TAKING the kids to football training often proves illuminating when it comes to analysing the strengths and weaknesses of a car.
Exterior looks and cabin comfort are just some of the things the budding Wayne Rooneys in the back - perhaps already dreaming of the vehicle they will possess when they become Premier League footballers - are apt to comment on.
The X3 is BMW's answer for parents whose main question is - ‘have you got something that looks good, doesn't cost an arm and a leg to run, but is a quality offering that can still comfortably cope with the demands of a busy family?'
Bearing that in mind it is no surprise my critical crew and I found much to like in the recently-launched second generation X3 model.
The first thing to say about this BMW is that it's bigger than before - but the door entry height has been lowered so the kids have easier access.
My son and his friend informed me that there was oodles of space in the rear with the X3 boasting improved levels of head, leg and shoulder room, while the seats are big and comfortable.
Luggage capacity has also been increased - with boot space for the five-seater up by 70-litres to 550-litres. Fold the rear seats and cave-like dimensions are available with 1,600-litres of space to play with.
The SE trim features lots of luxury items including leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors and cruise control. The latest version of BMW's iDrive controller gives easy access to the plethora of entertainment and set-up menus.
The X3 also benefits from the introduction of more efficient engines leading to a welcome reduction in running costs.
All the X3s use diesel engines, with the 2.0d SE I drove set to be the mainstay of UK sales while the 3.0 and 3.5-litre versions are due later this year.
The 2.0-litre diesel averages more than 50 miles per gallon which not only trumps most other 4x4s, but also some front-wheel drive crossovers.
There is a standard six-speed manual gearbox which is neat and accurate and an optional eight-speed automatic transmission that adds more than £1,500 to the price tag.
The new X3 comes with BMW's clever EfficientDynamics technologies which feature cutting edge developments such as an automatic start/stop function, brake energy regeneration, lightweight construction and revised engine electronics that improve fuel consumption, lower carbon dioxide emissions and raise performance.
The X3 feels agile with sharp steering allowing the driver to put the car exactly where he or she wants it to be, while the exceptional levels of grip from the xDrive system give complete confidence.
The xDrive operates via a multi-plate clutch system which supplies 60 per cent of the torque to the rear wheels in normal use with drive distributed automatically to the front or rear wheels as required depending on the weather and road conditions.
The driving position is commanding with plenty of adjustment ensuring a comfortable position can be secured by all shapes and sizes.
Safety is catered for through front, side and curtain airbags, plus a host of electronic aids designed to keep the driver out of trouble. The bonnet features energy-absorbing deformation zones to improve pedestrian protection.