Over a number of generations the X3 has grown up and matured into a much larger, far more accomplished and more desirable vehicle in every respect.

Now proudly built in SA, the X3 range is virtually the same size as the first generation X5 so provides plenty of space in the premium medium SUV category.

Regular updates and minor facelifts have added to the visual appeal with the latest boasting sharp angles and wings to give a very sporty look. However, it's in the finishes and trim where most updates have taken place.

Under the bonnet, it's the tried and trusted 2L 4 cylinder turbodiesel that now provides 140kW and 400Nm to all 4 wheels through the xDrive system. This provides surefooted roadholding on dirt or twisties or even on wet roads.

The standard BMW 8 speed automatic provides the familiar multi-modes that alter the behaviour of the vehicle and not just hold revs for longer before shifting.

Fuel consumption for the test period was 8.4l/100km which allowed for a lot of enthusiastic driving from myself, let alone when LeadFoot got hold of the car. In spite of being diesel powered, it behaves more like a sports car than a diesel SUV.

The interior, especially behind the wheel is a very familiar place and this is both a positive and a negative in my opinion. The BMW cabin is a superb and highly functional design BUT...... I wish it would just feel a bit different from model to model. Somehow it feels the same whether you're piloting a 1 series or a range topping 8 series model.

As always with most premium brands, when ordering your car it's crucial to know the standard specification and then choose from the myriad options with extreme care. Lack of caution will cost large amounts of money over and above the list price and you could find yourself in a car that lacks something which should actually be a standard item.

In this instance, I am referring to the manual adjustment of the drivers seat on the test car. I would actually expect this to be standard on a car at this level and would certainly place the value higher than a panoramic roof (much as I like this) or some other options that are available.

Currently priced at R 997 894 before options, the xDrive 20d is competitively priced when looking at the opposition in the market. The familiar 5 year/ 100 000km maintenance plan is included.

Alan Rosenmeyer:   MotorMatters:   www.motormatters.co.za