We'd seen photos of the X1 more than two year ago at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show, so the existence of the smallest of BMW's crossovers wasn't a big mystery. However, we were kept guessing whether or not we'd get it in the U.S. market. While it seemed natural that the crossover-crazy North American market would get a version, we didn't get official word on that until this week. We're indeed getting it, and in an ironic twist, getting a top-spec model the rest of the world won't get.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the very reasonable starting price of $31,545 for the rear-drive sDrive28i, which makes it cheaper than an entry-level 328i sedan by $4250, and cheaper than an entry-level 2013 X3 by a whopping $7749. Of course, the X1 sDrive28i is rear-drive, and the entry-level X3 has standard all-wheel drive, so a more apples-to-apples comparison would be the AWD xDrive28i version, which starts at a still-reasonable $33,245.

The X1 is offered in Europe with a variety of four-cylinder engines, both gas and diesel. But the U.S. market will get BMW's twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline six in the top-line X1 xDrive35i. The 300-hp model will start at $39,345 including destination.

The X1 is 175.4 inches long on a wheelbase of 108.7 inches, 70.8 inches wide, and 60.8 inches tall, compared to the X3's 179.9 on 110.1, 73, and 65.9 inches, respectively. Cargo capacity on the X1 is 14.8 cubic feet behind the second row, and 47.7 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. By comparison, the X3 offers 30 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats, and 71 with the seats folded, giving the X3 a substantial advantage in cargo capacity.

But as currently seems to be the case in the crossover market, it's become more about style, and less about pure utility. Although style is subjective, the X1 shows a little more stylistic flair than the comparatively staid X3. For the 2013 model year, the X3 drops its naturally-aspirated 3.0-liter inline-six in favor of BMW's new 240-hp N20 turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, so the X1 and X3 will share a base engine in the U.S. market.

However, unlike the rest of BMW's X family of crossovers, the X3, X5 and X6, which are all built at the company's Spartanburg, South Carolina plant, the X1 hails from BMW's Leipzig, Germany plant. Although it's conceivable production could move to the U.S., considering its more niche status and likely lower sales volume than the X3 and X5, it will probably continue to be sourced from Germany for the foreseeable future.

But the X1 is not the only player in the increasingly-crowded entry premium crossover market. Acura just introduced an all-new V-6 powered RDX, Audi has announced the Q3 is headed stateside, and the BMW Group's own Mini Countryman are all vying for a slice of the market as well. Size-wise, the Audi is probably closest to the X1, with an overall length of 172.6 inches and a wheelbase of 102.5. The RDX is closer to the X3 in overall size with a 105.7 inch wheelbase, and an overall length of 183.5 inches, 73.7-inch width and 66.1-inch height. The Mini Countryman is the runt of the litter with a 102.2-inch wheelbase, a 161.7-inch overall length, 70.4-inch width and 61.5 inch height.

The X1 is scheduled to go on-sale in the U.S. market this fall.