BMW X3 (2018-present)

The latest BMW X3 is a roomy, well-equipped and sporty mid-size SUV offering a choice of powerful but economical diesel engines

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

Sporty handling (for a car of this size)
Good standard equipment level
Lusty 3.0d diesel engine

Weaknesses 

Sportier suspension and big wheels on some trims can be uncomfortable
Basic 2.0d diesel engine is gruff and lacks sparkle
Thirsty petrol engines
2018 BMW X3 prices from £31,989   Finance from £383 per month

If you’re fairly well off and have a family, then there’s a good chance that you’ve already owned a BMW X3.

The car’s combination of luxury, spaciousness, comfort and technology has proved irresistible for more than a decade and the latest model, launched last year, sticks true to the formula.

Raised off the ground, and with four-wheel drive as standard, this sport-utility vehicle (SUV) provides a lofty view of the road ahead and some ability to keep moving when conditions become slippery.

The interior is built to virtually match Audi standards, with soft materials, tightly-fixed panels and crisp displays matching the layout of the similarly-sized Audi Q5. Leather seats are standard across the range, as is three-zone air conditioning, bright LED headlights and motorised bootlid.

The standard 6.5in dashboard display looks like a cheap market-stall knock-off, though. The optional 10.25in Professional Navigation display is far more modern and clearer to use.

Advanced driver assistance functions that can accelerate, brake and steer the car are optional, but the driver still needs to keep their hands on the wheel and be ready to take full control at any moment.

The X3 is virtually as comfortable as the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC, smoothing out minor bumps and cushioning the larger potholes.

It’s the biggest X3 yet - just 30cm short of being five metres in length and you can tell inside, where it’s a proper family-sized SUV with plenty of space in the front and back seats. That said, three people on the back seat is a bit of a squeeze.

A 550-litre boot seems to be mandatory for cars of this size, as it matches exactly the luggage areas in the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC. The back seat splits and folds into three (although it doesn't slide) so you’ve plenty of stowage options. The boot is square shaped for maximum space efficiency and has no inconvenient lip, so you can load long objects easily.

The BMW’s smooth, curved design hides the car’s bulk well from the outside, as does the suspension set-up from the driver’s seat. The 1.75 ton X3 may not dart along country roads like a small and nimble hatchback, but it is composed and has plenty of grip, so it will change direction sharply at speed without leaning or veering towards the edge of the road.

It is one of the sportier-feeling SUVs, without quite living up to BMW’s famous advertising phrase of being :the ultimate driving machine”

There’s nothing wrong with that in a family car but it does mean that the X3 fails to make a compelling case for itself when compared with the more comfortable Mercedes GLC, the higher-quality interior of the Audi Q5, or the clean and crisp Scandinavian design of the Volvo XC60, all of which start at a similar price

It also means that more expensive alternatives look more appealing too, including the style-focused Range Rover Velar, which has impressive off-road ability; or the Porsche Macan and Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

Alternatively, you could decide to spend less on a family SUV that comes close to matching the comfort of the BMW X3, and is reasonably luxurious too - such as a high-specification Volkswagen Tiguan or Peugeot 3008. The seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq and Hyundai Santa Fe are less-expensive options too.

The current X3 is the first model to be available with petrol engines, although diesel is still the better choice, as their efficiency and ability to provide power without revving the engine hard are better suited to the heavier X3.

That calculation may change later this year when a hybrid version of the X3 arrives, with low carbon dioxide emissions, which will reduce company car tax bills and a high official mpg figure. Whether the car’s real-world fuel economy will compensate for its higher price (expected to be from £50,000) remains to be seen.

Two Isofix mounting points in the back seats make it easy to attach child seats safely. The X3 was awarded a maximum five stars for overall safety by the independent Euro NCAP organisation in 2017, with high marks for both adult and child occupant protection.

Last Updated 

Sunday, March 31, 2019 - 22:00

Key facts 

Warranty : 
3 years/unlimited mileage
Boot size : 
550 litres
Width: 
1891mm
Length: 
4708mm
Height: 
1676mm
Tax: 
£25 to £1,280 in the first year; £145 to £465 from the second

Best BMW X3 for... 

BMW X3 Xdrive 20d SE
With up to 41.5mpg on the cards, this lowest-powered diesel X3 is easily the most economical in the line-up. SE trim helps to keep the purchase price down, too.
BMW X3 Xdrive 30d SE
The 20d is a good engine but for busy families with long weekend drives and holidays to consider, punctuated by the occasional towing work (a caravan or a boat), the 30d is the way to go. SE trim has all you need without being too fancy.
BMW X3 M40i
The M40d feels more muscular but BMW’s six-cylinder, 3.0-litre petrol engine is one of the performance greats: smooth, refined, free-revving and powerful. M trim brings stiffer suspension to help keep the car on an even keel.
BMW xDrive 20d M Sport
The 20d engine is economical but undistinguished and wasted on expensive and sporty-looking M Sport trim. Spend a bit more and buy a 3.0d SE.

BMW X3 History 

  • 2018 Model launched
  • 2019 X3 30e plug-in hybrid revealed, goes on sale late 2019

Understanding BMW X3 car names 

  • X3
  • Drive
    xDrive
  • Engine
    20i
  • Trim
    xLine
  • Drive
    This is the name BMW gives its four-wheel drive system that channels the engine’s power to all four wheels. It’s an intelligent system that only sends power to those wheels with the most grip to avoid unsafe wheelspin.
  • Engine
    The number is the size of the engine in litres, although BMW removes the centre point in its badging (so 20 is actually a 2.0-litre engine). The ‘i’ means it’s a petrol engine or a ‘d’ that it’s a diesel.
  • Trim
    This tells you how luxurious a specific model is, with xLine being mid-specification.

BMW X3 Engines 

Petrol 2.0i, 3.0i, 30e
Diesel 2.0d, 3.0d, 3.0d

Despite diesel power’s fall from grace, the X3 is offered with a choice of three powerful diesel engines. This is mainly because in a heavy SUV such as the X3, a diesel engine is still the most efficient solution, especially if you do a high mileage.

The basic 2.0d engine is powerful enough but a little rough and noisy. The more powerful 3.0d engine is smoother and quieter, and ideal if you tow or regularly travel with a full load. It’s also very quick through the gears – good for overtaking. The 326hp 3.0d engine in the range-topping M40d is more extreme and really only necessary if you drive everywhere flat out.

It’s hard to make a case for the petrol engines, which are offered for the first time on this latest X3. The basic 2.0i lacks the diesels’ overtaking and pulling power but is smooth and quiet. The 354hp 3.0i engine in the M40i is an extreme performance engine. Both are much thirstier than the diesels.

The 30e engine coming later in 2019 redresses the balance a little by being a plug-in hybrid. This means it combines electric with petrol engine power and can be plugged into an external power source to top up its batteries. It’s a powerful combination. Assuming you can use its 31 miles of pure electric range it’s economical, too, but its high price (expected to be around £50,000) is less appealing.

BMW X3 Trims 

SE, xLine, M Sport, M40

With prices starting at just under £40,000 before a discount, it’s no surprise that even the most basic X3 is well equipped.

It’s called SE trim and among its many highlights are 18in alloy wheels, an eight-speed automatic gearbox (there’s no manual ’box in the X3 line-up) with shift paddles for sportier changes, four-wheel drive, three driving modes, three-zone climate control (a more intelligent air-con system) and a suite of connected services plus a sat nav, not to mention lots of luxury details and finishes.

It’s got everything most buyers could wish for but if you want more, there’s always mid-spec xLine with larger wheels, sports seats and sporty detailing. More usefully, it has a larger fuel tank. It costs around £1000 more than SE and, given how it makes the X3 look more upmarket, you may well think that it's worth it.

M Sport trim costs around £1600 more than xLine and is really for people who can't stretch to the top-of-the-range M40i or M40d. So it has more sporty features including a body kit, smarter alloys and stiffer suspension. The 265hp 3.0d diesel engine has the power to match the looks; the basic 2.0d and 2.0i engines are wasted on it.

More a special model than a trim, M40 takes the X3’s basic ingredients and supercharges them with a choice of two extreme petrol and diesel engines, giant 20in alloy wheel, stronger brakes and a digital dashboard. Both cost around £53,000 before a discount.

BMW X3 Reliability and warranty 

This latest X3 was too new to feature in the Auto Express Driver Power 2018 owner satisfaction survey. However, the BMW 5 Series, on which the car is based, did, when it charted at a respectable 21 out of 75. The X3 shares many parts with this car so we can only assume it will be just as satisfying to own.

BMW’s warranty is three years with unlimited mileage compared with arch-rival Audi’s that’s capped at 60,000 miles. How relevant this is to you will depend on how likely you are to exceed 60,000 miles in three years.

More significant is that Kia, fast becoming a brand to be reckoned with, offers seven years’ cover on its Sportage and Sorento SUVs. In the Driver Power survey, both models charted higher than the BMW 5 series.

Used BMW X3 

Being an SUV and a BMW SUV at that, the X3 has always been a popular used car and there’s reason to suppose this latest version will be any different. It’s expensive but it is at least well equipped, well built and good to drive.

Given it’s only available with intelligent four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, there’s no danger of buying a used X3 in an unpopular or irrelevant form.

Instead, used buyers’ focus need only be on the engines and trim levels. There’s no doubt that with their lower running costs, diesel X3s are the best choice and likely to command higher prices, while of the trims, xLine makes the car look that bit more special but for not much more money. For most undemanding drivers, a used X3 xDrive 2.0d xLine is sure to be a good buy.

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