Review: BMW X3 (2010 – 2018)
Twin-scroll turbocharging gives strong performance, economy and low emissions. Bigger and much better than previous X3. Good quality cabin and comfortable ride.
Rear legroom is tight behind tall driver. Runs out of off-road ability in more challenging conditions.
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BMW X3 (2010 – 2018): At A Glance
It may not be BMW's most handsome design - especially when viewed alongside newer competition like the Mercedes-Benz GLC - but the X3 remains one of the best all-round SUVs. Comfortable, affordable to run and with a solid interior, it makes an ideal family car that's great at covering long distances.
The X3 is more than merely a motorway cruiser though. While it may be an SUV, it handles as well as any BMW saloon with impressive cornering performance and lots of grip. The steering is nicely weighted too. As a result it's just as handy on twisty B-roads as on dual-carriageways.
While it's been on sale since 2010, the X3 was significantly revised in 2014. It may not look that different but all models now have an electric tailgate and a revamped cabin. But most importantly, the 18d and 20d models get a new all-aluminium 2.0-litre diesel engine with more power and better fuel economy.
The manual-only sDrive18d shuns all-wheel drive in favour of rear-wheel drive, but this is good news for economy with a claimed figure of more than 55mpg. The xDrive 20d with 190PS is our preferred choice though - especially as it comes with the option of an eight-speed automatic. Yet it's still economical with Real MPG users seeing close to 40mpg.
The 2014 facelift also brought improvements to the interior with a less plastic-heavy and more sophisticated look. But as before it's still spacious and feels durable. The boot has a minimal load lip so getting heavy shopping or bulky pushchairs in and out is made a little easier.
While the X3 now has far more competition than when the first generation model pitched up, BMW’s mid-size SUV remains one of the most appealing. It’s spacious, comfortable and sure-footed on the road, while its engine keep running costs at a sensible level.
What does a BMW X3 (2010 – 2018) cost?
Buy a used BMW X3 from £18,990
BMW X3 (2010 – 2018): What's It Like Inside?
The X3 feels like a quality SUV inside and has a focus on making sure the driver can see all of the major instruments clearly at a glance.
The original design was a bit plastic heavy and utilitarian but the 2014 facelift brought with it a much more upmarket look with redesigned ventilation controls while M Sport models get a different design (and more modern looking) steering wheel. It now looks much more like the cabin of a premium SUV at this price tag.
Further enhancing the ease of use of the controls is BMW’s iDrive rotary control that is one of the most intuitive and easy to follow systems of its kind. Using a series of menus on the dash display, it’s easy to find your way to the information you want and need. In spring 2013 it was upgraded with 3D graphics and new menu layouts.
Every X3 comes with satellite navigation as standard. The smaller dash display is adequate for this, but the larger Professional Media Pack brings an 8.8-inch screen that is easier to read. It also allows you to link your smartphone to the car to access emails, music and apps.
The rest of the centre console has buttons for the stereo and ventilation grouped with usual BMW logic and there are buttons on the steering wheel for hands-free operation of the stereo.
As you’d expect of an SUV, the X3’s driving position is raised above most hatchbacks. You don’t need climbing apparatus to get into the X3, though, so it strikes the right blend of ease of use with that SUV feel buyers enjoy.
From the driver’s seat, all-round vision is good and there’s a wealth of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel to attain the ideal driving position. Taller drivers will have no trouble getting comfy, but anyone sitting behind a loftier front occupant may find rear legroom is compromised. Also in the back seat, the wide transmission tunnel means a fifth passenger experiences a much less accommodating time in the X3.
Behind the 60/40 split and fold rear seats lies a generous boot space that offers 550 litres of capacity with the seats up. Tip the rear seats forward and you have 1600 litres of space to play with.
An optional storage package provides cargo nets, reversible waterproof lining and floor fixings to keep luggage in place. You can also specify contactless boot opening that opens the tailgate when you wave a foot under the rear bumper.
BMW offers three main trims for the X3, comprising SE, xLine and M Sport. The SE comes with climate control, electric windows, cruise control, leather upholstery, six airbags, front and rear parking sensors, and digital radio. In the xLine, you get half-cloth, half-leather upholstery with contrasting stitching, glossy trim inserts and stainless steel load sill trims. As well as the sport suspension, M Sport versions of the X3 gain sports seats, an M steering wheel and trademark anthracite headlining.
Standard equipment from launch:
SE models have Nevada leather upholstery, two-zone air conditioning, Cruise control, DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear PDC, Drive Performance Control, Rain sensor and automatic headlights. In 2014 this was added to with BMW Business navigation system, heated front seats and an automatic tailgate.
SE Plus package adds Harman-kardon loudspeakers, Sun protection glass, Adaptive Headlights, High-beam Assistant and a one-inch increase in alloy wheel size for an additional £2850.
xLine models can be identified by gleaming metallic inserts in the bumpers, Satin Aluminium side cladding and bars in the air intakes, simulated underguards at the front and rear and exclusive 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside, xLines feature leather upholstery, Dark Copper trim and a Sport leather steering wheel. xLine variants command a £1500 price premium over SE models.
M Sport models feature M aerodynamic styling and BMW Individual High-gloss Shadowline exterior trim, along with upgraded 18-inch light alloy wheels (19-inch from 2014). Inside, there’s a BMW Individual rooflining in Anthracite, Sport seats, M Sport leather steering wheel and Aluminium Hexagon trim, technical highlights include Performance Control and M Sport suspension. M Sport models carry a further £1500 price premium over the xLine variants.
M Sport Plus adds a new 20-inch M Sport bi-colour alloy wheel, Xenon headlights, Sun protection glass and Harman-kardon loudspeakers for £2920.
Child seats that fit a BMW X3 (2010 – 2018)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the BMW X3 (2010 – 2018) like to drive?
- Engines range from xDrive 18d to xDrive35d Automatic (2014)
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 27–52 mpg
It may have the looks and all-wheel drive in most versions, but the BMW X3 is a decidedly on-road SUV. Where its four-wheel drive comes into play is keeping this machine on the move when wintry conditions set in.
Even the sDrive18d with cold weather tyres is a very capable car, while the extra ground clearance of the X3 compared to a 3 Series Touring means you can drive on snow-bound roads in the knowledge the car won't get bogged down in ice and slush.
These are the most challenging conditions the X3 will cope with - it's not a match for cars like the Land Rover Discovery Sport when it comes to proper off-road terrain. What the X3 does offer is a more athletic drive on the sort of roads you use every day.
In town, the X3’s suspension is firmer than some of the competition, particularly if you opt for the M Sport trim with its stiffer suspension. There is also the option of larger 20-inch alloy wheels as part of the M Sport Plus pack, but neither this nor the M Sport suspension hamper the excellent ride quality of the X3. Even so, on standard suspension, 17-inch wheels and 225/60 R17 tyres, the X3 delivers a very supple ride.
On more flowing roads, the X3 has a chance to show off its other driving party trick. In corners, it feels every inch the sporting BMW the badge suggests, helped by steering with a direct and fluent feel. There’s just the right amount of give in the suspension to let the driver know how hard he is pressing through a corner, but it’s never so much tilt as to upset the harmony of passengers.
Further enforcing the sense of well-being inside the X3 is its splendid refinement. You might hear a little diesel growl when the engines are first started from cold or extended to their red line when fully warmed up. Otherwise, they are hushed and happy to pull hard from low revs.
The smaller diesels prove the most popular choices in the X3 with the 18d and 20d blending decent performance and good economy. The 2.0-litre diesel engine that powers both was replaced in early 2014 when the X3 was facelifted. This all aluminium engine is quieter and offers more power too.
The sDrive18d does a good job of hiding its relatively modest 150PS (previously 143PS) power output and covers 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox.
However, it’s the xDrive20d that is by the best all-rounder in the X3 line-up. A slick six-speed manual gearbox will appeal to the sportiest drivers, but the eight-speed automatic is the one to have for its smooth shifts and excellent refinement that adds to the appeal of driving the X3. With 190PS it has plenty of power and cruises effortless on the motorway, yet claimed economy is more than 52mpg with Real MPG users seeing around 42mpg.
If you want a six-cylinder X3 there's the 30d or the top of the range and effortlessly rapid 35d. Both are smooth yet strong with the latter giving you a hefty 630Nm of torque which means strong acceleration from low down.
In fact it manages 0-62mph in just 5.3 seconds but it's the in-gear acceleration which really impresses, especially handy when joining a fast dual carriageway from a short slip road. Economy is reasonable too with Real MPG showing around 35mpg.
|sDrive 18d (2014)||57 mpg||9.5 s||131 g/km|
|sDrive 18d Automatic (2014)||55 mpg||9.8–9.9 s||133 g/km|
|xDrive 18d||55 mpg||9.9 s||135 g/km|
|xDrive 18d Automatic||52 mpg||10.3 s||142 g/km|
|xDrive 20d||50 mpg||8.5 s||149 g/km|
|xDrive 20d (2014)||52 mpg||8.1 s||142 g/km|
|xDrive 20d Automatic||42–50 mpg||8.5–9.2 s||147–178 g/km|
|xDrive 20d Automatic (2014)||54 mpg||8.1 s||136 g/km|
|xDrive 30d Automatic||37–47 mpg||6.2–7.7 s||159–206 g/km|
|xDrive 30d Automatic (2014)||48 mpg||5.9 s||156–159 g/km|
|xDrive 35d||46 mpg||5.8 s||162 g/km|
|xDrive35d Automatic (2014)||47 mpg||5.3 s||157 g/km|
Real MPG average for a BMW X3 (2010 – 2018)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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