BMW X3 xDrive20d review

BMW X3 xDrive20d review

BMW's X3 has proved extremely popular, with the mid-sized SUV one of the leading models in its market. This third generation model looks to continue that success, and has some good foundations on which to build. Weight, efficiency, and equipment levels have all been improved upon, and the styling has evolved to create a well-designed SUV. NGC tests the premium SUV to see how BMW's latest X3 gets on.

Review by Chris Lilly


The model tested has BMW's 2.0 litre diesel unit, producing 190 hp in this X3 xDrive20d M Sport model. It's a tried and tested unit, offering a good balance of performance and efficiency. Here, it allows a 0-62mph time of 8.0 seconds, which is decently quick but worth remembering that it's the entry level diesel for the X3. It's such a competent unit that there is no need to get anything more powerful - though there are plenty of good options should buyers prefer more pace. The X3 xDrive20d produces 400 Nm of torque, which provides plenty of grunt for the eight-speed automatic gearbox to work with, meaning it's rarely caught in the wrong ratio. It's likely to prove the best seller, and it's certainly one of the picks of the range, performing comfortably whether you are pottering around town, or stretching its legs on an open road. Refinement from the diesel unit is very good, and power delivery is smooth. As an all-round engine, providing a blend of pace and economy, it's the pick of the range for the X3.


This version of the X3 featured BMW's optional adaptive suspension, which performed excellently at providing both a comfortable ride, and one that keeps control of body roll. BMW has a fine reputation for handling, and even the tall and relatively heavy X3 can offer a dynamic driving experience. It's not as agile as the Porsche Macan, but it's not too far off, and one of the picks for those wanting an SUV but who don't want to forfeit driving dynamics. The ride can be a little harsh over some road imperfections, but the majority of the time the X3 brushes off poor surfaces. The steering is accurate and sharp, though not providing as much feedback as the Macan, though the grip available is excellent. Braking performance is very strong, and the whole combines to offer a package that performs admirably in just about all situations. Whether you are in a car park, tight urban streets, a country road, or on the motorway, the X3 will perform to a high level.


To a casual glance, the X3 hasn't really changed from the previous generation, though in reality the changes are quite considerable. A larger grille, narrower headlights, sportier bumper, and sweeping lines make for a sporty looking SUV - particular in the M Sport trim tested. As mentioned earlier, the design has evolved into a fine-looking SUV, and the X3 is one of the better-looking cars in its class. It's a practical shape too, with the BMW performing well in terms of boot and occupant space compared to rivals. It's on a par with the best in its class, and the boot space will deal with a family's worth of kit with ease. It's a good shape, offers a wide access, and has a relatively low lip to lift things over. Further forward, head, leg, and shoulder room is as good as you would expect from a mid-sized SUV. Four adults will fit in the X3 with ease, and be happy covering a long distance in it. Those up front will - as usual - be happiest of all, and the space available is excellent.


BMW X3 interior

The seats throughout are excellent, providing plenty of support to keep occupants both comfortable and in place - even when cornering hard. The driver can get a great driving position, and the customary superb BMW steering wheel is mounted in the X3. It's a great size, a good thickness, and not overly cluttered with buttons for controls. It's amazing the difference in driving impressions a steering wheel can make, and BMW's tiller is one of the best. One of the main areas of improvement in this latest X3 is the interior. It's been upgraded to match the likes of the 5 Series, with a largely digital instrument panel, and wide infotainment system. Everything is logically laid out, well designed, and features a premium feel, with high quality materials used throughout. It's not as cleanly designed as the likes of Audi's Q5, but still looks one of the best lay-outs in its class.


A fuel economy of 51.4 MPG is quoted for the X3, which is an NEDC-corrected figure - tested to WLTP protocols but calculated back to the NEDC figure allow better comparison against rival models. It's all a bit complicated at the moment, but in real-world driving conditions, and having covered more than 300 miles, I averaged 41.0 MPG. That's after a good mix of road types - motorway, country roads, and urban routes - so should be pretty accurate for those thinking of buying an X3. It's about par for the class; perhaps a littler higher than many rivals, but not buy much. To tax, the X3 tested costs £200 for the first year rate (included in the OTR) and then either £140 or £450 a year. The difference depends on specification, since the X3 can straddle the threshold between Standard Rate costs, and the Premium Rate for those models costing £40,000 or more when new.


BMW has worked on the engines and transmissions available on the X3 to make them more efficient than the out-going model, with features such as variable vane technology on this diesel tested. Emissions are controlled with BMW's BluePerformance technology, which includes a particulate filter and SCR with AdBlue. The xDrive all-wheel drive system is lighter than before, and the X3 has been on a diet, with weight reduced overall. Aerodynamics are some of the best in its class, including active vanes to control air flow. There is auto stop/start fitted to prevent idling when stopped, and a drive mode select which includes Eco Pro. This lessens throttle response and alters the gear changes from the automatic gearbox. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 46.


There are three trim levels available on the X3 - SE, xLine, and M Sport - and the model tested was the latter. All are well equipped, as you would expect from BMW, though there is also a long list of options available, again as might be expected. Fitted as standard to all models are 18-inch alloys, air conditioning, drive mode select, chrome details, sport multi-function steering wheel, heated front seats, cruise control, sat-nav with Bluetooth & DAB, and automatic tailgate. M Sport trim adds the likes of 19-inch alloys, BMW Professional Navigation with excellent 10.25-inch touchscreen, M Sport styling, M Sport steering wheel, Performance Control, semi-digital cockpit, and front sports seats. Options fitted included adaptive LED headlights and high-beam assist, display key, head-up display, enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging, gesture control, wifi hot-spot, digital cockpit, adaptive suspension, variable sport steering, electric front seats with driver memory, active cruise control, parking assistant plus, upgraded audio system, and Apple CarPlay compatibility.


There are a number of very good SUVs in the X3's market, and the BMW is right up there with the best of them. It's relatively efficient, excellent to drive, practical, and stylish, and as premium family SUVs go, the BMW X3 ticks all of the boxes.

BMW X3 rear

Model tested: BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport
Body-style: SUV
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre diesel / 144 g/km
Trim grades: SE, xLine, M Sport

On-road price: X3 xDrive20d from £41,990. Price as tested: £49,530
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars

Click here for more info about this model range

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:7th Dec 2018

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