Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer, looks at BMW’s family-friendly and popular X3 sport utility vehicle.

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Engines – With both petrol and diesel engines to choose from there’s something for everyone. That said, you’d have to be made of money to opt for one of the former even if your annual mileage count is low. With the promise of wallet-friendly running costs, the diesel options are more attractive. The six-cylinder units are willing hard-workers, while the cheaper four-cylinder units make sense for lighter duties.

Exterior – Some early low-spec cars were saddled with black plastic ‘bash-proof’ panels but it’s better to go for the more attractive body-coloured option. Visually a less imposing offering than the larger X5, the X3 casts a less aggressive shadow on the road. A succession of mild revisions has resulted in a more handsome car in recent years.

Interior – It’s typically BMW inside the X3, which means lots of black plastic and well thought-out controls and displays. You’d be forgiven for thinking it all looked a bit like the previous-generation Z4 up front, and you’d be right. At the rear there’s enough space for a growing family and everything looks and feels suitably durable.

Driving – Pitched as a sport utility vehicle for keen drivers, despite its size and height the X3 handles well and can be fun to drive briskly. You will need a powerful engine – six cylinders – to fully exploit the car’s abilities, though. The lofty driving position is useful when in town, as is the good all-round visibility.

Ownership – Think of the X3 as a high-rise 3 Series Touring and you’ll better understand its role in life. Spacious and practical, it’s also good to drive so long as you select your engine carefully. Modest standard kit levels and a sombre interior ambience are minor drawbacks.

What to look for – With some X3s used as urban family taxis, examine cars carefully for parking dents, kerbed wheels and clunky suspension behaviour on the test-drive. There’s no shortage of choice so be patient. Examine any car with a tow bar for abuse and X3s that have been off- road should be checked for under-body damage. A full history is essential, as is a thorough test-drive, while it’s important to select the best-equipped car you can afford.

Model history – 2004, BMW introduces a mid range SUV to slot below its flagship X5. The compact X3 boasted four and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines in order to boost affordability and running costs. Modest standard kit levels necessitated spending more on options – good news when buying used – and the quality of the cabin materials on early cars was average despite its elevated asking price.

Reasons to buy – Brand image, capable on the road, family friendly, engine range, flexible load space, mild off-road ability.

Reasons to beware – Modest off-road capability, build-quality of early cars, low-power four-cylinder engines, modest standard kit levels.

Pick of the range – X3 3.0d SE.

What to pay – 2005 55 £13,025; 2006 56 £14,700; 2007 07 £16,100; 2008 08 £18,925; 20009 09 £21,525; 2010 10 £24,325. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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