Last Chance To Buy: BMW X3

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Specifications

Launched: 2004

Engine sizes: 2.0-litre, 2.5, 3.0, 2.0d, 3.0d

Performance (2.0d): top speed 123mph, 0-60mph in 10.2 seconds

Economy: 39.2mpg

Safety: NCAP, n/a

When's it going?

BMW's baby X3 isn't really going anywhere, but it has grown up a bit. It isn't any bigger - if it was then we would have to call it an X5, but there are new engines, redesigned interiors, new bumpers and lights. Not that much that you would notice then, although the price has gone up. So you might as well buy one of the older, cheaper X3s.

What's good about it?

Believe it or not, the X3 would actually be OK if it ever was mistakenly driven off the tarmac and on to and into the mud. Being a BMW it is, of course, pretty decent on the road when it comes to sharp and sporty handling - unlike the majority of 4x4s. There is also a choice of great BMW petrol and diesel engines. The larger petrols (2.5 and 3.0) aren't that economical, so most would go for the smallest 2.0 and the diesels. When it comes to practicality, the X3 out-boots the slightly larger X5, with more luggage space at the back. When you have all the family on board they will be in a very safe place as there are plenty of airbags, electronic braking and handling aids to protect them. The X3 also benefits from yet another BMW plus-point by being refined.

What's bad about it?

Well, the X3 is expensive and by spending a few pounds more you could get the more upmarket X5. For many, the X3 simply illustrates that you couldn't afford a proper BMW. Even so, the X3 has never been a cheap buy in terms of running costs, whether it is for petrol or company car tax. There is though, one very un-BMW-like element that spoils the X3 for some, and that is quality. This model is not actually built at a BMW factory and there seems to have been corners cut when it comes to the interior fit, finish and the quality of the plastics. That's unforgivable considering the amount of money being asked. Road testers have also commented that the ride is much too firm and it gets even worse should you opt for the Sport specification.

How much?

More recently it has been possible to get some decent savings on the BMW X3. A 3.0 Sport usually retails at £34,205, but Carfile (01335 360 763) www.carfile. net can put one on the road for £30,865. DC Cook Direct (08707 663 731) specialise in pre-registered examples and had plenty to choose from - a 2.0d SE that costs £28,385 new could be supplied for £26,799.

Any snags?

So far there have not been any recalls. As highlighted, however, not everyone is overjoyed with the build quality. So look closely inside at the fit and finish.

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