Road tests

New BMW iX3 2021 review

The all-electric BMW iX3 has arrived in the UK to rival the Mercedes EQC, Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-Pace

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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BMW has gone its own way with the iX3, shying away from the huge power and all-wheel-drive layout of many rivals. The result is overwhelmingly positive, with this pure-electric SUV feeling quicker and more agile than you might expect.  The cabin doesn’t have the wow factor of a Mercedes EQC or a Tesla, but as a practical, easy-to-live-with family SUV that feels instantly familiar the second you sit inside, it’s hard to argue against.

It's not a frequent occurence that we review a car that is out of date before you’ve even managed to read the words. However, with the BMW iX3, that is the case – or at least it is in part. 

You see, while the pure-electric iX3 is new, the petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid X3 on which it is based has been on sale for a few years now. Long enough, indeed, for BMW to treat its family SUV to a mid-life facelift. The iX3, which launched just before the maker announced these range-wide changes, missed out.

That has since been rectified, with the series-production M Sport and M Sport Pro models of the iX3 now benefiting from all the same visual tweaks as its combustion-engined siblings. This Premier Edition variant, available for only a limited time after launch, therefore looks a little different to the car you can actually order today. And with the Covid-19 pandemic limiting our access when it comes to sampling the car, this is our first opportunity to drive BMW’s mid-size all-electric SUV.

Fear not in many ways though, as all of the changes for the facelifted car are aesthetic; the M Sport model’s headlights are slightly slimmer, while the kidney grilles and air intakes have grown in size. Some of the blue details you’ll notice on our car have been removed, but otherwise, the iX3 is unchanged.

That means it gets the same 80kWh (74kWh usable) battery, and an identical 282bhp electric motor. Range for both the Premier Edition and M Sport models, stands at between 279-286 miles depending on specification and wheel choice.

BMW claims the iX3, unlike a number of its rivals, was designed to have an electric variant from the outset. That’s not the same as basing the car on a bespoke EV architecture, but it’s better than bodging one from a petrol platform. This, added to the fact the iX3 is rear rather than all-wheel drive, means it’s lighter than many of its rivals.

And you can feel it on the move. The iX3 is more agile than, say, the Mercedes EQC or the Volvo XC40 Recharge, and in true BMW fashion it feels more playful; thanks to the fact the battery is mounted along in floor, body control is good. The steering is well-weighted; not loaded with feedback, but it allows you to place the car with confidence.

The ride is pretty firm for a family SUV, though the excellent damping takes the edge off any rough surfaces or potholes. It is quiet though; perhaps not quite as hushed as an Audi e-tron, but a relaxing place to spend time.

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It’s quick. In fact, we’d argue it offers a far better blend of performance and efficiency than pretty much any of its competitors. With 282bhp, it’ll do 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds, and yet in our hands returned as much as 3.5mi/kWh. Never, in six months running an EQC on our long-term test fleet, did we ever see more than 3.0mi/kWh – even in the summer months where predicted range is generally better.

The result is a range that nudges 260 miles in normal driving – not far off the official figure of 279 miles on the WLTP cycle. That, we reckon, is helped by an effective regenerative braking system that allows you to do most of your driving using one pedal. It’s not as strong as the set-up in the ageing i3, but strong enough to make a discernible difference to the battery’s state of charge around town.

Charging the iX3 back up shouldn’t be an issue either – it’ll max out a 150kW ultra-rapid charger for a 10-80 per cent top-up in 27 minutes, while charging at home via a 7kW wallbox takes 12 hours from empty to full. Those with three-phase electrics can take advantage of the BMW’s faster 11kW on-board charger too.

While there have been a number of changes to the iX3 on the outside, the facelift doesn’t affect the cabin. If you’re after the wow factor of a Tesla or the sophistication of Merc’s dual-screen layout you’ll be disappointed. But for its failings in that regard the set-up feels comfortingly familiar, with intuitive menus and BMW’s brilliant iDrive controller on the centre console. We mustn’t dismiss the fact that the iX3 feels built to a standard that is worthy of this car’s price tag, either.

It’s the same story in the back, where the quality feel continues. Space is really very good considering this car’s combustion engine roots, with enough room for taller adults to get comfortable. The 510-litre boot, while 40 litres down on the diesel X3, is still a good shape. Folding the seats flat gives you 1,560 litres in total.

With the Premier Edition and Premier Edition Pro models now effectively defunct, buyers get a choice of M Sport and M Sport Pro trims. Prices start from £59,730, and every car comes with at least 19-inch wheels, a panoramic roof, heated leather seats, and a load of driver assistance tech.

Upgrading to the Pro trim costs £3,000 and brings luxuries like a head-up display, a Harman-Kardon stereo, parking assistance and auto high beam. Despite the fact these cars come with an exterior sound generator developed in conjunction with composer Hans Zimmer, we’d stick with the standard M Sport trim.

Model: BMW iX3 Premier Edition Pro
Price £61,850
Engine:  74kWh battery, 1x e-motor
Power/torque:  282bhp/400Nm
Transmission:  Single-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
0-62mph:  6.8 seconds
Top speed:  112mph
CO2: 0g/km
Range: 279 miles
Charging:  10-80% in 27 minutes (150kW)
On sale:  Now
Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the our team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

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