Nearly new buying guide: BMW X3

BMW X3 front three quarter

The BMW X3 has a breadth of abilities few rivals can match

Premium, keen-handling SUV has versatility and practicality down to a T – yours from £20k

If Goldilocks judged cars, she would probably find the BMW X3 to be just right. After all, it’s not as compact as the BMW X1 and BMW X2, yet it’s not as colossal as the BMW X5 and BMW X7

As such, you have an SUV with a spacious interior, as well as a car that doesn’t feel out of place around town. In a word, it’s versatile. 

Now, versatility means less when you don’t enjoy making full use of it, but that’s certainly not the case with the X3. It gets all the luxuries you would associate with its premium badge. Even entry-level SE trim has LED headlights, 18in alloys, leather seats that are heated in the front, dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and an electric tailgate.


This sense of richness extends under the bonnet. Petrol engines range from a 184bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder, badged 20i, to a 355bhp 3.0-litre straight six in the rapid M40i. There are also a few diesels, including the 187bhp 20d and 321bhp M40d. So there isn’t really a lacklustre option here. 

A mild-hybrid system was added to the 20d in 2020, along with the arrival of a 288bhp plug-in hybrid 30e and an all-electric model called the BMW iX3 that has an official range of 285 miles. 

The 503bhp BMW X3 M is also worth a mention, although, like the iX3, it deserves a whole feature to itself. So, disregarding those last two cars, what’s the X3 like to drive? Well, it splits the difference between long-distance cruising and driving pleasure really well. 

That’s thanks in no small part to a relatively playful chassis and a four-wheel drive system that favours the rear wheels. Road and wind noise is kept impressively low, too. 

Few rivals get close to the X3 for ride comfort, particularly on models equipped with adaptive suspension, which can be softened on a heavily rutted stretch of asphalt, and then sharpened in an instant for a series of bends. 

The interior, meanwhile, is very plush, including soft-touch plastics and high-quality leather. It’s roomy, too. People in the back should have few complaints, even though a central tunnel cuts the available space for a middle passenger. 

Unlike the Land Rover Discovery Sport, you can’t get seven seats with the X3. However, what does come in handy is the large, usefully shaped boot with a decent amount of underfloor storage. Standard 40/20/40-split folding rear seats only add to its already impressive practical credentials. 

This all sounds rather expensive, but prices are cheaper than you might think. 

For an early, diesel version with a mileage north of 100,000, it will cost you around £20,000. Up your budget to around £26,000 and you will see more petrol cars. The faster M40i and M40d models are understandably more expensive and start at around £35,000. For a 30e, expect to pay upwards of £44,000.

Our top spec 

SE: This trim gets you all the kit you really need at a reasonable price. The next model up, xLine, has mostly cosmetic extras. M Sport has firmer suspension and really needs adaptive dampers to soften the ride.

Need to know

The most frugal diesel is the 20d, with a WLTP average of 45.6mpg. The six-cylinder 30d is only slightly down on, at 40.4mpg, and the M40d returns 39.2mpg. The petrols waver around the mid-30s. 

All petrol and diesel X3s of this generation will cost you £165 per year in road tax, unless you go for the PHEV 30e, which is £155. 

The 30e has an official all-electric range of up to 31 miles and 141.2mpg economy, but that won’t necessarily be easy to achieve in real-world conditions.

Buyer beware

Reliability: The latest X3, in petrol form, finished in fourth place out of 32 cars in the large SUV category of the most recent What Car? Reliability Survey. In diesel form, the model still finished in a respectable 10th.

Exterior: Make sure you check the alloy wheels for kerb damage, particularly on M Sport cars with larger wheels that are more susceptible to striking something. Parking sensors are standard on all X3s, so minor dents and scratches shouldn’t be a major issue, but check anyway. 

Insurance and servicing: Insurance costs should be in line with rival SUVs. Generally, BMW servicing undercuts that of Mercedes on cost and is on a par with other rivals’. However, your car’s previous owner might have bought a service pack when the car was new, and this should cover all the routine maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles. Check BMW’s website to see if your X3 has a pre-paid service pack.

Our pick

20d: The 20d has smooth power delivery, strong torque and good fuel economy. The other engines in the range can be relatively expensive to buy and aren’t as readily available.

Wild card

M40i: Its straight-six power allows for 0-62mph in 4.8sec, so it can keep up with a Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 and an Audi SQ5 in a straight line. Just be prepared for 34.4mpg (and that’s with a light right foot).

Oliver Young

Source: Autocar

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