BMW X3 (2010 – 2018) Review

BMW X3 (2010 – 2018) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
Although it may seem a cliche to assume all BMWs are fun to drive and handle well, the X3 does continue that trend. The way this big SUV can tackle corners is genuinely impressive.

+Handling is impressive for an SUV, large boot capacity and lots of rear-seat space, top engine choices deliver serious performance.

-Engine range only consists of diesels, off-road ability is limited, interior of pre-2014 models looks cheap.

Insurance Groups are between 23–43
On average it achieves 81% of the official MPG figure

Sold between 2010 and 2017, the second-generation BMW X3 brought more space and a focus on on-road handling to this popular SUV. You’ll find xDrive four-wheel-drive versions are still able to head into the woods, but some rivals manage to go further. Given how well the X3 handles on tarmac, though, it would almost be a shame to get it dirty. Engine choices are diesel only, but range from frugal through to a fearsome twin-turbocharged model. Standard equipment is plentiful, with X3s made after the post-2014 facelift having the classiest interior. It all makes for a premium SUV that handles family life with ease.

The original BMW X3 felt a little bit rough and ready, with a cramped interior and compromised manners on the road. Lessons were clearly learnt by the German brand, however, as the second-generation X3, launched in 2010, fixed many of the complaints about the previous version.

In short, BMW fixed the lack of interior space, addressed the on-road dynamics and took steps to improve the quality of the interior. The result was a practical and desirable SUV that manages to deliver a rare degree of fun.

The X3 outshines the rival Audi Q5, and gives the sportier Porsche Macan real competition for being the ultimate driving machine. This is aided by light but accurate steering, with the big wheels generating plenty of grip.

Such ability comes with a downside. To make a large SUV drive like a sportier saloon, BMW fitted the X3 with stiffer suspension. It results in a harder ride than you might imagine, so abandon any ideas of cruising on pillow-like comfort.

The SE and xLine versions are not as badly affected, but still feel taut, whereas the M Sport is on another level. It has bespoke suspension settings that can be very firm with optional bigger wheels. Tellingly, BMW did offer an option to delete the M Sport suspension on these cars. 

Viewed through modern eyes, BMW’s decision to sell the X3 with diesel-only engine options might seem a little strange. Yet it was what the market demanded for a premium SUV back in 2010, and they do suit the nature of the X3 well. Choices range from four-cylinder units through to a truly impressive twin-turbocharged straight-six with 313PS. The latter offers a fantastic blend of performance and economy. 

Not all X3 models come with BMW’s xDrive four-wheel-drive system. In 2012, the sDrive version was launched, featuring a rear-wheel-drive layout aimed at road use only. X3s equipped with four-wheel drive can venture further than you might think on muddy tracks, but try not to get carried away. 

The 2014 facelift brought a major improvement in the level of the X3’s interior quality. With sturdier trim and more technology inside, they are more desirable than the earlier cars. Features such as satellite navigation and heating elements for the leather-clad front seats became standard equipment. 

Regardless of age, the X3 offers enough space to comfortably seat four adults, although adding a fifth to the centre rear seat can be a squeeze. The boot is generous, with 550 litres of luggage capacity making it bigger than rivals like the Porsche Macan. 

Having atoned for the errors of the original, there is plenty to recommend about the second-generation BMW X3. Post-2014 models in particular deliver on the expectations of a premium SUV, with a classy interior and ability both on and off the road. 

Ask Honest John

We aren't using our diesel car enough during lockdown. Can we do anything to prolong the time before problems start?
"We have a BMW X3 diesel, which we have had for five years. It's a 2012 model with 65,000 miles on the clock. Understandably, we have only done 3000 miles this year, mostly short trips and are quite obviously not using it enough. Are there measures we can take to prolong the time before serious problems occur? The car is pristine and we really don't want to sell until hybrids or electric cars come into our price range."
Take it for a good motorway run (with 20-30 minutes of prolonged high revs) every few hundred miles (every time you fill up with fuel, for example). Using a treatment like Redex DPF cleaner is probably a good idea, too. If your car's DPF warning light illuminates, the filter is blocked and will require attention from a mechanic.
Answered by Andrew Brady
What are the best medium-sized SUVs with 1800kg towing capability?
"Could you please advise me which are the best three medium SUV tow cars with 1800kg capability? I currently tow with a Kia Sorento, which is marvellous but is now too high off the ground for easy access by my wife who has developed mobility difficulties. I should be looking to buy secondhand with a budget of around £22,000. Many thanks."
We'd recommend a Skoda Kodiaq. It's a very capable tow car with all models capable of lugging up to 1800kg. Also consider another Kia Sorento or a premium alternative like the BMW X3.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Would a non-manufacturer tow bar invalidate my warranty?
"I want to fit a tow bar to my 2016 BMW X3. I can get one fitted by an independent garage for about £650 or from BMW for close to £3000. There seems to be no difference between them other than the fact that it sounds like my BMW warranty might become invalidated unless I choose to use them. Is there any other solution other than to shell out an extra £2350? I’d rather buy a 20-year-old Shogun for the same price than a tow bar from BMW! "
The key thing to remember when buying a tow bar for your car is it needs to be ‘type approved’. This means it must meet the relevant regulations and be designed for your car. Type-approved tow bars have a label with an approval number and details of the vehicles it’s approved for. Without seeing the two bar from the independent garage I cannot say if it's designed for your car or not. But it's important to check this before proceeding as a non-approved tow bar may damage the vehicle. Likewise, the BMW dealer may install additional gearbox fluid cooling that will benefit your car when towing heavy loads, while the independent garage may not.
Answered by Dan Powell
I bought a falsely advertised ULEZ-compliant car. What can I do?
"I bought a 2012 BMW X3 diesel advertised as ULEZ-compliant. I discussed the necessity for Euro6 with the salesman in the initial telephone conversation and was assured that the car is Euro6 so is ULEZ charge exempt. After buying the car, I became aware of the TfL ULEZ status checker and searched for the registration number, only to find that the car was not ULEZ charge exempt. I then requested a Certificate of Conformity from BMW to either correct the TfL record or to prove the car had been falsely advertised. The Certificate of Conformity confirms the car to be emissions category 5J, and therefore not ULEZ exempt. I raised the issue with the dealer who refuses to respond to the complaint. As always I have saved copies of the advertisements. What recourse do I have?"
A clear cut case of a car being mis-sold. The car is clearly not as described. This falls under misrepresentation, as a result, you are entitled to a full refund. For your legal rights, see:
Answered by Dan Powell
More Questions

What does a BMW X3 (2010 – 2018) cost?