The X3 is coming of age! BMW’s all-new compact SUV is bigger and more powerful than the previous model. But it’s also lighter, cheaper and the most efficient car in its class.
A stylish but less controversial design language is taking shape at BMW and the X3 is cut from the same cloth. Sharp edges and acute angles have been replaced by sculpted contours in the bonnet and doors. While the last car’s proportions looked awkward, the new X3 is more elegant.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the BMW X3
On the inside, build quality is flawless, but the real surprise is the space on offer. A maximum load capacity of 1,600 litres is top of the class while the X3 weighs 25kg less than the model it replaces.
A head-up display projects stats about the car’s speed and sat-nav directions into the driver’s line of sight, while radar-based cruise control applies the brakes or throttle automatically to maintain a set distance to the vehicle in front. Plus, the ConnectedDrive system provides Internet access on the move.
Only one engine is available at launch for the diesel-loving UK market. But the xDrive 20d is a cracker. It has four per cent more power and consumes 15 per cent less fuel than the outgoing 20d. The power delivery is surprisingly linear for a diesel, while refinement is impressive at motorway speeds.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, but it disappointed us with its rubbery feel and lack of precision. Fortunately, buyers can specify a superb optional eight-speed auto, which comes with a stop-start system – a first in this segment.
And on the move the emphasis is on comfort – the car rides beautifully, rounding off any imperfections in the road. Three modes – Normal, Sport and Sport+ – offer a variety of settings for the throttle response, power-steering weight, stability control, gearshifts and damper responses, so the car is a capable cruiser and fun on country lanes, too.
BMW is keeping it simple for UK customers, offering only one spec at launch, alongside the single engine – although there’s plenty of kit as standard, such as leather trim and dual-zone air-con. The price is £115 cheaper than for the equivalent previous-generation car, but with costly options such as a panoramic sunroof, head-up display and sat-nav, the bill soon rises.
Rival: Audi Q5
The Q5 is everything we have come to expect from Audi: smartly styled, brilliantly built, well equipped and good to drive. The thorn in its side, though, is the company’s own A4 Avant, which is about as practical and costs much less to buy.
* Price: £30,490
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
* Power/torque: 181bhp/380Nm
* 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
* Top speed: 131mph
* Econ/CO2: 50.4mpg/149g/km
* Equipment: Leather upholstery, air-con, iDrive , cruise control, stop-start, adaptive dampers
* On sale: 18 November