The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The X3 combines driving dynamics with practicality and economical running costs to lead the premium sports utility vehicle market.
Reasons to buy:
- Much-improved ride comfort
- Class-leading economy
- Best compact 4×4 to drive
How good does it look?
The design of the BMW X3 4×4 hasn’t changed that much. The lines of the new car are smoother and curvier than its predecessor and like its main rival, the Audi Q5, it has the presence of an upmarket urban sports utility vehicle. Making it longer has made it look less boxy too.
What's the interior like?
The BMW X3 interior is a winning combination of luxury, space and useful technology. Tested over a 1500km route from Innsbruck in Austria back to the UK it proved to be a comfortable environment with the information and entertainment controls easily accessed via the iDrive rotary button and the information panel smart and easy to read. Materials are high quality and robust.
How practical is it?
The BMW X3 4×4 offers 550 litres of boot space. Rear seats can be folded in 60:40 and 40:20:40 configurations and when all are tipped forwards there is 1,600 litres of space available. This beats both the Audi Q5 and the Land Rover Freelander for seats-up boot space and trails the Freelander when they are tipped forward. Boot space is well-laid-out and easily-accessed. Storage compartments within the cabin are also generous and useful too.
What's it like to drive?
The first generation BMW X3 had the agility of a Ford Kuga but was criticised for its unforgiving ride. The new car improves on both aspects, ensuring this BMW now leads the way in terms of driving dynamics. Normal, Sport and Sport + mode adjusts the suspension as well as steering, accelerator, gearbox and braking inputs. Optional variable damper control will also make adjustments according to how the BMW X3 is driven and the road conditions.
How powerful is it?
There is only one choice of engine – the excellent four-cylinder 180bhp turbo diesel engine also to be found in the 5-series. And even when more engines are introduced the xDrive20d is still expected to account for four of every five sales. Maximum pulling power is 280 lb/ft, top speed 131mph and the 0-62mph time is 8.5 seconds. There are many more versions of the Q5 to choose from but the nearest rival is the slightly less powerful, and cheaper, 168bhp 2-litre TDI. The X3’s engine is mated with a six-speed manual which does the job but the smooth eight-speed automatic is a tempting option for those with the budget available.
How much will it cost me?
The xDrive20d engine returns an average 50.4mpg and emits 149g/km CO2 (147g/km CO2 for the automatic). This beats both its closest Audi Q5 rival (the 168bhp 2-litre TDI returns 45.6mpg with 163g/km CO2) and the nearest comparable Land Rover Freelander (the 187bhp 2.2-litre SD4 returns 40.4mpg with 185g/km CO2) by some margin.
How reliable is it?
BMW has a solid reputation for reliability as does the first generation X3. Auto Trader readers rate that version as 4.4/5 and this is in line with other driver surveys.
How safe is it?
There are front, side and curtain airbags for the front row and head airbags for the second row passengers. Electronic Stability Programme and traction control are both standard. The previous model achieved a four-star rating following Euro NCAP testing while the new car has yet to be tested.
How much equipment do I get?
The BMW X3 4×4 comes as standard in SE trim. This brings Nevada leather upholstery, two-zone air conditioning, iDrive controller and colour display. Options include panoramic sunroof, high-end audio equipment and the Professional Multimedia package with hard-disk storage, automatic boot lid operation and a tow coupling while a number of packages can be specified too. The X3 is also available in M Sport trim which adds M Sport branded alloys, steering wheel, seats and headlining.
The BMW X3 4×4 is the cheapest premium SUV to run and doesn’t compromise on its upmarket credentials to do so.