From £31,945
Larger X3 has trademark BMW handling, enhanced practicality and class-leading economy

Our Verdict

BMW X3

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

What is it?

It’s BMW’s new X3 – and it has now officially arrived in the UK.

This second-generation SUV has grown in every dimension, comes with more standard equipment and a more powerful and efficient diesel engine, and yet it’s both lighter and cheaper than the car it replaces. This is our first chance to drive one on British tarmac.

What’s it like?

Eighty-three millimetres sounds like a lot to enlarge a compact 4x4 by, but that’s the growth spurt this car has undergone in terms of length. More than half of that has gone into the X3’s front overhang, presumably to the improvement of pedestrian protection, but there’s also more headroom and significantly more legroom inside the new X3.

There’s now certainly no doubting this X3’s credentials as a full-sized family car. Adults can travel in the back seats in plenty of comfort, and with the seats down, the 1600 litres of storage space available is within touching distance of the most practical cars in the class.

There’s only one engine on offer for now: the new ‘N47’ 2.0-litre commonrail diesel from BMW’s 520d. Six-pot turbodiesels will come later, but BMW’s twin-turbo 3.0-litre petrol is unlikely to make it to the UK.

Producing 182bhp at 4000rpm and 280lb ft of torque between 1750- and 2750rpm, the engine in the entry-level X3 provides class-leading fuel economy of 50.4mpg, claims BMW, and makes it the only car in the class to squeeze into Band F on VED road tax, emitting just 149g/km, or 147g/km if you opt for BMW’s excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Our test car had BMW’s standard six-speed manual gearbox, and was tested in very cold temperatures that effectively disabled its engine stop-start system. Partly as a result of the cold, we suspect, it recorded a disappointing 39.2mpg on a mixed test route.

It rode quietly and handled keenly, with a well-met compromise of comfort, grip, agility and control, albeit on softer-compound cold weather tyres than most UK owners will specify, and with variable dampers that only come as a £910 option.

Our one gripe is a familiar one, with the X3’s steering system. Our test car had both ‘Servotronic’ varible-assistance power steering and BMW’s variable-ratio sport steering rack.

The systems combine to add weight and directness to the car’s steering at speed, but don’t always make it easy to carve a smooth and precise cornering line. They seemed to add unwelcome heft to the X3’s helm at times, too.

Should I buy one?

Probably – provided you can tick the right boxes as you spec it up. We’d certainly include the £1495 eight-speed taller-ratio auto ’box for better motorway economy and stronger residuals, as well as the varible dampers. But we’d stay away from the variable steering.

Get the right spec and this new BMW should make a more multi-talented, well-rounded and sensible family car than most of its competition. And given that the Land Rover Freelander 2, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 are among its rivals, that’s no mean compliment.

BMW X3 xDrive20d SE

Price: £30,490; Top speed: 130mph; 0-62mph: 8.5sec; Economy: 50.4mpg; CO2: 149g/km; Kerb weight: 1790kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1995cc, turbodiesel; Power: 182bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 280lb ft at 1750-2750rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

 

Join the debate

Comments
58

29 November 2010

Yes, but what is it actually like off-road ?


29 November 2010

Partly as a result of the cold, we suspect, it recorded a disappointing 39.2mpg on a mixed test route.

My first thought was - this mpg is better than the TwinAir Fiat 500...

29 November 2010

[quote Matt Saunders]Point is, surely, that BMW 4x4s are better-handling on the road than most; that's the compromise Munich has always targetted. If you want a proper off-roader, buy a Land Cruiser[/quote]

Oh and yes - absolutely right. I drove an X1 a few weeks ago and for a tall thing it handled beautifully on the road - where most of us spend the majority of our time

29 November 2010

[quote Autocar]It’s BMW’s new X3[/quote] The X3 is finally worth the BMW badge by the looks of things, very good. Great MPG, looks pretty good inside & out and apparently drives like a BMW. Sounds pretty good to me

30 November 2010

[quote ej03][quote Autocar]It’s BMW’s new X3[/quote] The X3 is finally worth the BMW badge by the looks of things, very good. Great MPG, looks pretty good inside & out and apparently drives like a BMW. Sounds pretty good to me[/quote]


Well considering the majority of current BMW's are pig ugly or bland at best, dont drive as well the "the ultimate driving machine" should, and a quarter of the range doesnt really have a point, but have fantastic engines, I think you are right.

30 November 2010

Whilst I think it's a big improvement on the previous gen. That front bumper is still awful, the plastic on the rear bumper is nasty. I also think they may have used school dinner trays for the seat backings?? Also not a fan of the window line. To sum up then, still not a fan.

30 November 2010

Should make for a great family car in the "urban jungle"! However, I keep hearing horror stories about modern diesel cars with DPF (diesel particulate filter) regeneration problems when these (BMW or otherwise) are used exclusivily for town driving, to the extent that modern diesel cars (with fitted DPF) are not suited for use in exclusively urban conditions!

Does anyone know if this is still the case, or has the DPF failure to regenerate in low speed driving been solved?

30 November 2010

[quote Matt Saunders]On Pirelli winter tyres it certainly was great in slush and snow. I doubt the chassis would be hardy enough to cope with really rutted terrain, and the approach, departure and breakover angles probably aren't as high as some. It's more of a crossover than an old-school, upright 4x4, after all.[/quote]

Thanks for the prompt reply. I'm not an faux 4wd fan, but may need a vehicle for snow and gravel terrain, so useful to know.


30 November 2010

[quote ischiaragazzo]

Partly as a result of the cold, we suspect, it recorded a disappointing 39.2mpg on a mixed test route.

My first thought was - this mpg is better than the TwinAir Fiat 500

[/quote]

I thought the same. For a fairly large 4x4 with decent performance in what seems to be very cold weather, 39.2mpg seems pretty good.

30 November 2010

[quote Johnny English]Yes, but what is it actually like off-road[/quote]

Probably better than the mentioned rival Volvo XC60, which I believe is now just front wheel drive. Just how often do you think these things go any more off road than a leafy lane?

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