Desirability. Rational minds dictate that needs precede wants, though that hasn’t stopped luxury goods from doing a roaring trade. The same applies to automobiles; the car-buying public seems to have little reservation in paying a premium for a coupe that is otherwise very similar – identical, even – to the standard four-door model it is based upon.

And thus, the rationale for continuing what has become a niche within a niche – a coupe borne of SUV (SAV, in BMW-speak) roots – is justified, which brings us to the second-generation BMW X4, codenamed G02.

The X4 nameplate is a very recent addition in the grand scheme of BMW things, having made its debut in 2014 as the junior model to the BMW X6, which brought about the term Sports Activity Coupe (SAC), which is based upon the Sports Activity Vehicle that is the BMW X5. Just as the X6 is the sleeker-roofed sibling to the X5, so the X4, too, is to the X3.

The G02-generation X4 is closely related to the G01 X3, and so it’s unsurprising to find a nearly-identical front end on the X4 as on the latter. Looking further along the X4’s exterior reveals a design that is more evolutionary than revolutionary compared to the previous model, though certain cues are unmistakeable in identifying the G02 as a current-generation BMW.

This includes the ‘hockey stick’ that previously has appeared on the G11/12 7 Series and the G30 5 Series, on the X4 implied via the front quarter panel vent which joins the mid-door crease line. This and another one located higher up the vehicle’s sides lead to a pair of slim, three-dimensional L-shaped tail lights which look set to feature on future BMWs, as seen on the recently unveiled 8 Series coupe.

So far, so BMW, and in inevitable fashion, physically larger in all dimensions. Our time with the second-generation X4 at the car’s international drive in the United States afforded us the opportunity to sample the new model in two powertrain forms – firstly on track with the 326 hp/680 Nm, six-cylinder turbodiesel xDrive M40d, and then with the now-venerable 252 hp/350 Nm turbocharged inline-four petrol in xDrive30i guise. The latter is all but a sure bet for the Malaysian market, unlike the former, and so it’s the petrol variant that our attention is focused upon here.

Initial, visual impressions appeared pleasing to these eyes, with the test car’s Sophisto Grey exterior paired with a Tacora Red ‘Vernasca’ leather interior. Fans of M cars past may recall the E92 M3 which could be specified with a somewhat similar Sparkling Graphite exterior paint finish and Fox Red leather interior, of which this X4 test unit seems reminiscent.

Dashboard architecture is just about identical to that in the new X3, which to the eyes and hands of this writer is largely a good thing, as the centre console retains the quintessential driver-oriented slant and key driving controls close to hand. The X4 logo just beneath the air-conditioning controls does raise a query, though – is it BMW’s tacit admission of interior design cohesion to the point of confusion?

There’s no such ambiguity aft of the B-pillars though, with the rear passenger compartment best being described as cosy. The sloping roofline which can single-handedly define the identity of the X4 sees to the relative snugness of the rear half of the interior, though the merit or shortfall of such a layout will largely depend on the passengers’ stature. Snug up to a point, perhaps the six-foot mark, then it starts to get cramped for those taller.

On the move, there is little wrong with the way the X4 goes down a stretch of road, particularly in isolation. Our 2.0 litre, turbo four-cylinder equipped xDrive 30i model did a convincing job of demonstrating its claimed 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution, negotiating tarmac all of a piece and largely in a cohesive manner.

This, though, is with the proviso that the individual experiencing what the new X4 has to offer is new to the blue-and-white roundel, and is perhaps coming to the Munich marque from an SUV of another make. Compared with an approximate sedan equivalent – say, an F30 3 Series – the junior sedan is fleeter of foot and has that bit more transparency in how the car moves, particularly at the front axle. Allowing for the relative numbness of steering that is now largely an industry-wide occurrence, the X4 can be aimed along a narrow country road accurately and consistently.

Granted, on the two-way roads of South Carolina we were hardly troubling the outer reaches of the G02’s chassis, but the car did come across as responsive, though perhaps at the price of tipping the ride/handling balance further towards the ‘keen driver’ end of the scale. The subtleties of road surfaces are quite readily felt by its passengers, but still within agreeable limits for yours truly. As such, the X4 feels as though it stomps rather than floats along a given piece of road.

What is not in doubt is the effectiveness of the 30i-spec powertrain, as the 2.0 litre turbo petrol four propels the 1,720 kg mass along with a verve that left us confident of it achieving its claimed 6.7-second 0-100 km/h time and 240 km/h top speed performance numbers. The eight-speed automatic transmission is the perfect complement, too, negating any real need for manual ratio overrides, such is its perceptive nature.

Is this merely a sequel to a niche too far? Purists yearning for Ultimate Driving Machines of years past may think so, and future iterations of models like the X6 and this, the X4, will only make diehard fans of strictly rear-wheel drive sedans and coupes even more livid.

However, the car shopper who elects for an X4 instead of an X3 already has seen merit in choosing overt sportiness over outright practicality, never mind that it rides taller than a 3, 4 or 5 Series. The aforementioned reservations about ride quality could similarly be dismissed for the same reasons.

Furthermore, given the growing affluence of buyers worldwide, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched that the X4 could be the first BMW for a cross-section of car buyers. Considered thus, this new addition to the BMW fold carries enough driver-oriented DNA to serve as a worthy introduction to the Munich automaker’s products via a sporty SUV. Sorry, SAC.