4.3 out of 5 4.3
Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3

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

BMW X3 SUV (17 on) - rated 4.3 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £41,485 - £87,530
Lease from new From £497 p/m View lease deals
Used price £20,530 - £62,945
Fuel Economy 24.4 - 148.7 mpg
Road tax cost £465 - £475
Insurance group 28 - 50 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • One of the best SUVs to drive
  • Spacious cabin and luggage area
  • Engines and gearbox smooth and powerful
  • Sledgehammer X3 M available

CONS

  • Lacks serious off-road capability
  • Interior can look quite busy on some trims
  • Large price premium for top models
  • Ride is firm on sportier versions

BMW X3 SUV rivals

Audi
Q3
4 out of 5 4.0

Written by Adam Binnie on

If the concept of a BMW SUV still seems alien to you consider the fact that the German maker has been selling this X3 since 2003, and its latest offering is incredibly polished, with an excellent drive, quality cabin and a brilliantly fun and rewarding drive.

Strong competition comes in the form of the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and Land Rover Discovery Sport, with the X3 ploughing its own furrow by prioritising the way this car drives above all else. That's why you can buy a version with the engine from the forthcoming M3 super-saloon, for example.

>> BMW announces new engines, hybrid technology and other upgrades for 2020

Also boosting its appeal in the years to come is an all-electric version badged iX3, and if you want an X3 with less utilitarian styling, the BMW X4 is essentially the same car but with a coupe-like roofline.

Powerful diesel, petrol and hybrid engines

The X3 shares many mechanical components with other cars in the BMW range and comes with a choice of four- and six-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel engines.

Unlike the previous generation, xDrive all-wheel drive is standard on all UK models along with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

A hardcore X3 M has also joined the range with more than 500hp, with the other end of the spectrum populated by a plug-in hybrid xDrive30e, as well as the all-electric model described above.

High quality and practical interior

The raised driving position is comfortable, with all instruments easy to use and the controls logically arranged. The metal-look inserts stand out a bit in terms of how real they look in a cabin that's otherwise very nicely trimmed.

The slightly busy design might take a while to get used to, but you should find the controls are all logically placed. It's whether you prefer having more buttons in the cabin compared with the equivalent Audi or Volvo.

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 gearshift, along with voice-activation to control its functions, offering drivers multiple choices to allow them to avoid distractions while driving.

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 dampers – 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 comfortable feel.

The X3 M is very stiff, and that's putting it kindly, in order to deliver a driving experience that is thoroughly un-SUV-like. We think the still fast X40 petrol and diesel options are better all-rounders, with strong acceleration on tap teamed with a easier to live with ride, but for the ultimate in X3 performance you'll want the X3 M.

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 an X3 can tackle most things you'll throw at it.

Trim levels and specification 

BMW X3 pricing is comparable to rivals, but represents a substantial increase of almost 10% over an equivalent 3 Series xDrive Touring.

The trim structure includes base-spec SE, xLine, M Sport and the standalone M40i, M40d and X3 M 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.

Click through the next few pages to read everything you need to know about the BMW X3 including its practicality, comfort, how much it costs to run, what it's like to drive – and whether we recommend buying one.

BMW X3 SUV rivals

Audi
Q3
4 out of 5 4.0

Other BMW X3 models: