BMW's biggest changes to new X3 are under the hood

The refreshed compact sports SUV integrates styling cues from the latest 3 Series sedan as well as a number of quality and fuel-efficiency upgrades.

BMW likes to think that it created the concept of the small-scale sporty off-roader or Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) and that the original X3, launched way back in 2003, was the nucleus of what has become a rapidly growing market.

That might well be true. Before the introduction of BMW’s ‘X’ range of cars, off-roaders were designed to be good off-road and bearable on the road. After they arrived, a whole host of vehicles were launched by everyone from Audi to Nissan that offered a high driving position and permanent four wheel drive, but were designed for city centers and highways rather than rocky mountains and country lanes.

Still, despite their lack of real off-road performance, there seems to be no shortage of demand for the cars and it is estimated that roughly 1 million X3s have been sold globally over the past decade.

In order to retain these levels of popularity as consumers become more worried about sustainability and the environment, the biggest change to the new X3 is what’s powering the wheels — the company’s latest generation turbodiesel engines, the most notable of which is the 2.0-liter unit.

It uses TwinPower technology to ensure acceleration at all points across the rev band and in all gears, delivers 187 bhp, and a fuel economy of 52.3 mpg (5.4l/100 km) on the combined cycle.

These figures can be improved further thanks to the EfficientDynamics package that includes an auto stop/start function and a brake energy regeneration system plus lower resistance tires.

Inside, cabin materials are subtly upgraded and BMW’s latest-generation ConnectedDrive driver assistance and infotainment system is available as a cost option.

Announced Thursday, the X3 will be making its first real-world appearance at the Geneva Motor Show in March where BMW is also expected to confirm pricing, specifications and availability.