BMW X3 (2010-2018)

The BMW X3 is a sporty, luxurious and desirable mid-size SUV

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

Great handling
Excellent diesel engines
High-quality interior with lots of room

Weaknesses 

Expensive
No petrol option
Dated interior

The BMW X3 is a family car that's designed around the driver: it's nimble, stable and quick, which makes it fun to drive, without compromising the comfort of passengers too much.

Despite being on sale since 2010, the current X3 is still competitive against much newer rivals. It is showing its age in some areas, though, which is why the car is in its last year of production. A new model has just been announced and will go on sale in November.

As a sport utility vehicle (SUV), the BMW has the tall and rugged shape of an off-road car, but has been engineered to perform best on the road. And, compared with most cars sold before 2015, it excels.

It steers sharply and grips so tightly in corners, that you could be behind the wheel of a small family hatchback. This doesn't come at the expense of comfort: the X3 absorbs enough of the impact of bumps and potholes to keep journeys jolt-free.

It may not feel as sporty as BMW's 3 Series saloon, but it's longer, wider and taller than that car, which means that you have more luggage space, plus extra room for passengers. Just remember that much if the extra space is down to the car's height, so if you want to use the 550-litre boot to its full capacity, you'll have to stack the luggage up. 

It's not quite as comfortable as the previous-generation Audi Q5, but it's bigger and feels more agile to drive. It's also more comfortable and sharper to steer than the last Volvo XC60.

Against more modern rivals, the X3 isn't quite so dominant. The Mercedes GLC is almost as enjoyable as the BMW to drive, but more comfortable, and with a more stylish and luxurious interior that looks a generation ahead of the X3's cluttered - but well-built - dashboard.

Comfort and interior quality is also substantially better in the new Volvo XC60 and Audi Q5, as well as the Land Rover Discovery Sport, which also offers seven seats. They can't match the BMW's driving experience but the Peugeot 3008 comes close. It's comfortable, hi-tech and much cheaper too, but doesn't have the premium badge.

Earlier in its life, the X3 was offered with petrol engines and two-wheel drive, but the range has slimmed down, so four-wheel drive (called xDrive) and diesel are your only options if you;re looking at a new car. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. The diesel engines are economical, powerful and smooth.

Standard equipment is strong across the range and the X3 has a pretty good reliability record, too. It also holds its value well, which is crucial, because it's expensive to buy, whether new or used. Its strong second-hand values help to reduce the cost of owning or financing a BMW X3

When crash tested in 2011, the BMW X3 earned a full five star rating from the independent Euro NCAP association. Since then, its tests have been made much tougher, so there's no certainty that it would still score quite as highly as newer models.

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Last Updated 

Monday, June 26, 2017 - 15:30

Key facts 

Warranty: 
Three years/unlimited miles
Boot size: 
550 litres
Width: 
1,881mm
Length: 
4,657mm
Height: 
1,678mm
Tax (min to max): 
Pre April 2017: £130 to £180

Best BMW X3 for... 

BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport Auto
Unlike some less sophisticated automatics, BMW’s eight-speed transmission is more efficient than a manual. You have to go for top-spec M Sport trim to pair it with the smallest 20d diesel engine, but the result is 54mpg economy and 142g/km emissions for £145 tax.
BMW X3 xDrive20d SE
There’s no real need to look beyond the entry-level X3 when it comes to family motoring: it’s reasonably well equipped and relatively cheap to run, as well as obviously having the lowest list price of what is a fairly expensive car.
BMW X3 xDrive35d M Sport
This is the top-of-the-range X3, costing over £46,000. For the money, you get a big SUV that can accelerate from 0-62mph in just 5.3 seconds – that’s quicker than many sports cars.
BMW X3 xDrive30d SE
There’s no especially unsuitable version of the X3, but pairing the larger 30d diesel engine with the entry-level SE specification is probably not the best use of your cash, particularly as the less powerful 20d diesel is already so good.

BMW X3 History 

November 2010: Second-generation X3 goes on sale in UK
August 2011: Range expands with xDrive30d and xDrive35d diesels
August 2012: Entry-level xDrive18d diesel added to line-up
January 2013: Sat-nav system upgraded to latest version
February 2014: Revamp sees styling tweaks and better efficiency, 18d dropped

Understanding BMW X3 car names 

  • X3
  • Engine
    xDrive20d
  • Trim
    M Sport
  • Gearbox
    Step Auto
  • Engine
    Three diesels are offered: xDrive20d, xDrive30d and xDrive35d, with the ‘xDrive’ portion of the name referring to the fact that they come with four-wheel drive.
  • Trim
    Three choices here as well: SE, xLine, M Sport in ascending order of price and standard equipment.
  • Gearbox
    Manual or eight-speed automatic transmission are available with the 20d in SE and xLine trim, but in M Sport spec it’s an automatic. The more powerful 30 and 35d engines, meanwhile, are automatic-only whatever trim level you choose.

BMW X3 Engines 

xDrive20d, xDrive30d, xDrive35d

The BMW X3 comes with a choice of three diesel engines: the 20d, 30d and 35d. The first two are offered in all three versions (or trim levels; SE, xLine and M Sport), while the 35d is exclusively available in M Sport specification.

The 20d comes with a manual gearbox in SE and xLine trim and an automatic if you have it in M Sport form. The other two are only available with the eight-speed automatic gearbox regardless of what spec you go for (and you can only go for M Sport with the 35d).

The xDrive20d will be more than sufficient for everyday driving, returning over 55mpg on smaller alloy wheels but still getting from 0-62mph in a sprightly 8.1 seconds. The 30d is more expensive and significantly faster, dropping the benchmark acceleration time to 5.9 seconds, but also reducing claimed fuel economy to the high 40s.

The gap in performance between the 30d and 35d is nowhere near as big – the more powerful engines shaves just over a half a second off the 0-62mph time and adds a few mph at the top end. It’s not drastically less efficient than the 30d, either, but it is pretty expensive to buy in the first place, with a list price north of £46,000.

Fuel

Mpg

Bhp

0 - 62mph

top speed

xDrive20d

Diesel

51.4 - 55.4mpg

187bhp

8.1s

130mph

xDrive30d

Diesel

47.9 - 49.6mpg

254bhp

5.9s

144mph

xDrive35d

Diesel

47.1mpg

309bhp

5.3s

152mph

BMW X3 Trims 

SE, xLine, M Sport

Like other BMWs, the X3’s line-up of trim levels – or versions – is pretty straightforward, with just three main options for buyers to choose from.

The entry-level SE gets 17-inch alloys, two-zone automatic air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity, sat nav (standard on every new BMW these days), cruise control, DAB digital radio, hill-descent control, a multifunction leather steering wheel, parking sensors, heated seats and a power-operated tailgate.

Moving up to xLine specification (£1,500 more than SE) gets you 18-inch alloy wheels, a sports steering wheel and various pieces of exterior and interior trim embellishments, but it’s hard to see where the value lies here.

The X3 M Sport is more expensive still (£3,000 above SE), but it’s possibly a more worthwhile step, as you get BMW’s ‘Driver Performance Control’ system with a choice of driving modes to prioritise comfort, sportiness or economy, as well as a smart M Sport bodykit, sports suspension, sports seats and 19-inch alloy wheels. This is also the only version of the car to be available with the most powerful 35d diesel engine.

BMW X3 Reliability and warranty 

The BMW X3 finished in the top quarter of 200 models looked at in the 2015 edition of Auto Express magazine’s Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. To be precise, it was ranked 38th for reliability and 45th for build quality by owners. That’s a pretty good result, particularly when you consider this is a model that’s been around and on sale for a good few years now. Warranty coverage for the X3 is good, too: there’s no mileage limit on BMW’s three-year guarantee and the company will offer you an extended warranty (at extra cost) once the original one runs out.

Used BMW X3 

The BMW’s prospects as a good-value used buy are somewhat stymied by the fact that it’s both pretty expensive to buy when brand-new and holds onto its value very well on the used market. Even three-year-old examples about to run out of warranty will still command around two-thirds of their original list price. Watch out for particularly high-mileage examples and any cars with less-than-complete service history, as the X3’s diesel engines can be pricey to put right if they go wrong out of warranty. Also, in order to get the most bang for your buck, stick to the higher-spec xLine and M Sport trim levels if possible.

List price

BuyaCar new

1 year old

2 years old

3 years old

Best for performance

BMW X3 xDrive35d M Sport

Price

£46,045

N/a

£40,180

£36,320

£30,855

Save

N/a

13%

21%

33%

Best for families

BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

Price

£33,945

N/a

£28,580

£25,840

£21,280

Save

N/a

16%

24%

37%

Best for economy

BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport Auto

Price

£38,590

N/a

£33,520

£27,690

£25,335

Save

N/a

13%

28%

34%