TIMES have been good for the premium genre.
More buyers are being lured to high-end brands than ever before, with enticing offerings and a growing band of affordable models fuelling the posh fire.
But while offerings from Mercedes-Benz and Audi have been dispatched from dealerships faster than West Indian batsmen, BMW and Lexus have been more subdued.
Not that it has concerned the propeller badge. According to chief executive officer, Marc Werner, BMW wants growth (and 10% last year was certainly solid) but not at the cost of brand value.
Recent releases have been somewhat predictable and conservative, although the past couple of offerings have impressed so much that once again we covet a Beemer for our own driveway. First it was the new 3 Series, and now the X1 can join that list.
Driving the two all-wheel drive offerings, which both start from less than $60,000, the compact SUV which once looked like a "cheap" BMW now has a prestige swagger and equally impressive on-road performance.
Arms won't flail with a need to embrace the dash, as there is little cabin design romance - but the simplicity of the standard BMW layout is loveable.
For those used to the German marque's styling cues it's all a familiar feel, with the main computer system controlled by an iDrive console dial that is flanked by shortcut buttons, while the usual dials and controls are well labelled and easy to operate.
Collectively it's a layout which deserves accolades for usability; it's just not dripping with lavish fixtures and fittings.
Compared to the previous model, this new X1 is leaps and bounds ahead with internal space. Four adults can be housed, and you could fit three across the bench seat if required.
The front centre console doubles as an arm rest which can be raised and dropped, but for those who like elbow room it can be an annoyance deploying and lifting.
On the road
The key question is petrol or diesel?
For our money, it's the oil-burner which offers the better bang for buck with a $3400 sticker price advantage and superior fuel efficiency, but the petrol model is better specced.
While the xDrive25i is sprightlier, the diesel is still meaty through mid-range acceleration courtesy of 400Nm of torque at the driver's disposal.
Both these all-wheel drive variants have an adaptable drivetrain where you can select between comfort, eco pro (for fuel conserving settings) and sport styles. The latter makes things feel tighter and more responsive but the light steering does mean it's not quite the trademark BMW feedback through the wheel.
Sitting on the road the X1 is adaptable in varying circumstances, boasting quiet road manners on the highway along with ease of use around town. Parking is especially easy given the compact dimensions.
What do you get?
Of course you can always option-up, but basic kit incorporates a rear view camera, 18-inch alloys, sat nav, real time traffic information, power tailgate, rear seat adjustment, LED headlights, lane departure and forward collision warning features, front and rear parking sensors and automatic parking, automatic lights and wipers, 16.5cm colour screen, full bluetooth connectivity, dual zone air-con and man-made leather trim.
For your extra coin the 25i gets even more gadgets, like head-up digital display, larger 22.3cm colour screen with upgraded sat nav, electric adjustment of front seats with heating function, 19-inch alloys, sport steering and softer Dakota leather.
Also worthy of consideration are the Audi Q3 Quattro ($47,900 in diesel and $52,300 petrol), Lexus NX200t ($57,000) and the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 ($58,600).
While the petrol certainly didn't suck down the juice with an average of nearly eight litres for every 100km, the diesel achieved less than six with a fair bit of running around town.
Addressing one of the biggest concerns buyers have at this end of the market, BMW has servicing inclusive packages which looks after all the major costs of maintenance for the first five years.
Typically, this is a genre overlooked by families. But the design changes have delivered a more useful cabin and enough flexibility which means the X1 remains an option for those who need the space but can't afford the larger X3 or X5.
Sampling the compact SUV over the Christmas period, we were enamoured with the optional 40-20-40 folding rear seats. They drop swiftly (stand clear) via an electronic switch in the boot where you get excellent space, plenty to pack in a heap of gifts, as well as a bike on one occasion with one child seat still in place.
Access to the USB point and auxiliary jack is under the front arm rest, while the 12-volt charger is located in front of the shifter... hardly a deal breaker, but it is usually good to have all power sources together.
We may be biased by the fine work of Australian designer Calvin Luk who penned this model from Germany, but this new X1 looks more muscular and better proportioned than its predecessors.
With a growing family, the X1 would have never previously been on our assessment list. But the improved cabin space makes this SUV a prime candidate for those who want to enter the luxury realm.
What matters most
What we liked: Interior and boot space, quick folding rear seats, more muscular stance.
What we'd like to see: Power outlets located together, extra internal flair.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty with condition-based servicing, which means you only see the mechanic when required, but intervals are about 30,000km or every two years. A service pack is available covering five years of servicing or 80,000km for $1140.
Model: BMW X1.
Details: Five-door five-seat all-wheel drive compact sports utility vehicle.
Engines: xDrive20d - 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 140kW @ 4000rpm and 400Nm @ 1750rpm; xDrive25i - 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 170kW @ 5000-6000rpm and 350Nm @ 1250-4500rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Consumption: 20d - 4.9L/100km (combined average); 25i - 6.6L/100km.
CO2: 20d - 129g/km; 25i - 149g/km.
Performance: 0-100kmh: 20d - 7.6 seconds; 25i - 6.5 seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: xDrive20d $56,500; xDrive25i $59,900.