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The stakes have never been higher for BMW’s mid-sized SUV, now the X3 in its third generation. So can it deliver?

The BMW X3 family has undergone a bit of a coming of age in transition to its third full-model generation, something about which you’ll be reading in detail in this review.

And the BMW's growing up and general maturing process coincides neatly with a dimensional expansion that has made it a longer, wider car than the original BMW X5 that arrived on the scene in 1999.

Rear LEDs are sculpted, à la Porsche’s Macan, and add a little interest to the X3’s resolutely bulky proportions

Since the first BMW X3’s launch in 2003, BMW has sold more than 1.5 million units worldwide, a success story it will no doubt be eager to continue with the version that’ll take the model into its third decade on sale.

The car’s increase in overall length – 51mm over the outgoing 2011-2017 BMW X3 model – creates more space in the back than ever before and aesthetically the X3 looks even more athletic. There’s no drastic departure from the design language of the second-gen model, but the mild redesign helps give the soft-roader a new lease of life and brings it closer in line with BMW’s other models.

The X3’s price position within BMW’s SUV range is as you’d imagine it to be. Starting at £37,980, it’s more than £10,000 cheaper than the no-frills version of the X5 and just over £11,000 more expensive than the school-run-favourite BMW X1 – even though the car is now a much closer match on size for the X5 than the X1. A good omen for metal-for-the-money fans, perhaps.

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Those after a slightly fruitier X3 will see the appeal in the BMW X3 M40i – the first X3 to receive the M Performance treatment – thanks to its 355bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine and claimed 0-62mph time of 4.8sec.

The car we’re testing here, however, is the bigger-selling and more sensible BMW X3 188bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, although four-cylinder petrol and six-cylinder diesel engines arealso available.

BMW claims the latest X3’s design is more confident and off-road inspired – and for the most part, as the road test always has, we’ll leave its visual merits up to you to judge.

Where the car is really going to have to impress, though, is on the tarmac. BMW has a knack for making cars a cut above the competition when it comes to driving dynamics, but the X3 hasn’t traditionally been the best of them.

This road test will determine whether this new version better lives up to its maker’s reputation.


BMW X3 First drives