BMW X3 SUV
Price £31,295 - £45,695
- Fun to drive
- Smooth 2.0-litre diesel engine
- Spacious and well made interior
- Options are expensive
- Dashboard is a bit dated
- Transmission tunnel eats into legroom
At a glance
"The BMW X3 brings the quality and luxury of a more upmarket SUV to the compact class."
The BMW X3 has just been given a mid-life refresh and the revised model gets a quieter cabin, extra equipment and improved fuel economy.
As with the competition, the BMW X3 is a road-biased SUV rather than an out-and-out off-roader, although it can be specified with four-wheel drive. After the considerably more expensive Porsche Macan, the BMW is probably the most fun-to-drive SUV on the market and it comes with an excellent range of engines. The model's 2.0-litre diesel has recently been made quieter and more powerful, and strikes a superb balance between economy and performance. It's our pick of the range.
The BMW X3 can now be specificed in xLine trim, which joins the existing line-up of SE and M Sport models. We'd still recommend SE trim, with the addition of the excellent automatic gearbox and adaptive dampers.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Quite good for a big car, but nothing special
The diesel-only BMW X3 is a heavy SUV, but its economy and emissions figures are extremely impressive. The basic 18d isn't slow, yet it still returns 56.5mpg and emissions low enough for £110-a-year road tax. The 18d does without four-wheel drive, though, so won't be much use off-road.
The 20d is the pick of the bunch thanks to its useable performance and decent economy of 52.3mpg, while its CO2 emissions of 131g/km mean you'll pay £130 a year for road tax. Opting for the £1,510 automatic gearbox improves economy to 54.3mpg, but increases emissions slightly to 138g/km. The fast 30d and even faster 35d can just about manage 50mpg if driven carefully.
Main-dealer BMW servicing is never going to be cheap, but the company does offer fixed-priced servicing deals. A service book full of main-dealer stamps will also increase your car's value come resale time.
Engines, drive & performance
3.0-litre versions offer sports car-rivalling pace
If you're looking for a fun-to-drive SUV, which doesn't pretend to be particularly good off-road, the BMW X3 is an obvious choice – particularly if you can't afford the admittedly more agile Porsche Macan. No X3s suffer from massive body roll, although the M Sport versions are undoubtedly the sharpest handlers. An M Sport model with the Variable Damper Control system combines good handling with comfort very well indeed. The driver can also choose between Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings that progressively add weight to the steering. Comfort feels best of all, with the other settings adding an artificial feel.
At low revs, the 18d feels much like the 20d but you do notice that it feels a bit breathless and strained when you go above that. It is powerful enough that you don't really ever need to wring it's neck, so for many people the 18d will be quick enough. Even without BMW's xDrive four-wheel drive system, the rear-wheel drive cars still have plenty of grip and feel just as sure-footed in corners.
No X3 is actually slow, but the 3.0-litre diesels in the 30d and 35d are particularly quick, going from 0-62mph in a very impressive 5.9 and 5.3 seconds respectively. If you're willing to spend that much money, though, you should consider the Porsche Macan. The 20d makes much more sense in the BMW, and is still capable of 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds.
Interior & comfort
Choose Variable Damper Control (VDC) for the best ride
Road and wind noise was well suppressed in the old BMW X3, but the new model does an even better job of keep the interior quiet and relaxing. One of the biggest changes for the 2014 BMW X3 is the revised 2.0-litre diesel engine in the 20d, which is now on a par with diesels from Audi, and better than those offered by Mercedes.
If you don't mind paying extra, we'd also recommend going for BMW's Variable Damper Control, which makes the suspension more comfortable than the standard set-up. Even without the clever suspension, the car rides well on 19-inch wheels.
Practicality & boot space
The huge boot also doubles up as a useful bench seat
The BMW X3 has plenty of space up front, while the driver should be able to get comfortable thanks to plenty of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel.
Headroom is incredible. Kneeroom is pretty good and, although the transmission tunnel is slightly intrusive, the large footwells mean there's still enough room for everyone’s feet. Adult passengers will find the narrow middle seat uncomfortable on long journeys, but it’s still better in this respect than the Porsche Macan, Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q5.
The boot is generous, too, offering 550 litres of capacity, with standard 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats that drop down to reveal 1,600 litres of luggage capacity in total. Better still, there's no boot lip and the floor is completely flat, so you can slide larger objects straight in.
There are plenty of storage areas inside, too, including deep door bins and a large glovebox.
Reliability & safety
The BMW X3 is solid, safe and reliable
The facelifted BMW X3 has only just gone on sale, so it's too new to feature in our 2014 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. But, if the current model is anything to go by, you should have nothing to worry about. It came 12th overall in our model rankings (out of 150 cars) and 37th for reliability. Owners marked it particularly high in categories such as performance and ease of driving.
Safety doesn't let the side down, either – the BMW X3 received the maximum five stars when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP. It comes as standard with six airbags, electronic stability control and a seatbelt warning buzzer.
Price, value for money & options
BMW X3 is expensive and options can quickly raise the price
For 2014, trim levels have changed slightly and SE models now come as standard with sat nav, heated front seats and an automatic tailgate as standard. That adds to the already healthy list of standard equipment, which includes leather trim, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and a DAB digital radio.
New for 2014, xLine trim adds a sporty flavour to the X3, with kit such as 18-inch alloy wheels and a sports steering wheel. Top-of-the-range M-Sport models, meanwhile, get 19-inch alloy wheels, stiffer sports suspension, a sports steering wheel and a subtle bodykit.
There's also a huge options list that features kit such as variable dampers and a panoramic glass roof – but ear in mind that none of this comes cheap and it's very easy to go thousands of pounds over the cost of the basic model.
BMW residuals should be quite strong, however the brand finished behind rivals such as Mercedes and Audi in a recent study by UK car valuation expert Glass's Guide.