In-depth reviews

BMW X3 SUV review

"The latest BMW X3 blends comfort, technology and real driver appeal in a very well rounded package"

Carbuyer Rating

4.0 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Price
£40,340 - £85,645

Pros

  • Excellent handling
  • Plenty of space
  • Classy interior

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Five seats only
  • No two-wheel-drive option

After the big sales success of the BMW X5, it came as no surprise that a smaller, more affordable model would follow soon after. The BMW X3 has mirrored its bigger brother's popularity since 2003. But while the first generation felt like a bit of a compromise, the latest model is a thoroughly sophisticated car.

Best 4x4s and SUVs

It needs to be. Not only does it have to face the Audi Q5, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Mercedes GLC and Volvo XC60, but also the Jaguar F-Pace, Porsche Macan and Range Rover Velar. What's more, as BMW models usually follow a seven-year production cycle, we can expect the latest X3 to still be with us in the mid-2020s. BMW really needed to get this important model right.

One thing that's clear is BMW hasn't taken many risks when it comes to style. The X3 looks exactly as you'd expect the brand's middleweight SUV to look. The trademark double-kidney grille has become more rounded and pronounced, the headlamps have an aggressive, swept-forward look and the body contours are more expressive than those on the previous model, but it's still very easily identified as an X3, without stepping on the style-conscious toes of its smaller sibling, the BMW X1.

Nor is the interior treatment particularly bold, but strong overtones of the latest BMW 5 Series saloon are very welcome. The dashboard is sleek, smart looking, well arranged and assembled beautifully out of first-class materials. In fact, it has the Volvo XC60 beaten for upmarket appeal.

It's not only range-topping examples that look and feel the part inside, either. Every model has leather upholstery and interior surfaces that are soft to the touch, with gloss-black or aluminium accents to add visual interest. Equipment is generous, too – SE, xLine and M Sport trims all come with an iDrive infotainment system that incorporates BMW Live Cockpit Plus digital instruments and a reversing camera, while LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels are standard too.

The 2.0-litre petrol 20i opens the range, with the mild-hybrid 20d and 3.0-litre 30d serving diesel tastes, the latter boasting 282bhp. There are two M Performance models: the 335bhp M40d that also gets mild-hybrid assistance, and the M40i with a 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that develops 355bhp. That gets the car from 0-62mph in under five seconds, which makes it a direct rival for the similarly fast, and similarly priced, Audi SQ5. An all-electric model called the iX3 is on the way, too, and there's a plug-in hybrid X3 xDrive30e that's tempting for company car drivers and private buyers alike, thanks to its low emissions, and the fact it’s very similar in price to the xDrive30d diesel.

The X3 uses the same mechanical architecture as the BMW 5 Series and an eight-speed automatic gearbox is standard across the range. Unlike the X1, every X3 has xDrive four-wheel drive, giving it fairly impressive off-road abilities. It's not a car you'd take on safari, but will easily cope with a wet field or greasy boat slipway.

Better than how it performs off road, though, is how it feels back on it. The X3 is a fairly bulky car, but doesn't trail BMW saloons by far when it comes to agility, with secure handling and impressive resistance to body lean. It's enjoyable to drive on challenging roads, even if it doesn’t feel quite as rewarding as the Jaguar F-Pace for pure fun.

The biggest sticking point is that BMW has effectively moved the X3 upmarket by increasing the entry-level price by around £4,000 compared to the previous model. More equipment justifies this to some extent, but it does mean the range doesn't overlap with the X1 and X2 (along with SUVs from non-premium manufacturers) as much, so X3 ownership may now represent a bit of a financial leap for some.

Those who can afford a BMW X3 won't be disappointed. It's a great SUV to drive and travel in, has a strong safety rating and families will find it practical. However, BMW's owner satisfaction is currently among the weakest of the German brands according to our Driver Power survey. Overall, though, this is one of the best big SUVs you can buy, particularly if you're a keen driver.

Next Steps

Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    xDrive20i SE 5dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £40,340

Most Economical

  • Name
    xDrive 30e SE 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £48,345

Fastest

  • Name
    xDrive X3 M Competition 5dr Step Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £77,145

Recommended

Land Rover Defender SUV review
Land Rover Defender V8 SUV front 3/4 tracking
Land Rover Defender
23 Jul 2021

Land Rover Defender SUV review

Best economical 4x4s, SUVs and crossovers
Peugeot 3008 SUV front cornering
Best cars
23 Jul 2021

Best economical 4x4s, SUVs and crossovers

Cupra Formentor SUV review
Cupra Formentor SUV review
Cupra Formentor
23 Jul 2021

Cupra Formentor SUV review

Top 10 best cars with three ISOFIX points 2021
Peugeot 3008 SUV
Family cars
22 Jul 2021

Top 10 best cars with three ISOFIX points 2021

Have You Considered

Peugeot 3008 SUV review
Peugeot 3008 SUV front cornering
Peugeot 3008
22 Jul 2021

Peugeot 3008 SUV review

Genesis GV80 SUV review
Genesis GV80 SUV
Genesis GV80 SUV
30 Jun 2021

Genesis GV80 SUV review

Most Popular

Best automatic cars
Blue BMW 3 Series driving
Best cars
21 Jul 2021

Best automatic cars

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
23 Jul 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Hybrid vs plug-in hybrid vs electric cars
Hybrid vs plug-in hybrid vs electric cars
Tips and advice
6 Jul 2021

Hybrid vs plug-in hybrid vs electric cars

More on X3

Updated BMW X3 M and X4 M revealed
2021 BMW X4 M front 3/4 dynamic
BMW X3 M SUV
9 Jun 2021

Updated BMW X3 M and X4 M revealed

Range-topping X3 M and X4 M performance models get styling refresh and extra pulling power
2021 BMW X3 SUV gets a sharp new look and mild-hybrid tech
2021 BMW X3 SUV
BMW X3
8 Jun 2021

2021 BMW X3 SUV gets a sharp new look and mild-hybrid tech

BMW’s best-selling SUV has been given a facelift for 2021 and gains 48-volt mild-hybrid technology
Audi Q5 vs BMW X3: rivals comparison
Audi Q5 vs BMW X3
Compare cars
2 Feb 2021

Audi Q5 vs BMW X3: rivals comparison

The Audi Q5 and BMW X3 are both excellent luxury family SUVs but which one should you buy?
2021 BMW iX3 starts from £61,900
BMW iX3 driving
BMW X3
16 Sep 2020

2021 BMW iX3 starts from £61,900

The iX3 is an electric version of the BMW X3 SUV and rivals the Audi e-tron
2020 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 S gets 415bhp and £58,775 price
Mercedes GLA 45 AMG SUV
10 Jun 2020

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 S gets 415bhp and £58,775 price

The GLA 45 S is on sale now and matches the Porsche Macan Turbo for acceleration
BMW X3 xDrive30e joins new BMW hybrid range
BMW
4 Nov 2019

BMW X3 xDrive30e joins new BMW hybrid range

The first hybrid BMW X3 offers 34 miles of electric range and starts at £47,565
BMW X3 M Competition SUV
BMW X3 M SUV
17 Jun 2019

BMW X3 M Competition SUV

"The BMW X3 M Competition is a fast, practical SUV with a great engine but the ride is firm”
New BMW X3M and X4M performance SUVs arrive
BMW X3
12 Feb 2019

New BMW X3M and X4M performance SUVs arrive

The X3M and X4M Competition will rock the SUV establishment with 506bhp
Volvo XC60 R-Design review
Volvo XC60
16 Oct 2018

Volvo XC60 R-Design review

The handsome Volvo XC60 looks even better in R-Design trim and comes loaded with features
New 2019 BMW X3M and X4M teased ahead of full reveal
BMW X3 SUV
10 Sep 2018

New 2019 BMW X3M and X4M teased ahead of full reveal

2019 BMW X3M and X4M performance SUVs revealed; six-cylinder petrol power to feature
BMW X3 M Sport review
BMW X3 SUV
24 Aug 2018

BMW X3 M Sport review

The sporty feel of the X3 M Sport package makes it a favourite with buyers
BMW car configurator guide: specifications, options and trim levels explained
BMW
3 Jul 2018

BMW car configurator guide: specifications, options and trim levels explained

Your complete guide to the official online BMW car configurator and the process of building your new BMW car
X3 vs Q5 vs GLC vs XC60 vs Tiguan
Volkswagen Tiguan
12 Mar 2018

X3 vs Q5 vs GLC vs XC60 vs Tiguan

There's plenty of mid-size SUV choice, but does Volkswagen, Volvo, Mercedes, BMW or Audi make the most practical machine?
BMW X3 SUV (2010-2017)
BMW X3 SUV
20 Dec 2016

BMW X3 SUV (2010-2017)

"If you want an SUV that’s fun to drive, it’s hard to beat the BMW X3, which is also a practical and classy family car"
BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer seven seater announced
BMW 2 Series Active Tourer MPV
11 Feb 2015

BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer seven seater announced

German brand launches premium MPV, but can it compete with UK favourites?
BMW X4 2014 price, release date & specs
BMW X3 SUV
23 Apr 2014

BMW X4 2014 price, release date & specs

The new BMW X4 SUV gets coupe looks and four-wheel drive
Updated BMW X3 revealed
BMW X3 SUV
6 Feb 2014

Updated BMW X3 revealed

New 2014 BMW X3 gets a facelift, new diesel engines and more equipment
BMW X4 2014 price & release date
BMW X3 SUV
22 Nov 2013

BMW X4 2014 price & release date

All the latest information on the BMW X4, due to be launched in 2014
BMW X3 SUV (2004-2010)
BMW X3 SUV
28 Jun 2013

BMW X3 SUV (2004-2010)

"BMW’s X3 is aimed at families who want the practicality and security of an off-roader in a comfortable, compact, easy-to-drive package."

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
13 Apr 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
3 Jun 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
15 Jun 2021

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
23 Jul 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Best car interiors
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Best car interiors

Best electric cars
Volkswagen ID.3
Best cars
6 May 2021

Best electric cars

Best cheap-to-run cars
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
10 Jun 2021

Best cheap-to-run cars

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Mercedes AMG A45 - rear
Hot hatches
25 Jun 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks