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Our Verdict

BMW X3

The BMW X3 is both frugal and rewarding to drive, a rare and clever technical achievement

1 June 2004

The X3 doesn’t have a spare wheel, but I’m pretty sure it’s got a spare chromosome.

A new BMW wouldn’t be the same if the styling didn’t divide opinion, but there’s no doubt that the X3 is an awkward-looking car, possessing neither the style of the regular 3-series Touring nor the confident swagger of big brother X5. But at £28,715, the entry-level 2.5 SE puts some much-needed distance between X3 and X5, although you’ll still need to pay extra for luxuries such as leather or a CD changer. The cabin feels easily as roomy as that of its bigger sibling, but some of the interior plastics don’t seem to be of quite the same quality.

Diesels will come later; for now it’s a simple choice between 2.5- or 3.0-litre petrol sixes, the bigger of which took a surprise beating at the hands of the revamped Land Rover Freelander in our group test last month.

Though beautifully sweet and strong enough to haul 1815kg around in sixth gear, the 2.5-litre motor has always preferred to do its work at the top end of the rev range, and we noticed the same drone from the rear axle that European ed Peter Robinson experienced on the launch. Thankfully, we didn’t have the optional sports suspension that hampered the ride on that car, but there’s still too much vertical movement and general busy-ness from the otherwise excellent chassis.

Like it or not we’ll be seeing a lot more of the X3. That’s okay: we’ve a feeling the best versions are yet to come.

Chris Chilton

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