- Stylish inside and out
- Refined feel
Powerful engines, a superbly comfortable, spacious interior, and a thoroughly enjoyable driving experience mean BMW’s latest X3 is a very strong competitor in the compact premium SUV class.
And, while I love its bigger sibling, the X5, the X3 is now so good, it is arguable whether you actually need the larger member of the family. In fact, it is only slightly bigger than the first-generation X5.
As it is based on the 5 Series saloon platform, the X3 now enjoys a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, which means there is plenty of space inside for five occupants. Again, it feels pretty similar to the amount of room offered by its larger sibling.
Design and Practicality
Typical of BMW, the cabin is a lush, comfortable, and stylish haven, with leather upholstery, and high quality switchgear, all within easy reach of the driver.
Up front, the driver and passenger are spoiled for space, but there is still room for adults in the rear, with plenty of headroom for all. Climate control, cupholders, and ambient lighting mean people back there are kept comfortable.
The seat backrest folds 40:20:40, and behind it there is a 550-litre boot, which can expand to 1,600 litres with the seats folded.
The M Sport comes with a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, which sits on top of the dashboard in the driver’s eyeline.
Fast and easy to use, it can be controlled, as its name suggests, by touch, voice and even gesture, though much preferable – to me, at least – was by using its rotary dial by the gear lever.
The sat nav system is traffic aware, providing accurate information on the flow of traffic along all major roads, across the UK and Europe. The M Sport also gets a bespoke leather steering wheel, sports seats, 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, and a reversing camera among a cornucopia of other equipment.
Engines and Performance
The 30d gets a sumptuous 3.0-litre diesel engine, which is now combined with a new 48-volt mild hybrid system, to provide more efficiency but which produces all the performance you will ever need served from low revs.
It is matched with an excellent 8-speed automatic, which makes slick and swift changes just as you require it to. It officially returns just under 46mpg, but I was happy with the 36mpg I achieved.
As it is a BMW you would expect the X3 to be fun to drive, and you will not be disappointed. It handles incredibly well for a high-riding SUV.
The weight is distributed 50:50 front to rear, which helps improve handling. To further improve dynamics, the rear bias of BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system has also been increased. Intelligent all-wheel drive management allows adjustments to be made as the driving situation demands, while still maintaining maximum traction.
M Sport models also get standard sports suspension, which is firmer than the normal set-up and includes thicker anti-roll bars to improve body control in corners.
The M Sport model also comes with adaptive dampers, which allow you to select how stiff you want the car’s suspension to be, using the mode select button that also alters steering, throttle and gearbox settings. You can choose between Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ options. It is surprisingly supple at all speeds and immensely enjoyable behind the wheel.
Because of the aforementioned xDrive system, the X3 is a competent off-roader, too. We are not talking Land Rover levels of capability, but ground clearance and ramp angles are decent enough, and there is electronic traction and hill-descent control. It also has a wading depth of 500mm for those who want to test it.
There is an awful lot to recommend the X3, thanks to its blend of spaciousness, comfort, and superb driving experience. The M Sport model adds a luxurious touch, thanks to the fantastic range of technology and safety features on offer.