BMW X3 review

The BMW X3 is a handsome family SUV that’s as fun to drive as it is practical. You’ll have to pay extra for some desirable options that really should be standard-fit, though

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This score is awarded by our team of
expert reviewers
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers
after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Powerful and efficient diesel engines
  • Cabin is luxurious and well-built
  • Plenty of passenger space

What's not so good

  • Not as comfy as you might like
  • Thirsty top-spec petrol models
  • Desirable features are pricey options

Find out more about the BMW X3

Is the BMW X3 a good car?

The BMW X3 is a shark among whales when it comes to family SUVs. If you’re after practical transport that doesn’t come up short on driving fun, then it’s definitely worth considering over and above alternatives such as the Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and Mercedes GLC.

Updates in late 2021 mean the already handsome-looking X3 now looks more chiselled than a young Tom Cruise – particularly in the sportier M Sport and M Performance guises. Its posh, leather-upholstered cabin has been treated to a raft of updates too, with a sharp new 12.3-inch infotainment screen and a crisp digital instrument display being added into the mix.

But despite this technological glow-up, the X3 is still as functional as ever. Electrically-adjustable seats are available as part of an options package, and make getting comfortable behind the optional heated steering wheel a breeze. There’s plenty of storage throughout the cabin, and two adult passengers will be more than happy to travel long-distances in the second row. That said, you can’t slide the rear bench backwards and forwards like you can on an Audi Q5.

Still, the X3’s 550-litre boot will easily swallow a load of large suitcases, and is exactly the same size as the aforementioned Audi’s or a Mercedes GLC’s. All versions of the X3 get a hands free tailgate as standard, too.

The BMW X3 is tough to beat. Not only is it good to look at, it’s luxurious and practical on the inside, and fun to drive.

Mat Watson
Mat Watson
carwow expert

You can take your pick from a wide range of petrol and diesel engines. There’s everything from a 190hp four-cylinder diesel, up to a 510hp six-cylinder petrol that you get in the high-performance (and gas-guzzling) X3 M Competition. There’s even a plug-in hybrid model available.

We tested the powerful M40d model, which gets a 340hp six-cylinder diesel engine. It’s impressively smooth and can summon a fair whack of acceleration when you need it, and will return 45mpg on a long motorway run. But as impressive as this pricey model is, most people will be best served by the smaller, cheaper four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines.

Around town, the BMW X3 is a very easy car to drive. A raised driving position means you can see clearly out the front and the back, and though the steering is on the weighty side, it’s easy to thread through gaps in the traffic and into tight parking spaces. Standard-fit parking sensors help out here, though you’ll have to cough-up if you want a full 360-degree parking camera.

The sportier M40d M Performance model does feel a bit uncomfortable over bumps, however, and on the motorway it remains a firm-riding car. Road noise is noticeable too, and you’ll likely be disappointed to find you’ll have to pay extra for adaptive cruise control. But still, the BMW X3 is one of the most fun family SUVs to drive on a twisting country road.

So if you’re after a practical family SUV that looks the part both inside and out and is fun to drive, then the BMW X3 should be at the top of your list. Alternatives might be slightly comfier in day-to-day driving, but none mix driving fun and interior luxury quite as well as the X3.

Head on over to our BMW X3 deals page to see how much you can save on a new X3 when you buy through carwow.

How practical is it?

The BMW X3 has plenty of on-board space for four adult passengers to sit comfortably, but the boot is no larger than what you’ll find in other family SUVs

Boot (seats up)
450 - 550 litres
Boot (seats down)
1,500 - 1,600 litres

Up front, all versions of the BMW X3 get comfortable and supportive heated leather sports seats as standard. You might find them to be a wee bit on the firm side, but they keep you held in place and are comfortable over long-distance journeys.

On the entry-level X3, these seats are manually-adjustable – which is a bit of a let down in a posh car like this. That said, it’s still very easy to get settled in behind the wheel, and if you want you can splash out on electrically-adjustable seats for even greater ease-of-use.

There’s loads of space for adults to comfortably stretch out in the back seats too, thanks to generous headroom and legroom. The slightly raised middle seat is less suitable for tall passengers, but three young teenagers should be able to sit across the rear bench easily enough.

You won’t find much to complain about when it comes to the BMW X3’s on-board storage space. The centre console will easily house two drink bottles as well as a smartphone or wallet, while the storage cubby beneath the central armrest is a good size too. The door bins are large enough for bigger drink bottles, and the glove box is spacious enough.

In the back, you’ll find two more good-sized doorbins and two additional cupholders in the fold-down armrest. There are handy pouches on the front seatbacks too. You can also fold down the middle seat to provide through-loading for longer items that you might want to stash in the boot, such as skis.

The BMW X3’s 550-litre boot is easily large enough to swallow a couple of large suitcases, but while it has more space than you’ll find in a Volvo XC60, both the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC have boots that are of the same size.

That said, it offers plenty of flexibility. You can easily fold down the rear seats to open up even more storage space by pulling a couple of levers located in the boot wall, and there’s a moveable floor with underfloor storage too. With the floor in its highest position, there’s no load lip either, which helps when you need to swiftly slide heavy luggage into the boot.

All versions of the X3 get an automatic tailgate as standard, too.

What's it like to drive?

The BMW X3 is one of the most fun-to-drive family SUVs out there, and its range of engines generally offer an excellent blend of performance and efficiency. It can be a bit uncomfortable over bumps, though

The most affordable version of the BMW X3 is the 2.0-litre petrol model. Called the xDrive20i, it has 184hp and will complete the sprint from 0-60mph in a timely 8.4 seconds. If you’re planning on driving mostly around town and are on a bit of a budget, this will be the car to go for.

Next up is the 190hp 2.0-litre diesel xDrive20d. This is fractionally quicker to 60mph than the petrol version, but if you’re planning on embarking on a lot of long-distance motorway journeys, then this is the car for you. BMW claims it’s capable of returning nearly 50mpg on longer runs.

If, however, you can make the financial stretch and like the idea of an X3 that can run about on electric power, then the plug-in hybrid xDrive30e is the one to go for. Its compact battery lets it travel up to 30 miles in EV mode, which is perfect for town driving.

Opt for a mid-range M Sport model, and you’ll be able to specify your X3 with a 286hp 3.0-litre diesel engine. It’s pricier than the smaller engines, but it packs impressive punch – it’s capable of accelerating to 60mph in 5.7 seconds. On a long-distance drive, you should easily be able to get 45mpg out of it too – which is very impressive.

At the top of the X3 range, you’ll find the M Performance and full-on BMW X3 M models. With the former you can choose from a 3.0-litre petrol engine with 360hp or a 3.0-litre diesel engine with 340hp. Both are quick, but when the diesel can return 45mpg on the motorway, it makes the thirstier petrol version look harder to justify.

Finally, there’s the 510hp X3 M Competition. This sports SUV accelerates from 0-60mph in just 3.8 seconds, and offers an incredibly hardcore driving experience. It’s expensive, though, and a claimed fuel economy of just 26mpg isn’t amazing. But then if you’re in the market for a car such as this, chances are you won’t mind so much about things like fuel economy.

Chances are that you’ll find the BMW X3 to be an incredibly easy car to drive in tight city environments. You sit fairly high up with a clear view forwards and backwards, and the presence of parking sensors and a standard-fit reversing camera help out when you’re reversing into a tight space.

Keenly weighted steering lets you nip through traffic with ease, though the X3 M40d M Performance model that we drove had firm suspension that made it a wee bit uncomfortable over lumps and bumps. Out on the motorway it settles down to become much comfier, but you’ll likely find the likes of the Mercedes GLC and Volvo XC60 (and lower-rung versions of the X3) to be even more relaxing.

You’ll also be a bit disappointed to find that all versions of the X3 barring the expensive, range-topping X3 M do not come with active cruise control as standard. You’ll have to fork out if you want this – especially if you’re planning on doing a lot of long-distance driving. It will match your speed to the car in front of you, and automatically maintain a safe distance too.

On a twisty road, however, the BMW X3 really shines. Its slightly firmer suspension helps to prevent it from leaning through corners, and that slick steering heightens your driving fun. Only the likes of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio gives the BMW a run for its money here, but the X3 feels far more luxurious than the Italian SUV.

What's it like inside?

The BMW X3 wows when it comes to solid build quality and plush-feeling materials, though there are still some scratchy plastics in the lower reaches of the cabin

BMW X3 colours

Metallic - Black sapphire
Metallic - Brooklyn grey
Metallic - Carbon black
Metallic - Mineral white
Metallic - Phytonic blue
Metallic - Sophisto grey
Solid - Alpine white
Metallic - Skyscraper grey
From £695
BMW Individual metallic paint - Tanzanite blue
From £1,770
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