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View all BMW X3 reviews
Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

Spacious, dynamic SUV for drivers who rarely venture off-road

BMW X3 SUV (17 on) - rated 4.5 out of 5
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PROS

  • One of the best SUVs to drive
  • Spacious cabin and luggage area
  • Engines and gearbox smooth and powerful
  • Adequate off-road capability for most buyers
  • Desirable image and high quality interior

CONS

  • Lacks serious off-road capability
  • Interior can look quite busy on some trims
  • Large price premium for top models
  • Lack of hybrid or EV models at launch
  • Evolutionary styling 

PROS

  • One of the best SUVs to drive
  • Spacious cabin and luggage area
  • Engines and gearbox smooth and powerful
  • Adequate off-road capability for most buyers
  • Desirable image and high quality interior

CONS

  • Lacks serious off-road capability
  • Interior can look quite busy on some trims
  • Large price premium for top models
  • Lack of hybrid or EV models at launch
  • Evolutionary styling 

BMW X3 SUV rivals

Audi
Q3
4 out of 5 4.0

The X3 is one of BMW's most important SUVs, taking on impressive competition in the form of the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and Land Rover Discovery Sport. Since 2003, over 1.5 million examples have found homes, with this latest incarnation needing to be seriously impressive. There's every reason to expect it to succeed, as this latest generation X3 offers an excellent drive, a premium cabin and one of the best drives among its rivals. Also boosting its appeal in the years to come is an all-electric version badged iX3, and could well be the first all-electric SUV of its size. If you want an X3 with a sportier feel, the BMW X4 is available which is essentially the same car but with a coupe-like roofline.

BMW X3 engines: powerful diesel and petrol options

The X3 shares many mechanical components with other cars in the BMW range - namely the 5 Series and 7 Series - and comes with a range of four- and six-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. In the UK, the engine line-up consists of diesel xDrive20d, xDrive30d and M40d, plus petrol powered xDrive20i and M40i. All models are fitted as standard with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. A hardcore X3 M has also joined the range with over 500hp, while an all-electric iX3 is set to join the range too. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect a plug-in hybrid to be added to the line-up, too. Unlike the previous generation, xDrive four-wheel drive is also standard on all UK models.

BMW X3 interior: high quality and practical 

The raised driving position is comfortable, with all instruments easy to use and the controls logically arranged. The metal-look trim inserts don’t entirely spoil the premium feel, but they could look more authentic plus, in combination with plenty of other materials, contribute to a slightly busy design. Especially when compared with rivals from Audi and Volvo.

BMW X3 interior

All models come with at least the 6.5-inch central iDrive infotainment screen and navigation system. We've sampled only the 10.25-inch Professional system, with its intuitive menus and crisp graphics. This features a touchscreen and a rotary touchpad by the gearlever, along with voice-activation to control its functions, offering drivers multiple choices to allow them to avoid distractions while driving.

At 4,716mm long, the X3 has grown by 51mm over its predecessor, and that goes between the front and rear wheels – only the Mercedes GLC has a slightly longer wheelbase. As a result, we found knee-room to spare for a 6’1” tall rear-seat passenger sitting behind a similarly sized driver. Headroom is also generous. As an option, the rear seats can recline for additional comfort, but there’s no seven-seat version - you'll want the X5 for a full-size SUV with room for two extra passengers or a bigger boot.

Lifting the electric tailgate reveals a wide load bay and flat floor, making it easy to load large items. BMW claims 550 litres of luggage space with the rear seats in place – unchanged from the previous X3. You can also fold them forwards (with a 40:20:40 split), to unlock 1,600 litres of luggage space in total. This is comparable to the Mercedes and Audi, notably better than the Volvo XC60 (495/1,455 litres), but significantly less spacious than a Discovery Sport (689/1,698 litres).

How does the third-generation BMW X3 drive?

With the very same confident capability the previous X3 did. It’s a little firm on its suspension – even when using the optional adaptive suspension – but handles incredibly well for a high-riding SUV. All available engines are smooth and punchy, the gearbox quick and seamless, and the cabin comfortable and quiet. The steering is typically heavy as we’ve come to expect from BMW, but the steering wheel itself features softer leather for a more premium feel.

We've also taken the X3 off-road, which involved crossing heavily worn gullies, and negotiating some steep ascents and descents with very limited grip. The X3’s raised ground clearance of 204mm allowed it to carefully tip-toe through the terrain, with the xDrive all-wheel drive system overcoming steep, low-grip ascents despite the X3’s road-biased tyres, and Hill-Descent Control allowed us to pre-programme in a set speed for controlled crawls downhill without touching the brakes. While it was a relatively mild off-road route by Land Rover standards, it was far in excess of most buyers’ requirements, so it's good to know X3 can tackle most things you'll throw at it.

BMW X3: trim levels and specification 

X3 pricing is comparable to rivals, but represents a substantial increase of almost 10% over an equivalent 3 Series xDrive Touring. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera, parking sensors front and rear, LED headlights, satellite-navigation, and BMW ConnectedDrive with real-time traffic information. The trim structure includes base-spec SE, xLine, M Sport and the standalone M40i and M40d models. Key options include alloy wheels of up to 21 inches, panoramic sunroof, Harman/Kardon hi-fi, Apple CarPlay, and a range of driver-assistance systems, including forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning.

BMW X3 SUV rivals

Audi
Q3
4 out of 5 4.0

Other BMW X3 models: