Review: BMW X3

A top driving experience

05 Aug 15 Tim Barnes-Clay


  • Fast and powerful

  • Great fuel consumption

  • Spacious in the cabin and boot


  • Low cabin quality

  • Firm ride

  • Expensive

Our expert rating

The BMW X3 is a compact luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV) manufactured in Germany since 2003. The car is based on the excellent and ubiquitous BMW 3 Series platform, and is marketed by BMW as a “Sports Activity Vehicle” because it is capable of on and off road driving.


The car is fast and powerful. It never ever feels anything short of effortless. Fuel consumption is also good, if you go for the 2.0 litre diesel X3. If driven with a light right foot, you can tease as much as 40mpg out of the SUV’s tank.

If you want even more grunt then the 3.0-litre diesel is what you will need to look for. It returns an average of 35.8mpg, which is incredible when you consider it is a powerful and fast car.

Side of BMW X3

Ride and handling

You might think that an SUV would wobble about all over the place due to its higher ride height. But the BMW X3 is totally the opposite. On tarmac the car hugs corners so tightly and stays planted on the straight so well that there is no noticeable body lean whatsoever. Indeed, the car is so rigid it is easy to forget the BMW is a four-wheel drive vehicle. There is always give and take though, and because of the utterly outstanding sports car like handling, the ride is rock hard.

Bought new, the car can be kitted out with sports suspension, but the standard suspension is hard enough already. You may well be visiting a chiropractor if you buy one that’s already been fitted with this because it delivers an even sportier, yet totally unyielding ride.

Rear of BMW X3

Interior space

The BMW X3 has oodles of room within it. In fact it is surprising just how much space there is in this mid-size SUV. In the rear, three adults will fit in comfort. While the boot has a really nice shape and size, taking your all family luggage easily.

If you haven’t got kids and you have a dog then this is also a top vehicle for carrying your pooch around. Stick a dog guard up and your mutt will have plenty of room in the load area.

What to know before you buy

There are no serious problems with the BMW. The only slight issue is the hard ride quality, but it’s a small price to pay for the X3’s supreme handling ability. You might also be disappointed with the cabin quality. Although it’s all screwed together perfectly, the choice of materials in a motor of this posh status are not up to BMW’s usual standard.

Boot area of BMW X3

The X3 is expensive new and it’s also a very costly car to buy secondhand. The BMW badge is always in high demand, so be aware there are other non-premium SUVs on the used market that do a similar job but aren’t as pricey.

Alternative cars

The BMW X3’s main competitors are the admirable Audi Q5, luxurious Lexus NX, refined Range Rover Evoque and vivacious Volvo XC60. All these motors are excellent on tarmac but they will handle soft off-roading, too, because they are all-wheel-drive vehicles.

In the real world this mean that the X3 and its rivals have seriously improved traction in wet or snowy weather.

Alternative car to BMW X3 - Audi Q5

Overall verdict

The BMW X3 is a cheaper alternative to its larger sibling - the X5. It is a very versatile SUV, with a spacious cabin, brilliant engine range and a top driving experience. Alas, this quality comes at a price.

Expert rating



Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money