The small premium crossover segment is exploding rapidly. So much so that the BMW X1, a car that only debuted a few short years ago, is already one of the oldest cars in the segment, with the Audi Q3 being the only older car. The reason for such rapid expansion is that customers love these sorts of cars, which are basically slightly larger hatchbacks with more interesting styling. We especially love them in America. So this new comparison test from Top Gear puts the four best small premium crossovers against each other to see which is best.

Taking on the veteran X1 are three brand-spanking new entries to the segment — the Volvo XC40, Jaguar E-Pace and DS 7. In this test, all four cars sport four-cylinder diesel engines, automatic gearboxes and three of them have all-wheel drive, with only the DS 7 being front-drive. They’re all also about the same size, sport similar cargo space and are similarly priced. So it’s a pretty fair test from a spec standpoint. So which is best?

Well, in fourth place was the DS 7. The small French crossover from the luxury arm of Citroen is a valiant effort but falls significantly short of the high water mark set by the rest of the segment. It’s a decent looking car but has too much glitz and glam, as if DS was trying to hide bland styling behind bling. It also may have the worst grille on the market, beating out the Lexus RX. Inside, it’s very nice to look at and has premium materials but is an ergonomic mess. It’s also bland to drive, being way to soft. So it’s a nice luxury car but cars in this segment are designed to be stylish, modern and fun. The DS 7 is none of those things.

In third place, Top Gear chose the BMW X1. Admittedly, they admit it could be second place, depending on what you value, but they felt it deserved third. The X1 is a very good overall car but it lacks some of the virtues that make the other cars stand out. For instance, its styling is fine and unoffensive but it’s boring. There’s nothing interesting about the exterior of the X1, even though it’s a handsome car. Inside, it’s ergonomic, easy to use and features solid build quality. But, again, it’s a bit boring. It’s also quite good to drive, with the best engine and gearbox combo, but its ride is overly stiff and it’s loud on the inside.

Following the X1 was the Jaguar E-Pace in second place. The E-Pace is an odd car because it’s smaller than the F-Pace but just has heavy, thanks to being built on the now archaic Range Rover Evoque platform, and it’s the heaviest car in this test by far. So it sports the worst fuel economy and slowest performance figures. But it’s the most fun to drive, from a handling standpoint, and it has the best driving position. It also looks good and has a sporty looking interior, thanks to being pulled largely from the F-Type Coupe. This segment values modernity, style and fun over all things, so the E-Pace beat out the X1.

So the Volvo XC40 won the test, as it’s the most well-rounded car of them all. Its styling is fresh and modern, being boxy yet smooth. It’s a sharp looking car and one that we really like. It also sports a nice interior, with great materials, a modern design and a clever touchscreen infotainment system. Where the Volvo really stands out from the crowd, though, is in how it drives. It’s not quite as sharp as the Bimmer or the Jag but it’s not far off and it’s more comfortable than both. It strikes the best balance between driver enjoyment and comfort.

Top Gear admits it would have rather had the BMW X2 to test, as it would have been far more competitive here than the X1. It’s newer, more stylish and better to drive. However, they couldn’t get one in time for the comparison, so the X1 places third. It will be interesting to see how the X2 compares to these cars when it hits the streets.

[Source: Top Gear]