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Car group tests

New BMW X3 vs rivals

Compact SUVs come into their own in snow and ice. But is BMW’s new X3 the best of the breed? We test it against Land Rover, Audi and Volvo rivals.

New BMW X3 vs. rivals

A short spell of wintry weather is all it takes to leave most motorists wishing they owned a 4x4. But excelling in all conditions alone isn’t enough for 
a compact SUV to top its class.

Factors such as image, desirability and refinement are just as important as traction on slippery surfaces. And the latest 
premium model aiming to meet this tough all-round brief is the new BMW X3.

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Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the BMW X3

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The original 2004 version was never a 
contender for honours in this sector. It wasn’t as desirable as its X5 big brother, plus it trailed on cabin quality. The second-generation X3 aims to change all that.

At launch, the newcomer comes exclusively with a 2.0-litre diesel engine, and is 
bigger, better equipped and smarter 
looking than before. Better still, it’s also cheaper, cleaner and more fuel-efficient.

Lining up in the snow to rival the BMW is a trio of proven premium SUVs. Land Rover’s latest Freelander serves up a strong blend of go-anywhere ability 
and comfort. It’s also our reigning class champ. The Audi Q5 combines car-like looks and handling with a prestige image and top-notch quality, while Volvo’s XC60 sits somewhere between the two, mixing head-turning looks with a practical cabin.

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So which of the four skated to victory 
in the Arctic conditions of our test?

Verdict

Al four cars in this test have something to offer, but the XC60 is simply outclassed. Although it’s sharply styled, very well put together and comes packed with safety kit, it’s let down by its lumpy ride and uninspiring handling. The five-cylinder engine is gruff and the auto sluggish, while the interior is starting to show its age, too.

Next to fall is the Q5. Its classy cabin, superb quality and strong resale values are complemented by car-like handling, but our racy S line model isn’t comfortable or practical enough. It comes third.

If you want superb refinement, true off-road ability and a solid interior, you should choose the Land Rover. In revised SD4 trim, it just pips the Audi to second place here, and remains the best performer in the rough. However, low residuals and high running costs ultimately stop it winning. 

So the new BMW X3 secures a deserved victory. It’s great to drive, roomy and well built, plus it offers the quality, looks and refinement its predecessor lacked. Add strong residuals, fixed-price servicing and low emissions, and it makes financial sense, too.

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