New car review

BMW X3 review

In its third generation, is BMW’s compact SUV still an under-the-radar success?

Summary

The BMW X3 ticks so many boxes that one might wonder just why it isn’t far more feted. Perhaps it remains such an under-the-radar success because it does just about everything just right, and as a result simply becomes a part of the owner’s daily life.
Design
8.0
Comfort
8.0
Driving experience
9.0
Value for money
8.0
Safety
8.0

Summary

The BMW X3 ticks so many boxes that one might wonder just why it isn’t far more feted. Perhaps it remains such an under-the-radar success because it does just about everything just right, and as a result simply becomes a part of the owner’s daily life.

Inside the BMW X3

We like the X3 interior – it has undergone more extensive changes than the exterior, and to its benefit.

Clearly based closely on the 5 Series layout, it is firstly very well put together – the surfaces feel premium, switches firm but refined to the touch, and the stitching, bolting and glueing is to a very high standard.

2019 BMW X3 interior | The Car Expert

The driver’s layout is dominated by the centre console, much wider than rivals and with the radio and climate control systems in neat slimline designs smartly incorporated into the strong horizontal lines of the fascia.

The infotainment screen looks a little stuck on the top of all this, but the location puts it much closer to the driver’s eye line. it too is slimline, with a big ten-inch screen, very smooth in operation and with high-quality graphics.

Similarly, the head-up display fitted to our model is very impressive – displaying useful information but without intruding on the view ahead.

After the quality comes space – one is immediately taken by the amount of it in the X3, which is probably why BMW has not offered a seven-seat variant as two rear seats would be a significant class below those in the main cabin.

There is plenty of room for three adults in the rear, and I felt more cramped in the just-replaced version of the larger X5 – in terms of both leg and head room. As for the boot, 550 litres is plenty, if not as big as some rivals such as the Jaguar F-Pace. The BMW design is highly practical, square in layout and with a nice low loading lip.

Driving the BMW X3

We have long been used to highly refined diesel engines from BMW and the four-cylinder unit in the X20d does not disappoint. Effectively this matches several of the major rivals for size and power, but it feels quicker in the X3, accelerating enthusiastically while never dipping into harshness.

The raw figures back up the impression from behind the wheel. The X3 crests 62mph in eight seconds, just a tenth behind a similar Audi Q5 and ahead of both the Volvo XC60- and the admittedly slightly less powerful Jaguar F-Pace.

The car is very sparing of its rpm – even if one takes the slick-shifting eight-speed transmission out of auto mode. It’s much happier selecting another ratio than using all the revs available to grab that last ounce of power.

BMW has never lowered its standards because it was designing a chassis for an SUV and the X3 maintains an enviable record – its on-the-road dynamics are both comfortable and with just enough sporty appeal.

In corners the car grips with confidence, helped of course by the all-wheel-drive but also by an excellently sorted chassis, that refuses to be knocked out of its stride by poor surfaces. Steering commands are answered directly, with plenty of feel.

Our M Sport model benefits from its standard-fit adaptive sports suspension, which adds some, but not too much, extra firmness. It forms part of the mode select system, which also alters engine, transmission and steering settings and offers a range of cockpit selectable modes – varying from economy through comfort to sporty.

As a driving machine, the BMW X3 is right at the top – it’s a pleasure to take control of and it is very easy to forget that this is a quite large SUV.

Summary

Summing up the BMW X3, it ticks so many boxes that one might wonder just why it isn’t far more feted. Perhaps it remains such an under-the-radar success because it does just about everything just right and as a result simply becomes a part of the owner’s daily life.

The X3 should be front and centre of the consideration list for anyone wanting an upmarket SUV and having a bit of money to spend. And that is the only downside – you will need to dip into that options list to get the full, very impressive, X3 experience.

Good points
Impressive driving dynamics
Equally impressive quality and space
Lots of top tech, including safety package

Bad points
Difficult to buy without delving into options list
Lots of safety tech only available on options list
Apple CarPlay an option

Key specifications

Make & modelBMW X3Audi Q5Volvo XC60
SpecificationxDrive20d M Sport automaticS Line 40 TDI 190 quattro S tronicInscription D4 AWD automatic
Price (on-road)£41,320£42,500£44,270
Engine2.0-litre diesel1.8-litre diesel2.0-litre diesel
Power190 hp190 hp190 hp
Torque400 Nm400 Nm400 Nm
0-62mph8.0 seconds7.9 seconds8.4 seconds
Top speed132 mph135 mph127 mph
Fuel economy (combined)51.4 mpg51.4 mpg50.4 mpg
CO2 emissions144 g/km146 g/km148 g/km
Insurance group31E29E31E
Euro NCAP rating5 stars (2017)5 stars (2017)5 stars (2017)
Our rating8.2 / 108.4 / 107.8 / 10

 

Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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