Described by BMW as a ‘sport activity vehicle’ (like the X5) rather than using the preferred ‘sport utility vehicle’ label, it is meant to hint at a more dynamic driving experience than those on offer in a traditional 4x4.
Despite being more compact than the X5, the X3 offered nearly as much room inside and had a bigger boot.
It is likely that the X3 will begin to appear more comfortable in the BMW range when a future version of the X5 arrives, whenever that might be. However, BMW executives still behave as if you are talking of some strange, mythical creature at the mere mention of a replacement for the recently facelifted model. Corporate sales manager Bernard Bradley insists: ‘It’s not on the radar’.
But the X3 has so far failed to make the impression in the corporate sector that it did in the retail market because of the delay in introducing the model that is expected to take up to 70% of sales – the 2.0d.
It’s here now, though. BMW has used the proven 2.0-litre common rail diesel that has been available in the 3-series for the last few years.
Unlike the upgraded 163bhp version to be offered in the new 3-series and already available in the 1-series, this 150bhp version is still only Euro III compliant, so expect a further change in the next 12 months, or certainly by the time the 3.0-litre diesel joins the range towards the end of the year.Having said that, neither 2.5-litre or 3.0-litre petrol variants achieve Euro IV emissions compliance yet, either, so BMW would have been unlikely to make a special case for the diesel.
However, the 2.0d is still a fine engine and its readily available torque and smooth power delivery is well suited to the X3’s surprisingly sharp handling.
Despite being nearly as tall as a traditional off-roader, the X3’s body is resistant to cornering forces and has direct, communicative steering. It will attack a series of bends in much the same way as a current 3-series which is a considerable achievement considering the dimensions of the vehicle.
The trade-off is a firm and fidgety ride. It conveys occupants in a serene manner as long as the road surface is smooth, but it begins to bump and bounce them around on poorly maintained roads.
The interior takes many of its styling cues from the existing 3-series model but is roomy enough to carry five in comfort.
Unlike the other X3s to date, there is a standard entry-level diesel below the SE, but all models come with a six-speed manual transmission, dynamic stability control, six airbags, automatic climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, a puncture warning system and ISOFIX child seat anchoring points.
The all-wheel drive system, called xDrive, uses a centrally mounted multi-plate clutch, which working with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system switches power between the front and rear axles. And with no low-ratio transfer, the X3 is more suited to occasional off-road use. It is assumed that while the SUV sector has grown rapidly over the last few years very few drivers take their vehicles off-road.
However, BMW’s research carried out with X5 drivers showed that 20% of them (across Europe) used their cars off-road.
Its major strength is in giving drivers the elevated view of the road so many of them expect in a 4x4, with fewer of the compromises when driving on the road. Add to that fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions on a par with the best diesel mainstream compact SUVs and expected residual values in the region of 50% over three years/60,000 miles, according to CAP Monitor, then the X3 2.0d would seem to make a sensible addition to company choice lists.
Model: BMW X3 2.0d
Engine (cc): 1,995
Max power (bhp/rpm): 150/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 243/2,000
Max speed (mph): 123
0-62mph (sec): 10.2
Fuel consumption (mpg): 39.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 191
Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 67/14.7
Transmission: 6-sp man
Service interval: Variable
On sale: Now
Price (OTR): £26,175-£28,375