Compact premium SUVs are typically sure-fire sales successes for manufacturers. Not only do they catch the eye with their burly looks, but they offer a healthy dose of practicality, too. Anyone in the market for one would do well to consider one of this trio – the Mercedes GLC, Range Rover Evoque and BMW X3.
Mercedes GLC vs Range Rover Evoque vs BMW X3 – prices
Comparing basic models like-for like, it’s the Mercedes, costing from £34,950, that’s the most expensive to buy. The basic Range Rover Evoque costs £30,600, undercutting the GLC by a hefty £4,350, though that version lacks the four-wheel-drive systems standard on the other two cars. The X3 falls between the GLC and Evoque, with the range priced from £33,945.
All three cars should hold their value well, but the Range Rover should boast marginally the strongest residuals. Equally, while it’s slower than the other two cars here, it offers the best fuel consumption of the three.
Mercedes GLC vs Range Rover Evoque vs BMW X3 – styling
The Mercedes gets off to a flying start in the styling stakes. From almost any angle, it offers great road presence, while details such as the bold chrome grille that houses an oversized three-pointed star help it look suitably expensive.
Some might feel that the Range Rover Evoque looks a little chintzy in comparison, but it’s still a great head-turner. Chunky wheel arches provide the go-anywhere look desired by SUV buyers, while the slim LED headlights and narrow window line lend it the appearance of a concept car for the road.
At the opposite end of the scale, the BMW looks a little dull in this company. The test car is equipped with the M Sport package, and the enlarged alloy wheels and big bodykit help it look a little more aggressive than it otherwise would. In such a style-conscious sector of the market, however, the X3 is just too plain.
Mercedes GLC vs Range Rover Evoque vs BMW X3 – interior
The Mercedes maintains its strong start in the desirability stakes thanks to the most expensive-feeling interior here. Build quality feels rock solid and material quality is as high as SUVs a few classes above. Some buyers might find the placement of the satellite navigation display screen a little half-hearted though, and its control system takes a little more getting used to than BMW’s alternative.
The Evoque’s cabin looks sturdy yet slightly utilitarian, but still reasonably upmarket. The driving position feels sporty and the infotainment graphics are clear. Compared to the other two here, however, material and build quality is disappointing – there are minor squeaks and rattles from around the dashboard and certain components – including the automatic gearbox’s rotary shifter – don’t fit as neatly as you’d hope.
The current BMW X3 has been with us since 2010 and those advanced years really show inside – the dated design lags well behind the other two here. To its credit, it is very well built, and the iDrive infotainment system is not only the easiest to use, but boasts the slickest user interface.
Mercedes GLC vs Range Rover Evoque vs BMW X3 – practicality
Not only is the GLC’s cabin fantastic to sit in, but it’s hugely practical, too. Storage cubbies are plentiful and the door bins are the largest of this trio. Passengers in the back will appreciate the plentiful head and legroom, with three six-foot adults able to find their own space without too many grumbles. That space, combined with large door openings, makes securing child seats via the isofix mounting points a cinch, too. At 550 litres, the boot is a useful size, though the load lip is a little high.
The Evoque’s 420-litre boot lags behind in this test and the opening is quite small – though still more practical than the average saloon car. Lack of space is an issue for occupants too – a narrow middle rear seat and limited knee room means it’s much more cramped in the back than the Mercedes.
The BMW runs the Mercedes very close for cabin space, with only shoulder room lagging slightly behind. The boot carries the same volume of clobber as the GLC, but the available area is better-shaped, while heavy items are easier to heave in thanks to the lower load lip.
Mercedes GLC vs Range Rover Evoque vs BMW X3 – driving
At first, the Mercedes GLC may leave you feeling a little detached from the action – the steering feels direct but numb and the chassis feels more stable than thrilling. We don’t think that’s a problem though – cars such as these were never designed to attack a B-road anyway. The good news for the GLC is that it leads the way in terms of both comfort and refinement by some margin making it a wonderfully relaxing and easy car to drive.
If you dare take any of these off road, the Evoque will be the one to have – provided you pick one of the four-wheel drive models. The Mercedes might feel polished and refined, but the Range Rover is more fun to drive. Agile steering and a sweet manual gearshift means it’s an enjoyable car to zip around in. It isn’t perfect though – rearward visibility is poor, those huge door mirrors generate plenty of wind noise at speed and ride quality isn’t a patch on the Mercedes.
The X3’s big wheels and wide tyres may help the looks, but they also generate much more road noise than you’ll hear in its two rivals. In fact, if you go for the M Sport, you’ll need to invest in the Variable Damper Control adaptive suspension to manage the fussy ride quality. If an extra £650 for the sake of a smooth ride seems excessive, pick an SE model instead – smaller alloy wheels and softer suspension combine produce a more compliant ride.
Mercedes GLC vs Range Rover Evoque vs BMW X3 – engines
The 250 d engine we tested is the more powerful option of a pair of 2.1-litre diesels Mercedes currently offers for the GLC. It’s a little grumbly under hard acceleration, but performance is strong and it claims an average of 56mpg – the same as the less potent GLC 220 d. The nine-speed automatic gearbox is smooth on the go, if a little slow to react to demands from the driver.
The Evoque’s 2.0-litre diesel is well down on the GLC’s output and, as a result, can’t compete in straight-line performance. However, the engine is a little smoother on the ear, while its claimed 65.6mpg is backed up by our test figure of 51.7mpg – the best here. The six-speed manual gearbox has a smooth action adding to the car’s sporty pretensions.
The X3, in 3.0-litre diesel form tested here, is by far the fastest of the bunch, and its six-cylinder configuration delivers the smoothest power delivery. It’s comparatively thirsty though, and most buyers would be better served with the cheaper and more economical 2.0-litre diesel instead. If you go for the xDrive 20d, be sure to budget in an extra £1,550 for the automatic gearbox – it’s one of the best in the business. The same can’t be said for the standard six-speed manual, which is over sprung with an excessively long throw.
Mercedes GLC vs Range Rover Evoque vs BMW X3 – verdict
Each of these cars offers their own little list of plus points but, in the end, there is only one winner. The Mercedes GLC is relaxing to drive, impressively practical and gives driver and passengers by a long way the greatest sense of luxury.
The Range Rover Evoque takes second place thanks to it sense of style and fun, while a lower purchase price and strong residuals make sound financial sense, too. It’s let down, however, by comparatively poor interior quality and miserly practicality.
The BMW X3 might have the badge kudos and the best infotainment system but, elsewhere, it lags behind the other two. In essence, it’s a talented car but is beginning to show its age. It’s also a shame its styling inside and out feels too safe by BMW standards.
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