substantial plastics used throughout. BMW's much-improved iDrive system features on all models from SE level and these days features a higher definition 6.5-inch flat screen. The shark-nosed exterior styling takes a bit of getting used to, but most would agree that the profile now looks a lot cleaner, with the banana curve of the old car's sills being straightened while the rear end is a good deal more muscular with tidier detailing.


Market and Model

The 114d is all about offering a reasonable up-front price and then backing that up with tiny day-to-day running costs, sweetened at the time of trade-in with reasonable residual values. It sticks to that script extremely well. Yes, there are many other cars that you could buy more cheaply, but most 114d buyers will be making a value judgement on whether the premium they pay to have a BMW rather than a Skoda or a Vauxhall on their drive represents a price they're willing to pay. More often than not, the answer is yes.
BMW's entry-level trims have never been particularly well appointed but the latest 1 Series isn't too bad in this regard. Expect to find satin silver interior trim and Move cloth seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, chrome exhaust and keyless start.


Cost of Ownership

This BMW returns a combined fuel economy figure of 65.7mpg which looks good, but that reading looks a little less rosy when placed in the context of its rivals. More specifically, the 74.3mpg of the Mercedes A180CDI or the 68.9mpg figure of the Audi A3 1.6 TDI, both of which offer around 10bhp more than the little BMW. They both pip it in terms of emissions as well, with the Audi getting 109g/km and the Mercedes 98g/km, while the BMW manages 112g/km. This all seems rather odd to seasoned BMW watchers who are usually accustomed to the Munich company taking great chunks out of its rivals in terms of efficiency.
The 114d does get some of the BMW EfficientDynamics technologies, including Brake Energy Regeneration, Optimum Shift Indicator, Auto Start-Stop, electromechanical power steering, Active Aerodynamics and reduced rolling resistance tyres. In addition, the 114d also comes with ECO PRO mode as standard helping to maintain a relaxed, fuel-efficient driving style. BMW is banking on the fact that the asking price of this variant is so attractive that most potential buyers will be willing to overlook the fact that it's not quite as efficient as its more expensive rivals.


Summary

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. It can look tempting against Focuses and Astras that will cost a good deal more to own over a typical three year period, something that will sway the decision for many. But the Ultimate Driving Machine? Don't kid yourself. This one's all about expediency.



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