The first BMW X3 arrived in 2004 and shared mechanical components with the four-wheel-drive version of the ‘E46’ 3-series. BMW subcontracted much of the development to Austrian company Magna Steyr, which also built the car. As the first mid-sized SUV with a premium badge, it had strong early sales in the UK, with a peak of 7600 cars registered in 2006. But volumes slumped as more modern rivals entered the market and just 2000 found buyers here in 2009.The X3 was the first mid-sized SUV to offer both the draw of a premium badge and unashamedly road-biased driving manners. Its sales success was in spite of a lack of critical acclaim.
But the second-generation X3 – known within BMW by its F25 design code – faces a far tougher test in a more crowded and competitive marketplace. Everything from the Land Rover Evoque to the Audi Q5 is vying for a share of an increasing market, while now the BMW X1 sits beneath the X3 in BMW’s SUV line-up.
BMW has sharpened the X3’s appeal accordingly. Not only is it bigger than the car it replaces, but it’s also claimed to be quicker, greener and even slightly cheaper once extra standard spec is factored in.
The X3 range is limited, even if its appeal isn’t. The big seller will be the exceptionally (for an SUV) frugal 2.0-litre diesel, available in SE or M Sport trim. The 3.0-litre diesel, available in two states of tune and the same two trims, offers even better performance and only marginally worse economy and emissions than the 2.0-litre.