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BMW X3 Review

9 / 10
6 March 2024
BMW X3 facelift driving

The BMW X3 might not immediately get the heart pounding, but it includes all the best bits from the BMW range.

You get the big-car feel of the brand’s range-topping SUVs, a sporty yet comfortable driving experience, and massive space in the rear seats and boot.

What we like:
  • Premium, solid feel
  • High-tech and practical cabin
  • Wide range of engines
What we don't like:
  • Smaller X1 does most of the same things for much less
  • Info-heavy digital dials
  • Running costs and warranty only average

Should I buy a BMW X3?

What might you expect a BMW SUV to be? High-tech? Sporty? Elegant? Tick, tick, tick. The BMW X3 is all of those and more. You probably wouldn’t call its styling exciting, but you might say it has a smooth, solid and perhaps even classy look. There aren’t any whopping grilles like on some of the brand’s more in-your-face models, nor needlessly massive wheels that’ll only ruin the ride.

Elsewhere, it’s much the same. Little will surprise you about the X3 if you’re familiar with other BMW models, but almost every aspect of it is impressive. It doesn’t make you compromise on comfort, or rear seat space, or fuel efficiency. As long as you don’t mind the occasional chunky servicing cost, the X3 should be seriously brilliant to live with.

But the same is true of the smaller BMW X1, which is a bit cheaper to run and noticeably cheaper to buy. Mind you, the X3 has the big-car feel from BMW’s range-topping SUVs, which the X1 doesn’t quite have, so the X3 will appeal if you want that sense of confidence and security.

The X3 is one of many premium midsize SUVs vying for your attention, including the Mercedes GLC, Audi Q5, Volvo XC60, Jaguar F-Pace, Range Rover Velar and Lexus NX. Phew.

Interior and technology

Earlier X3s have a cascading dashboard design with plenty of buttons to stab at, while post-facelift cars come with broadly the same dash as the current BMW 3 Series, plus BMW’s latest digital instrument cluster. Both are familiar fare from the German brand, and both feel modern and premium while still having lots of physical touchpoints.

The semi-digital dials fitted on earlier cars are really easy to read, while the newer fully digital cluster puts a bit too much information all in the same place, with the gauges racing around the sides of the cluster and the middle having different bits of info layered over one another.

You’d expect a BMW SUV to feature premium materials throughout the cabin, and the X3 delivers. Leather or manmade leather upholstery is fitted as standard and even the plastics feel pretty good quality. The way they’re all screwed together should give you confidence that the X3 will withstand years of family life, too.


You’ll need to look elsewhere if you want a seven-seater, but the X3 is a very spacious five-seater. There’s plenty of adjustment in the front seats to allow you to get comfortable, and the rear seats recline as well. This cuts the boot space just a little bit, but will ensure your rear-seat passengers will be happy on long journeys. The rear seats offer plenty of space, and you’re not going to miss the extra few millimetres of legroom and headroom that you get in a Volvo XC60.

The X3’s 550-litre boot exactly matches the Mercedes GLC and is up on the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60. While it’s clearly a big space, it’s less than 50 litres larger than the boot you get in the cheaper BMW X1, which is worth bearing in mind if you think you might struggle to fill the X3’s cargo space. Plug-in hybrid X3s are 100 litres down on petrol and diesel versions – they have a flat floor but a higher load lip – while electric iX3 models have 510 litres.

Engines and performance

Whether you want petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid, full electric or raging hot performance, the X3 has you covered. Every fuel-powered X3 has a quick-shifting automatic gearbox and grippy four-wheel drive, making the X3 painless to drive in all weathers.

The standard petrol and diesel engines both get from 0-62mph in eight seconds, give or take, and that’s plenty for normal driving situations. Then there’s the plug-in hybrid X3 xDrive30e, which is noticeably quicker off-the-line thanks to the extra shove from the electric motor. The PHEV is actually a second or so quicker from 0-62mph than the fully electric iX3.

But, of course, the X3 M Competition is the one you need if outright pace is a must-have. This 510hp family bus matches a Lamborghini Urus in quick sprints – although the price and running costs are almost Lambo-like, too.

Driving and comfort

The BMW X3 is comfortable family car first, and sporty car second – just as you’d hope. It’ll dispatch long journeys and the school run with ease, but it’ll also encourage you to take the back roads home from the office. There’s very little body roll, which is impressive in a car as big as this.

Stick with sensibly sized wheels and the ride quality is really strong. There’s a firm edge to it – a hint at the car’s sporty setup – but at the same time it’s very comfortable over the roads your council has conveniently forgotten to repair.

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