If you’re on the lookout for a luxurious and spacious SUV then the chances are high that the BMW X3 is already on your shortlist.
Your shortlist could also possibly include the Audi Q5 and Land Rover Discovery Sport. Cars like these need to justify their higher price tags especially when in the face of mass-market competition from the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and the SEAT Ateca. They need to be comfortable over long distances, have enough space for the family, fit in a lot of luggage as well as being economical to run. So, does the BMW X3 fit the bill or is it left chasing the class leaders? Let’s find out.
The first thing we need to do is find out how well this car handles on UK roads. Our favourite version of the X3 is the xDrive 20d and we think this will be the popular choice amongst buyers. It gets you a diesel engine with 187 break horse power (bhp) which is more than enough pulling power. However, if you’d like more then the 30d offers you just that. For those drivers looking for even more performance then there’s the xDrive 35d which gets you a 3.0 litre diesel engine. This unit is certainly quick but you do pay for this added performance as it’s the most expensive in the range. As the xDrive name suggests, all of these engines come in 4-wheel drive. Opt for the SE version and you’ll find that it rides fairly well. However, you might want to avoid the M Sport cars as these come with overly hard suspension which jostles you around quite a bit. Choose dynamic damper control on the options list and you can stiffen or soften the suspension at the touch of a button. Despite its size the X3 feels really balanced through the corners and gives minimal body roll. The steering is quite heavy which won’t suit some people and the engine in the xDrive 20d does sound a little gruff at lower speeds. Take it to motorway speeds and then there’s road and wind noise to contend with too.
As you’d expect from a premium vehicle it’s really easy to find a comfortable driving position. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake and once you’ve figured out the controls then you can put the seat into your desired position as well. All of the buttons and dials are within easy reach and forward visibility is good too. In fact, what drives a lot of people into SUVs is the commanding driving position and the same can be said for the X3. Rear visibility is also very good and with the rear and front parking sensors fitted as standard it means that this car is really easy to park. If you really want to splash out then you can always opt for the reversing camera or all-round view monitor. Even taller adults will have no complaints about space in the BMW X3 as there’s plenty of head and leg room to stretch out. There’s a wide variety of cubby holes, cup holders, a decent sized glovebox and deep door bins which means that there’s plenty of room to put your things.
In terms of quality the cabin really does tick all the boxes. However, Audi has done slightly better with the Q5. Every X3 comes with BMW’s own infotainment and navigation system. Put bluntly, these really are the best systems on the market. They are easy to use and navigate and the widescreen, mounted on the dashboard, is really easy to see. Every car comes with Bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation and DAB radio all of which are controlled by a rotary dial located in the central console.
When you head to the back of this car you might find it a little on the cramped side when you seat three adults. Although the space is roughly about the same size and an Audi A5 it’s worth noting that there is no 7-seat option like there is with the Land Rover Discovery Sport. You’ll also discover that the rear bench does not slide and the seat back do not recline.
The X3’s boot is larger on paper than many of its rivals and it’s easy to load in bulk items thanks to the wide opening and no load lip. All X3s come with an electric tailgate which is a great feature and if you go for BMW’s Extended Storage package then you get some useful nets and a secret storage compartment. If you do require more space then you can fold down the rear seats but they don’t fold completely flat.
There are three trim levels to choose from but there’s very little reason to look beyond the entry level SE model. The SE comes with heated leather seats, climate and cruise control, DAB radio, sat nav, automatic lights and wipers and alloy wheels. In addition to this every car comes with six airbags.
It really is easy to see the appeal of the BMW X3 simply because it’s classy, spacious and the infotainment systems is one of the best on the market. This car does have a few foibles but if you’re in the market for an upmarket SUV then it definitely deserves to be on your shortlist.