My first introduction to the BMW X3 was on a certain popular motoring programme, during which its tallest host ripped it a new one. A large portion of the filmed segment on the car focused on how hopeless it was off-road, also noting that the ride on the asphalt was pretty damn firm. Oh, and the looks came in for plenty of flack, too.
But back then, road-biased, compact SUVs with oddly uncomfortable rides were something of a rarity. Today, they’re everywhere, and BMW has even made a slightly smaller take on the genre, the X1, to slot below the current X3. Thanks to how much cars have grown over the years, it’s about the same size as the original X3, and it too is needlessly stiff and challenging to look at.
In the meantime, though, the first-generation E83 X3 has aged, much like the E53 X1, strangely well. And I bet compared to the new X1, which we saw in X1 M35i form for the first time this week, the ride isn’t that bad at all. What’s more, they’re cheap, with prices starting at under £2,000. Low enough, in other words, to be quite tempting as a practical biff-about. Perhaps the CT YouTube team would benefit from one as a backup for the next time our £400 Range Rover breaks down.
The X3 we’ve plucked from the classifieds costs a bit more than £2,000, though, as we restricted our search to E83 X3s with manual gearboxes for the sake of amusing incongruity, which doesn’t give much choice. We also wanted one with a bigger engine - ideally a six-cylinder petrol, but without such a car emerging, we’ve plumped for a 3.0-litre M57 turbodiesel.
Although the new X1 M35i would easily best it in a straight line, this X3 30d M Sport is still quick, covering the 0-62mph sprint in a respectable 7.4 seconds. It costs £3,999, which still seems like great value for money for what you’re getting, which is a late first gen benefitting from two mid-life updates, reasonable mileage (123,000) and tyres from brands you’ve actually heard of. It has Pirelli Scorpions across the front axle and Dunlops of some description at the rear.
Although it’s always hard to tell from low-ish resolution photos, the interior condition looks to be great, while the exterior is reasonably tidy, sullied only slightly by a badly kerbed wheel missing a centre cap, and milky-looking headlight lenses, although the latter is easily fixed.