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The rear exterior of a blue BMW X3

BMW X3 review

Classy and full of tech, the X3 is BMW’s mid-level SUV. It’s supremely practical with a huge boot and plenty of room for families.


  • Looks great inside and out
  • Engines are efficient and powerful
  • Popularity ensures good resale value


  • The suspension can be firm on certain models
  • Running costs are higher than less premium rivals
  • Engines can be quite thirsty


“BMW’s X3 is a big selling SUV offering a great drive with loads of practicality.”

All BMW X3s provide a great drive and there’s a wide range of engines to suit all needs. With many new owners having items from the extensive options list such as panoramic sunroof and a heated steering wheel, it’s possible to find everything from a basic model to one packed with kit. They all represent good value if you’re buying used.

The second generation X3 which launched in 2011 is well designed with lots of standard equipment and efficient engines. The third generation, launched in 2018, is bigger and has been updated with more luxury features, state-of-the-art tech and is even better to drive on and off-road.

What’s the interior like?

“Great quality combined with BMW design makes the X3's interior impressive.”

The X3 has a premium look and feel inside and out. Everything has been well made with attention to detail, such as the layout of the centre console and placement of controls so they’re at your fingertips.

The bigger post-2018 X3 offers more space for the driver and passengers and will hold five adults comfortably. Some models have a 40:20:40 split for the rear seats allowing you to mix rear passenger seating and luggage space. Boot capacity is good at 550 litres so you can fit in several large suitcases.

There’s also lots of storage, from cupholders to space for your phone and there’s a luggage compartment floor net in the boot to stop your stuff moving around.
All models have BMW’s iDrive infotainment system but some will have bigger screens than others depending on the model or options fitted. The latest generation has a fully connected Bluetooth with options such as gesture control so you can wave away an unwanted phone call.

What’s it like to drive?

“All models provide an excellent drive whether you’re on a city commute or a leisurely country road.”

The X3 is a comfortable car to drive. There are different driving modes where the settings, such as suspension and steering, are adjusted so the car drives the way you want it to, whether that’s in Comfort, Eco or Sport mode.
The driving position is excellent with plenty of adjustment options in the steering wheel and seats. If you find a model with M-Sport accessories, it'll have a thick, racy steering wheel. In fact, it’s so good to drive, you feel like you’re in a BMW saloon rather than an SUV.

The pre-2018 second generation is really good to drive. Only diesels were available, with the most popular being the 20d but you can choose up to the twin-turbo 35d. The latest generation has a petrol option with the xDrive 20i which is a good option for those who do most of their driving in urban areas.

Is it cost-efficient to buy and run?

“The X3’s a great car, but you'll pay more for certain models.”

The X3 is extremely popular and some models will be more expensive than rivals like the Audi Q5. You’ll also pay more for a post-2018 version. However, they all offer great value, especially if you find one that had plenty of options fitted when new.

Servicing is expensive as are parts but generally, the X3 has similar running costs to its rivals. The two-wheel drive 18d sDrive is the pick of the bunch for fuel economy offering up to 55 mpg, but the 20d offers the best combination of performance and economy. Insurance and road tax costs are similar to rivals.

How reliable and safe is it?

“Safe, reliable and very well engineered.”

The second-generation X3 has a great reputation for reliability. With regular servicing, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Euro NCAP gave the X3 the maximum five stars in its crash test and all cars have plenty of safety kit, including a range of electronic systems. Later models have more driver assistance systems, particularly in the third-generation.

Which one is best for you?

Best for economy - 18d sDrive

Best for family - 20d SE

Best for fun - 35d M-Sport

If you’re looking for the ideal balance of power and economy then the 20d or 20i in the latest generation are the ones to go for. They deliver a great drive while still being comfortable when cruising and can give you around 40 mpg fuel economy if driven carefully.
SE models will give you great value with lots of kit, but you can add to them by looking around for one that’s had options fitted. M-Sport versions certainly look the best and have better resale values, but you’ll have to pay more for one in the first place.

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