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heycar review

      Launch year
      2018
      Body type
      SUV
      Fuel type
      Petrol, Diesel, PHEV
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
“Sporty, spacious, and luxurious SUV”

Best bits

  • Brilliant in-car technology
  • Strong and efficient engines
  • Boot is both big and clever

Not so great

  • Only room for five
  • Busier interior than some rivals
  • Expensive optional extras

Read by

BMW X3 Front

Overall verdict

BMW X3 Interior

On the inside

BMW X3 Driving Front

Driving

BMW X3 Side

How much does it cost to run

BMW X3 Back

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"The BMW X3 is the brand’s mid-size SUV, so it's big enough to give you a great view out over other traffic and handle family transport duties with aplomb, yet small enough to feel nimble to drive and easy to park."

BMW X3 Front

Unlike some 4x4s, the BMW is more focused on delivering a sporty on-road driving experience than tackling anything too extreme, so it suits most buyers daily routine, but every version comes with four-wheel drive.


Few SUVs strike a better balance between road-holding and comfort, especially when fitted with the optional adaptive dampers, and the X3 is more entertaining to drive than its peers from Volvo, Audi or Land Rover. It grips tenaciously in corners and feels more planted and stable as it changes direction than heavier rivals.


The engine range also impresses, with both four and six-cylinder, petrol and diesel options that are smooth, and strike a fine balance between gutsy performance and decent fuel economy. 


If you really want to save money at the pumps, there’s also a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version with a pure electric range of up to 30 miles, and combined CO2 emissions of just over 50g/km for an ultra-low BIK rate.


Topping the range is the X3 M, a high-performance flagship variant with the same engine that will power the next M3 sports saloon, with over 500bhp and a ballistic 0-62mph time of just 4.1 seconds - it's a rocket ship. Still, most buyers will be more than satisfied with the tractable and frugal 2.0-litre diesel in the xDrive 20d.


Inside, the X3 offers everything you’d want from a premium SUV - space, comfort, and stunning quality. It has a comfortable driving position, the dash design is attractive and modern, with enough practical touches to cope with the daily grind. Material quality is first-rate, and the specification list is as fully stocked as Nigella Lawson's fridge.


All X3s come with leather upholstery, heated seats, an electric tailgate, and sat-nav. The 8.8-inch screen is superb, but the upgraded display and digital dials on M Sport models feel truly cutting-edge. It's one of the best infotainment systems, partly due to the impressive hardware but mostly because it's just so easy to use.


The boot is as spacious as in its closest rivals, and cleverly designed to help you maximise the generous 550-litre load capacity with a minimum of fuss. Although in plug-in hybrid models that space decreases to just 450 litres, with its electric motor and large batteries taking up a lot of space underneath the boot floor.


Where it really stretches ahead of its rivals though, is value for money. It feels luxurious and well built in the cabin, justifying its premium price, but it's better equipped, cheaper to insure and more efficient than many. Combine that with its keen handling, powerful engines and decent practicality, and it's a class-leading effort.


Is the BMW X3 right for you?

The X3 is from that modern breed of SUVs that are far more comfortable on the road than anywhere else. It has four-wheel drive to help in wintry weather and boost traction on greasy surfaces, but it's no Land Rover.


Still, if you want a large and practical family car that's a bit more rugged than an estate when it counts, it's a hard car to fault. Passenger and boot space are both generous, and the quality of the cabin speaks for itself.


It comes alive on a twisty road, giving you the confidence to drive it with purpose, but remains wonderfully comfortable and quiet on long motorway stints. It's perfect for buyers who want to have their cake and eat it.


Yet perhaps the most impressive aspect of this car is the fuel economy. It's one of only a tiny handful of big, four-wheel drive SUVs that can return well over 45mpg, even with a powerful six-cylinder engine underneath. With an excellent plug-in hybrid model designed for company car drivers, low running costs are a major plus.


What’s the best X3 model/engine to choose?

If you pick the plug-in hybrid X3 then the boot space decreases from 550 to 450-litres, so while the CO2 emissions are incredibly low, practicality suffers. It also comes with the usual caveats for this type of car, in that unless you can charge the battery before every journey, and mainly take short trips, it'll use a lot of fuel the minute the battery runs flat.


In our opinion, the xDrive 20d, with its 190PS diesel motor, is the best option for most buyers, with decent performance and 48mpg+ economy, but we'd be sorely tempted by the six-cylinder 30d if you're buying used.


It is seriously quick and smooth, with only a small drop in fuel efficiency, and its superior refinement makes it even more relaxing over long distances than the four-cylinder model. There's no rival quite like it.


Picking the right trim will also be a matter of personal taste more than a lack of features. The SE specification is so generously equipped that you don't really need to pay for a single option. If you can afford a bit more on top of your monthly payments, then the upgraded infotainment system in M Sport models is the best in class.


What other cars are similar to the BMW X3?

The X3 is at the sportier end of the large SUV spectrum, so its natural rivals are from brands who put the driver at the centre of the action. The Jaguar F-Pace, Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Porsche Macan all fit the bill.


Since the latter is pretty expensive, it only really competes with the six-cylinder versions of the BMW, and is nowhere near as well-equipped for the price, while the Jaguar and Alfa fail to match the X3 for cabin quality.


Audi's Q5 certainly measures up when it comes to cruising refinement and ride comfort, but its dated MMI infotainment hardware is not as slick to use as the iDrive infotainment in the BMW, and it has fewer engines.


If you don't necessarily need four-wheel drive, then the Range Rover Evoque is a stylish, more affordable alternative that can be had in front-wheel drive format, or with as a plug-in hybrid. Though, in most respects, the X3 is a much better car.


We'd also recommend looking at BMW's own 3 Series Touring unless you're convinced you need a high-riding SUV. It's even better to drive, more efficient, features many of the same engines, and is cheaper too.


Learn more

BMW X3 Interior

On the inside

BMW X3 Driving Front

Driving

BMW X3 Side

How much does it cost to run

BMW X3 Back

Prices, versions and specification