BMW X3 3.0d M Sport

BMW X3, front
BMW X3, rear
BMW X3, interior
BMW X3, rear seats
BMW X3, snow, front

THERE are winners and losers in every section of society and business but not always do the glory and plaudits go where they're most deserved.

This is an ever present truth in the motor industry. But one recent example that conforms to what's best in terms of ‘just desserts' is the success of the latest generation of BMW X3.

Pretty similar visually, yet subtly different, it is so far improved over the original, to really deserve a new designation.

And owners have voted a huge hit in the most definitive way - sales have more than tripled in a year with the figures passing the 5,000 mark during 2011.

Not only is the new X3 better proportioned from a styling point of view but it is roomier with a vastly improved ride that makes it the pacesetter among prestige, compact SUVs.

Most popular version of the range is the 2.0 diesel for obvious reasons of economy of purchase and running costs. But if you can muster a few thousand more, the 3.0 model, also a diesel, is a real wolf in sheep's clothing.

With 258bhp under that snub nose and all wheel drive that's as suitable for smooth roads as it is for a boggy field, you have the ideal blend between sports car and off-roader.

It is in fact now the car that the original X3 promised to be but never quite achieved.

It was a 3.0d M Sport that I borrowed which will set you back £39,625, so although it's a ‘junior' off-roader it's hardly cheap.

But remember, the cabin measurements of the current version are almost as large as the previous X5 - it can hold up to 1,600 litres of cargo in the boot - and the dynamics are a quantum leap forward.

Possibly the most clearly area of enhancement is the accomplished ride - a factor that's noticeable whether you're travelling at speed or tripping to the supermarket.

Whereas before a vertical choppiness disturbed comfort, now undulations and poor surfaces are ironed out, insulating the passengers from any discomfort.

The general poise is still more noticeable during cornering to such an extent that the X3 handles as well as many hot hatches with similar levels of adhesion.

It's hardly surprising  - with a 3.0-litre, 258bhp turbo diesel up front - that it picks up its heels briskly but acceleration to 62mph in 6.2 seconds is pretty impressive.

Top speed is around the 137mph mark. All this and economy that averages 47.1mpg (officially). Real life driving will still result in a creditable 38 to 40mpg.

The 3.0d comes only as an automatic but if you're keen enough, the gear lever can be switched through the ratios manually.

There's plenty of opportunity to personalise your X3 with extras and add on the £s - this car came with media package which includes sat-nav (£2,515), reversing assist camera (£530), sun protection glass (£300), and variable damper control (£930). Metallic paintwork and leather upholstery are standard.

Superb to drive and more practical than a green wellie, the X3 fully deserves its new-found success.

FAST FACTS

BMW X3 3.0d M Sport

Price: £39,6250

Mechanical: 258bhp, 2,993cc, 6cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 137mph

0-62mph: 6.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 47.1

Insurance Group: 32

C02 emissions: 159g/km

Bik rating: 24%

Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles

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