From £31,9457
X3’s new 2.0-litre four-pot diesel has its merits, but bigger six-pot remains the more appealing choice

Our Verdict

BMW X3

The BMW X3 is both frugal and rewarding to drive, a rare and clever technical achievement

Nic Cackett
20 August 2014

What is it?

This is the latest version of BMW’s popular X3, benefiting here from a host of minor cosmetic updates and a new 188bhp TwinPower Turbo 2.0-litre diesel engine.

We tested the lightly revised SUV four-wheel-drive xDrive form and M Sport trim, with the optional automatic gearbox and paddle shifts.

On paper, the four-cylinder diesel appears to be a sound option. It produces 188bhp and 295lb ft, propelling the X3 from 0-62mph in a sensible 8.1sec.

A claimed average of 54.3mpg is good for a car in this class and CO2 emissions of 138g/km mean you’ll pay road tax of £130 a year.

What's it like?

You might expect a four-cylinder diesel in a 1820kg 4x4 to feel a little strained, but the BMW’s engine does an acceptable job. Its delivery is smooth and linear, and it revs to 4500rpm with ease.

Even at 60mph there’s enough left in reserve to allow for comparatively swift acceleration, aided by the quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission.

What can’t be ignored is the instantly identifiable acoustic signature of the engine. It’s hardly raucous, but there’s an ever-present diesel note, even when cruising.

Its constant presence, in conjunction with a moderate amount of road noise, detracts from the BMW’s otherwise pleasing nature. The transmission also has a tendency to hang on to higher gears, occasionally loading the engine up and causing some resonance and drone.

Otherwise, the BMW is a fine driving machine with few negative traits. It steers in a precise, easily controlled fashion with minimal body roll, although the steering is a little heavy.

It stops swiftly, visibility is good and it’s easy to manoeuvre. The ride is also delightfully smooth and controlled, and wind noise low. Overall, it’s a relaxing, competent performance.

It’s hard to fault the BMW’s appeal elsewhere. It’s a smart-looking and sensibly sized SUV with an upmarket interior. There’s lots of space front and rear and a big boot adds to its practicality. Even under the bonnet the X3 is well finished, further reinforcing its high-end feel.

Should I buy one?

If the potential economy or tax benefits of the four-cylinder appeal to you, then the BMW is by no means a poor option. Its performance, overall appeal and general characteristics are unlikely to disappoint.

If you can tolerate ditching M Sport trim’s cosmetic extras, the superior six-cylinder diesel X3 is available for £2155 more in lesser SE trim. It’s a comparatively small hike and, for many, the six-cylinder won’t prove to be much more costly to run for private buyers. It’s also faster and more refined and better suits the BMW’s premium status.

However, if you wanted to retain the cleaner, more sporty looks of the M Sport – but with a six-cylinder diesel – you’d have to pay a more significant £5155 more. Company car drivers, considering either trim level, will also have to pay a substantial hike in company car tax for the 3.0-litre diesel version.

BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport

Price £37,635; 0-62mph 8.1sec; Top speed 131mph; Economy 54.3mpg (combined); CO2 138g/km; Kerb weight 1820kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1995cc, turbo diesel; Power 188bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

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Comments
7

A34

20 August 2014
Alternatively save on the M-Sport bling and just get the 2.0 SE auto... as presumably you are choosing the smaller engine for budget reasons anyway...

20 August 2014
You could go even lower if you wanted to, A34 – BMW offers a rear-wheel drive 'sDrive18d' as well. It's only available in SE trim but costs £30,990 in manual form. With the same automatic gearbox and paddle shifters, as tested here, it'll set you back £32,740.

20 August 2014
The reviewers comments on cost of this particular 2.0 compared to six cylinder could be nullified if he had to look at a version without the M-sport spec and rather have tested a base spec 2.0D, that probably would have saved at least 3000 pounds. The fuel consumption and emission levels will probably be even better with the smaller tyres and made the car a much better bet cost wise, comfort wise as well as efficiency wise compared to this M-sport version

20 August 2014
Impressive that BMW have managed to produce good ride comfort in the Sport version, but as others have stated, I'd say the SE version is better value and will probably have lower road noise levels with the smaller tyres. The X3 still looks a bit dull to me though.

20 August 2014
Interesting alternative to an estate car. So why no image of the boot. Size, load bay level etc would be much more useful than a picture of the engine or the gear selector.
I take it the photographer could not be arsed, or autocar just picked some stock BMW images and the editor could not be arsed.
I will take a look on the BMW site autocar, please don't let the potential requirement of your readers cause you extra work. Meh!

MB

20 August 2014
Morning Mr Burt. We cover the practicality side of the X3 in our main review, linked to at the side, where you will also find shots of the boot. The first drives focus on what's new or different about the particular derivative in question, as opposed to being all-encompassing reviews.

20 August 2014
Seems like a strange review this, almost as if the intention was to find fault with everything. Surely it's no shock that the 6 cylinder 3.0d is the nicer engine to use - this will be the same for the 320d v 330d, but I've not seen that conslusion before.
Relative to the competitors in its sector, the X3 is still one of the best of the bunch, and yet I can't help thinking that this review is overly negative.
Have a look at What Car? for their review of the same car, and you'll see they give it 5 stars. OK, a review is always subjective, but this seems odd to me.

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