The BMW X1, Audi A5 Sportback and Mercedes C-class estate are very different cars, yet they share a price and a target market.
The benchmark is the Mercedes C250 CDI estate. It is the old-school compact family transport. In Elegance trim (we tested Sport) it costs £29,930.
The BMW X1 makes rival cod off-roaders seem overpriced: our test X1 xDrive23d SE may have a silly name, but it costs £29,900.
The Audi A5 Sportback is not only good looking, but also practical, In range-topping S-Line trim it costs £29,975.
The C250 is substantially the best to drive of the three. Its 201bhp 2.2-litre diesel doesn't confer any speed advantage, because BMW extracts the same number from a 2.0-litre while keeping the kerb weight below the C-class's. But the Benz does feel quicker, thanks to a torque advantage and the widest power band of the three.
More decisive still is its ability to engage the driver in corners. The Merc's steering is better, and if you push on it is the only car here with proper balance. It also offers peerless ride quality - something your family will thank you for on a long journey.
The X1 shows that not even BMW can conquer the dynamic issues that result from a raised centre of gravity and the addition of all-wheel drive. It is quick, and has a smooth engine, but it also feels nose heavy and short on driver involvement. It is the quietest of the three at speed, too.
Audi hasn't helped the A5 Sportback's cause by hobbling it with a 168bhp engine, although it is 100kg lighter than its rivals here, and has a six-speed manual box that makes the most of its power.