BMW iX3 review
The BMW iX3 should appeal to EV fans and SUV aficionados equally, but it isn’t as comfortable as it could be.
What's not so good
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The BMW iX3 is the company’s electric rival to EV SUVs such as the Audi E-tron and Mercedes EQC.
It’s the BMW equivalent of the Monsters Inc story. Until now, the company has used scary old petrol and diesel to generate power, but now they’ve found out that laugh-a-minute electric actually works a whole lot better for everybody, and makes you smile, too.
So the iX3 is new, but just doesn’t look it. Up front, there’s the usual BMW grille, but it’s all a clever ruse because it doesn’t have to cool anything, so it has been sealed to help reduce drag and give the car’s range a small boost. A dimpled pattern breaks up what would otherwise be a big sheet of black plastic.
The 20-inch wheels are unique to the BMW iX3, too. Their heavily sculpted design helps to smooth airflow along the side of the car, improving range, although they look exceptionally vulnerable to kerbing.
Assorted blue highlights dotted around the iX3 – most obviously on the rear bumper where you’d normally spot some exhaust pipes – finish off the styling changes. There are also blue highlights around the ‘grille’, the badges and the sills.
Under the skin is a solitary 286hp electric motor that also generates 400Nm of torque and drives the rear wheels.
There’s an 80kWh battery pack that should give a range 285 miles – that’s according to the latest WLTP testing procedure. That’s a bit more than key alternatives such as the Audi e-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQC, but a bit less than the Jaguar i-Pace. In our test, admittedly in cold, wet conditions, the iX3’s range was a bit lower than the claimed figure.
A 285-mile range puts BMW right in the ballpark. It's better than a Mercedes EQC but not as good as a Jaguar I-Pace.
The iX3 should be compatible with almost every kind of charging station or power outlet, including super-fast 150kW chargers, which can give an 80% recharge in just 34 minutes. This means you can add 60-ish miles of range in about 10 minutes. There aren’t many 150kW chargers in the UK, but the network is growing.
Charging from less powerful outlets (such as a home wall-box charger or three-pin plug) will take longer – BMW reckons a full charge from empty will take around 12 hours. This will cost you around £13 per charge, which is a fair bit less than the equivalent diesel or petrol cost.
All electric cars feature brake regeneration – a system that uses the electric motor as an extra brake that can feed energy back to the batteries that would otherwise be lost as the car slows down. This always happens when you press the brake pedal, but the iX3 joins many of the latest electric cars by giving the system the ability to bring you to a stop when you lift off the accelerator pedal, too. It allows for one-pedal driving, which (once you’re used to it) is an extremely relaxing way of dealing with urban traffic.
It’s not the fastest version of the X3, but it’s still pretty quick with a 0-60mph time of 6.8 seconds. Top speed is limited to 112mph, which helps to preserve range. It’s more than enough for UK drivers, anyway.
The first thing you notice when you get out and about in your iX3 is how quiet it is. There’s no noise from the engine and transmission, so you only notice a little wind and road noise as your speed rises.
Adaptive suspension is fitted to the iX3 as standard, so it’s pretty comfortable, although a Mercedes EQC still trumps it for out-and-out ride quality. However, the suspension stops the iX3’s body from rolling too much during cornering. The iX3 grips strongly, too, and its handling is doubtless helped by the fact that the batteries are stored in the floor, lowering the centre of gravity. Flicking the suspension into Sport model firm things up a lot, to the extent that it makes the ride too firm, but it certainly sharpens the handling and gives the iX3 a distinctly sporty feel.
All iX3s are well equipped. The Premier Edition comes with a 12-inch digital driver’s display and 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system, wireless phone charging, electrically adjustable leather seats, electrically opening boot lid, adaptive suspension (which lets you choose between soft, comfortable settings and stiffer, sportier ones) and a panoramic glass roof.
The top-spec car has a Harman Kardon audio system, a head-up display and an automatic parking system.
If you like a BMW X3 you’ll like this, but just be prepared that the boot space is a bit smaller.
There’s loads of space in the BMW iX3’s front seats. The steering wheel adjusts for height and reach, and the seats hold you in place securely without feeling too firm.
Unfortunately, lumbar support – to help reduce backache on long drives – costs (a lot) extra. As in part of a £3,000 Premium Pack. This upgrade does come with a handy memory function, however.
Space in the back is pretty generous. There’s decent headroom , plus plenty of room under the front seats to tuck your feet.
Unfortunately, there isn’t quite as much space for carrying three adults side-by-side as you get in the Mercedes EQC. The central seat is firmer, narrower and raised above the outer two.
Thankfully, it’s reasonably easy to fit a child seat. You get two sets of Isofix anchor points as standard and they come with handy folding covers instead of easy-to-lose removable caps. The BMW X3’s raised ride height and tall roof mean you can lean in to strap in a child without bending down.
Every BMW iX3 comes with plenty of storage cubbies and bins. The front door bins can hold a 1.5-litre bottle each and the glovebox is large enough for an extra one-litre bottle. There’s space to tuck a large camera safely out of sight under the central front armrest and you can pay extra for a wireless charging pad under the dashboard.
The rear door bins are just as big as those in the front and there’s a second small storage bin tucked behind the round bottle holder in each door. The BMW iX3 comes with a folding rear armrest with two built-in hidden cupholders, but they’re only big enough for a small bottle or drinks can each.
The BMW iX3 has 510 litres of boot space, which is 40 litres less than a standard X3. The flat floor makes it dead easy to slide in heavy luggage and its wide, square opening makes loading bulky items dead easy.
You get a netted cubby and an elasticated strap on the left side of the boot and there’s a flip-down shopping hook on each side to help hold your groceries securely.
Lift the boot floor and you’ll find a small storage area for the electric charging cables, but that’s it. There’s no large under-floor storage area (which you do get on conventional X3s) because that’s where the electric motor sits.
Still, the iX3 has with three-way (40:20:40) split rear seats, and you can fold them down simply by pulling the latches each side by the tailgate and they flip down automatically. When folded down, they leave the boot with 1,560 litres of space, again 40 down on the X3.
The iX3 is quiet and pretty punchy, but even in the softest setting the suspension isn’t as supple is some rivals’.
On top of the rear axle is a 286hp electric motor that generates 400Nm of torque and gives the iX3 a very decent turn of pace.
It can cover the 0-60mph sprint in 6.8 seconds, and certainly gets off the line with the instant surge that characterises electric vehicles. It then keeps accelerating with reasonable intent until way past the national speed limit. The top speed is limited to 112mph, which some may see as a bit low, but is in reality more than anyone needs.
The iX3 should be compatible with almost every kind of charging station or power outlet, including super-fast 150kW chargers, which will give it an 80% recharge in just 34 minutes. Better still, you can add around 60 miles of range in about 10 minutes.
Charging from less powerful outlets (such as a home wall-box charger or three-pin plug) will take around 12 hours, which will cost you around £13 per charge.
You can’t help but notice how quiet the iX3 is, mainly because there’s no engine to create noise, vibration and general fuss. It means that in town your progress is extremely peaceful indeed, and even when you get on to faster roads you only notice a little wind and road noise.
The iX3 has adaptive suspension as standard, so it’s pretty comfortable. That said, the odd bumps can still catch it out, and a Mercedes EQC has the better ride quality. However, the iX3’s suspension minimises body roll in bends, and helps to give the car a genuinely sporty feel. It grips strongly, too, and that sporty handling is clearly helped by the low positioning of the batteries, in the floorpan. Flicking the suspension into Sport model firm things up a lot, to the extent that it makes the ride too firm, but it certainly sharpens the handling and gives the iX3 a distinctly sporty feel.
The interior is pretty much the same as in an X3, so well built and roomy, but there are rather too many blue highlights.