BMW X3 review - strong engines make this SUV impressive

Adam Towler
11 Jul 2016

Do you really need an X5?

Evo Rating: 
From £33,945
Decent to drive, strong diesel and petrol engines, quality interior tech
Bested by Macan dynamically, numb steering, slightly stiff ride

evo Verdict

The X3 has matured during the past five years, and from rather awkward beginnings with the first generation model is now a highly competent product. As the X5 has grown, so the X3 has moved into territory once held by its big brother, possessing a more manageable footprint on the road while still offering plenty of space inside.

The all-diesel engine range is one of the X3’s strongest features, and while the 2-litre xDrive20d is never going to be seen as an enthusiast choice, its performance on paper is actually entirely respectable. Its fuel consumption and emissions are excellent, too, but it can’t compete with the smooth, torque – albeit more expensive- performance of the straight six models.

As a driver’s SUV the X3 is hampered by numb power steering and a ride that can be abrupt, but while it can’t match a Porsche Macan, it’s still towards the more dynamic end of the medium-sized SUV spectrum.

evo Tip

5-series Touring with the same engine is a smidge quicker, but costs seven grand extra and has barely more boot space. If you must have an SUV, there’s really nothing to match the X3’s speed, economy and more compact size (the most powerful diesel Range Rover Evoques and Audi Q5s have at least 70bhp less). You need to sail past £50K and buy the behemoth (and 30mpg) Audi Q7 4.2 TDI for similar performance.

evo Summary

A highly competitive market segment sees BMW enter with what is ultimately a very strong product. The X3 boasts good engines, isn't hugely dull to drive and has a quality interior loaded with tech.

> Performance and 0-60mph time - Healthy engine outputs ensure the X3 has surprisingly sprightly performance - the quickest models reach 62mph in 5.3sec.

> Engine and gearbox - Like petrol cars? The X3 won't be for you - BMW has chosen, perhaps sensibly, to limit sales to the diesel models. They're strong and smooth though, particularly the inline-sixes.

> Ride and handling - Feels much like a 3-series on stilts, with sporty, agile handling. Little steering feel though and it's not as entertaining as a Porsche Macan.

> MPG and running costs - Diesel lineup means some impressive on-paper economy figures. Eco Pro mode helps drivers get the most from every gallon.

> Prices, specs and rivals - Pricing is competitive and the market is too - there are rivals from just about every major competitor. For driving enthusiasts, Porsche's Macan still offers the most.

> Interior and tech - Practical, high-quality and well-built, the X3's cabin is much like other BMWs. That extends to the driver-focused centre console.

> Design - Every inch a BMW 'X' product, and looks very similar to the larger X5. Hardly pretty though - the X3 is more about presence than style.

Read more about:

Experience the thrill of driving every month with evo magazine, devoted exclusively to the greatest performance cars in the world. If you're passionate about performance cars then evo is your ultimate monthly read.