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BMW X3 interior, tech and practicality

Comfort and visibility

You sit high up in the BMW X3, enjoying a commanding view of the road ahead and the feeling that you’re in a big, confident, safe car.

From where you’re sat, you’ll also appreciate the plush materials and the impressive build quality. It feels every inch a premium SUV, with lots of leather surrounding you, cool metallic trim on the dashboard ahead of you, and just the right amount of glossy black plastics to give a modern sheen.

The seats are supportive and very adjustable, with side bolsters keeping you in place and BMW’s extending thigh cushions to give your legs full support. They’re heated as standard to warm you up and soothe your back.

Standard equipment

The two main trim levels are xLine and M Sport – focusing on off-road style and sporty style respectively. Standard equipment across both includes multi-zone air conditioning, a powered tailgate, ambient lighting, a reversing camera and cruise control – you won’t be short of equipment whichever version you pick.

Every X3 lets you check in on your car from your phone. You can remotely lock the car, flash the headlights in a busy car park, set the climate control before you get in and send navigation instructions from your phone to the car’s sat nav. Plug-in hybrid and electric versions also let you see how much range you’ve got left and schedule charging.

Infotainment and audio

You’re guaranteed a large infotainment screen in the X3, measuring 10.25 inches across on pre-facelift cars and 12.3 inches on newer versions. Both work in a similar way, with a rotary controller on the lower centre console letting you navigate through the system without getting greasy fingerprints all over the display.

It’s packed with features, including the car’s digital service record, but some of the features are hidden deep in submenus. It’s not so bad once you remember where a few of these features are, but it can be a bit confusing at first. Similarly, the built-in sat nav sometimes looks a little busy, and you might find the green sat nav route looks almost identical to the green-coloured main roads nearby.

Mind you, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are fitted on every X3, so you can use your phone’s apps on the screen if you prefer.

Depending on the age of the car you buy, you’ll get either a semi-digital or fully digital instrument cluster. While the newer system is certainly the more modern-looking, it’s also stuffed with information that’s competing for your vision, and it can take a couple of glances to see what you wanted to look at. The older cluster is immediately clear.

Rear seat space

While a Volvo XC60 ultimately offers slightly more rear-seat space, the X3 still has plenty of room to stretch out and get comfortable. Some models get slightly reclining seatbacks, so rear-seat passengers can adjust their position on the fly.

Four six-foot-tall adults can fit in the X3 no problem at all, with enough kneeroom to ensure you’re not going to be hitting the front seats and more than enough headroom. The X3’s width and its fairly flat rear seats mean that you can squeeze three adults across the back row.

The outer rear seats have easily accessed Isofix points, and the rear doors open wide to make it easy to extract grumpy toddlers. The hard plastics on the back of the front seats should also stand up well to lots of kicks from little feet – and they’ll be easier to clean than the leather upholstery.

Boot space

You’re unlikely to outgrow the X3’s boot – its 550-litre space is more than the XC60 and Audi Q5, and is big enough to swallow all manner of family or business items. A whole pack of Labradors would fit in the boot (just imagine the chaos…) and Fido would appreciate the lack of any real load lip. Mind you, a 3 Series Touring is going to be easier for a dog to jump into.

The opening is tall and wide, making it a doddle to load oversize items like furniture. For the times when you need maximum boot space, the rear seats fold individually to free up an extra 1,000 litres, measured to the roof. You get a few nets, pockets and hooks to keep things from flying around, too.

It’s a little disappointing that there’s no space under the floor for a spare wheel, although there is space under there to store valuables or rarely used items. Plug-in hybrid xDrive30e cars miss out on underfloor storage so there’s nowhere to store the cable, while electric iX3 models have just enough under-boot space if you can pack the cable tightly.

Also note that the plug-in hybrid loses 100 litres of boot space – there’s a big step at the front of the boot, but at least the rest of the boot floor is flat. The 450-litre space is also 60 litres down on the iX3.

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