Still, premium compact crossover buyers are as interested in driving dynamics as how much gear they have stashed in the trunk. To that end, BMW offers the X1 in either sDrive rear- or xDrive all-wheel drive versions, with a variety of engines to choose from. In Europe, the initial powertrain range will feature just a single gasoline engine for the all-wheel drive model -- a range-topping 258-hp 3.0L straight-six. BMW claims a 6.8-sec 0 to 62 mph sprint for the gasoline-powered X1 xDrive23i, along with combined fuel economy of 25 mpg.

The rest of the lineup -- including all rear-drive European X1 models -- takes a page out of BMW's EfficientDynamics playbook and will receive three versions of BMW's common-rail direct-injection 2.0L diesel mill. A six-speed manual gearbox will be the only transmission choice on rear-drive X1s, while the xDrive variants are additionally offered with six-speed Steptronic automatics in all but the base version. Other EfficientDynamics technologies include brake energy regeneration, auto start/stop, and a shift indicator programmed for the most fuel-efficient shift points. BMW claims a combined 45 mpg (in U.S. measurements) for its entry-level diesel-powered X1, the rear-wheel-drive, 143-hp X1 sDrive18d. The top-line, all-wheel-drive, twin-turbo diesel X1 xDrive23d achieves 37 mpg combined, while producing 204 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Both rear-drive X1 diesel models and the entry-level diesel xDrive model are rated at a 4410-lb towing capacity.

BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive setup is based on that used in the automaker's larger SAVs (and more recently, the flagship 7 Series sedan) and is directly integrated with the vehicle's Dynamic Stability Control to improve both traction and handling characteristics. While xDrive is a permanent system, the amount of torque transferred from front to rear wheels is variable, for changing driving conditions. A chief aspect of the system is its ability to reduce understeer by shifting more power to the rear wheels on winding roads, creating a more nimble, enthusiast-oriented driving experience than is typical of the segment.

As with most of BMW's lineup, the optional equipment list is quite extensive. Bi-Xenon headlamps are available, as is a panoramic sunroof, leather sports seats, a storage package, tow hitch, roof rails, automatic climate control, a Pro Logic 7 Hi-Fi stereo, BMW iDrive/navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and a rear-view backup camera.

BMW will bring its X1 to European showrooms this fall, while U.S. buyers will have to wait until early 2011 to park one in their garage. BMW has not finalized engine choices for the U.S. market, but it's a good bet that the six-cylinder xDrive23i will be on the list, and a diesel-powered option is a possibility.