The authentic BMW X3 arrived roughly 19 years ago, and at that time, it had the compact luxury crossover segment all to itself. That changed when several contenders closed in to combat the same segment.
BMW responded well to the call to fight and its latest iteration in the form of the revitalised X3, which makes the model one of the best in the business area. Although I feel it wasn't due for an overhaul, it has recently been honed with a significant revamp that has further boosted its relevancy in the competitive fold. Yes, BMW has recently been the talk of the town for its contemporary layout cues as well as oversized kidney grilles; at least the X3 doesn't fall into the same basket, for now.
Built at the BMW Rosslyn Plant in Pretoria for local and export markets, we spent time flexing the muscles of the oil-burner in the form of the 20d M Sport guise. Looks? it isn't a complete departure from the outgoing model's looks, but the refresh has breathed new life into it.
At first peek, redesigned items such as front and rear light clusters, bumpers and enlarged kidney grille are easily observable as they give the X3 a much more pungent look than its forebear.
The X3 20d contact patches come courtesy of 20" wheels at each axle shod with 245/45 and 275/40 rubbers at the front and rear, respectively.
As a side note, the BMW X3 is bigger than the original version of the X5, but that comparison ends there. It's a leap forward, and that gives us an idea of why buyers prefer the confluence of luxury and practicality.
While it may take die-hard fanatics of the products to pinpoint the subtle changes inside, they're definitely present and the quality has been nudged forward with everything intact.
The X3 20d adopts the current 4 Series centre console as well as the 12.3" free-standing centre console as standard, with the option to upgrade to a touch display of the same size. The system carries out its tasks with so much simplicity and what we laud BMW for would be its consistency with retaining the volume knob and other physical buttons and knobs.
Regarding space, there aren't any criticisms regarding that as it offers it in spades, further complemented by generous head and legroom for all passengers, plus a big boot space.
The BMW X3 20d is powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine with 140 kW of power and a nutritive 400 Nm sent wholly to all four paws via an 8-speed automatic transmission.
For the most part, the setup works with so much confidence but it isn't perfect. There's a small margin of turbo lag from the get-go, but that gets sorted once the car has built up momentum and is on the move.
Unlike most diesel powerplants, the one settling underneath the X3 is refined thus making it a suitable vehicle for longer road trips. With most of the driving done in Comfort mode, the ride of the X3 is more compliant and deals with bumps and road defects with serenity while feeling nimble with tight body control.
The xDrive system and 20" standard tyres do a remarkable job of keeping you safe by providing plenty of grip even in slightly slippery road conditions.
Despite its small character, the BMW X3 20d doesn't come cheap at R1,037,176, but that's when it's kitted out with the seductive M Sport package worn by our tester. If that's too much for you, BMW offers the X3 in standard guise for slightly less at R997,176 and if we're honest, it looks a tad 'boring' without the kit.
During our time with the car, it returned 6.5l/100 km with the full tank range coming close to 900 km – these are great figures to witness on this day when fuel prices are soaring.
The BMW X3 20d is a great specimen of why you don't need the big numbers sometimes as it offers a good balance between sporty, practical, luxury, and efficiency. It's been honed with lavish levels of poised manners, and we unashamedly give it an approving nod.