Over the past decade, the motor industry has gradually evolved what were once rugged and crude off-roaders into civilised road cars. The process was pioneered, in large part, by the original BMW X5, so it’s entirely fitting that the new X3 has become the 4x4 that – probably – requires buyers to make the fewest compromises over a conventional model.

We’d argue that it looks a little too similar to its bigger sibling from the outside, but the fact that its quality and style inside are the same as in any other BMW is no bad thing. You certainly couldn’t say the same about the old X3’s cabin. There’s an increase in the amount of room inside; it’s not overly generous, but the combination of occupant and luggage space will do most people just fine.

It's not perfect, but a good effort. Reducing wind noise at cruising speeds and improving the electric handbrake would be worthwhile improvements

Yes, it has the macho styling and commanding driving experience that SUVs are expected to deliver. It even has a degree of off-road ability. But despite the extra height and weight that it carries, it drives like a normal car, consumes fuel at a similar rate and emits a comparable level of CO2.

The BMW X3 is a car that can destroy the myth of SUVs being gas-guzzling monsters in one fell swoop; a Chelsea tractor it is not. Its economy and emissions are more akin to a family hatch, while the comfort and refinement are as good as in a BMW 3 Series.

The X3 isn’t, by any stretch, a revolutionary car, but its multi-faceted talents mean that it is an extremely clever piece of engineering – and a damned fine car to boot.

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