The 2013 BMW X1

Three years after its launch in its German home market, BMW’s compact X1 crossover will be added to the brand’s U.S. lineup. At the same time, the X3’s little brother receives a slight face lift. The vehicle will compete with the Acura RDX, the Infiniti EX, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, and an upcoming Mercedes-Benz crossover based on the A-class; it also directly targets the Audi Q3, which that company has promised will be offered in the U.S. as well.

The BMW is the only vehicle in this group that is based on a rear-wheel-drive platform, which it loosely shares with the 1- and the 3-series. In fact, the entry-level model will be the rear-wheel-drive X1 sDrive28i, powered by a 240-hp, 2.0-liter four and priced at $31,545. For another $1700, BMW will also offer an all-wheel-drive version with this engine, dubbed the X1 xDrive28i. The top-of-the-line X1 will be the all-wheel-drive xDrive35i, powered by BMW’s 300-hp, 3.0-liter inline-six and offered at $39,345. Both engines are force-fed by a single turbo, while BMW insists on its misleading “TwinPower” terminology. Likewise, the “28” and “35” monikers bear no relation to the actual engine displacement. The 2.0-liter four is equipped with a gas-saving stop-start system. Neither performance nor fuel-economy figures have been given at this point. Unfortunately, none of the X1 models are available with BMW’s excellent six-speed manual; a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic is standard on all versions.

The X1 is not only a rather tiny crossover, it also is slightly odd-looking with its long hood, upright windshield and indented flanks. The face lift, launched at the New York auto show, doesn’t help much to alleviate this impression. BMW points out that the “larger number of surfaces painted in body color highlight the vehicle’s enhanced elegance.” This is a marked change in philosophy: The X1 used to sport more unpainted plastic—not for cost, but for styling reasons. There are now turn signals in the exterior mirrors, and the headlights are restyled for a slightly more premium look. BMW also has modified the interior with an altered center console.

The X1 is perhaps the most agile of small crossover SUVs, rivaled only by the Audi Q3. It also is the only current BMW crossover SUV that is not made in the U.S., but on BMW’s home turf—in Leipzig, Germany, alongside the 1-series. And the U.S. market gets a special treat: The rear-wheel-drive sDrive28i and the top-of-the-line xDrive35i are available only here. Now that the X1 has finally arrived, BMW has a good chance to dominate this nascent segment before the German competition follows.