New BMW iX3 2020 review
The new all-electric BMW iX3 has arrived to rival the Mercedes EQC, Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-Pace
Despite the fact it’s based on a petrol platform, the all-electric BMW iX3 does a convincing job of pitching itself as a fantastic family car. It’s perhaps a little stiff – likely to compensate for the added weight – but it drives well, charges quickly, comes loaded with kit, and even undercuts the competition on price. We’d like a bit more flair for the cabin, but for those wanting their EV to keep its credentials quiet, the BMW nails its brief.
It seems electric car buyers fall into one of two groups – they either want to shout about their eco credentials, or blend into the background. BMW, once a pioneer of radical-looking EVs like the i3, reckons its customers’ tastes are changing; the iX3, on the face of things, is little more than a reskinned version of its big-selling mid-size SUV.
Based on the same platform as the petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid X3, the iX3 therefore has more in common with models like the Mercedes EQC and Audi e-tron than it does the bespoke and electric-specific Jaguar I-Pace. But unlike its rivals, the BMW is rear, rather than all-wheel drive. The driver’s choice, perhaps?
It’s difficult to label a near-2.3-tonne electric SUV as fun to drive, but the iX3 comes close. It feels very much like a BMW should; the ride is on the firm side but the trade-off is excellent body control for a car of this type. Performance, despite being down on power compared with its main competitors, is plentiful.
There’s perhaps a little less front-end bite, but on the whole, grip is good – even on a cold, winter’s morning on damp British B-roads. The iX3 has no issues deploying its full 282bhp, even from a standstill, while the car’s systems keep things in check through faster changes of direction.
Refinement is excellent, too. You’ll not hear a peep from the motor at lower speeds, and motorway driving is pleasant enough thanks to the car’s excellent insulation. That stiff suspension is more of a problem around town; it’s supple enough to deal with lumps and bumps at 60-70mph, ironing out ruts, ridges and other imperfections.
BMW says the iX3 will do as many as 279 miles on a charge, which puts it ahead of the Mercedes and Audi – but slightly behind the Jaguar – in this regard. And yet in terms of true efficiency, it appears to beat all three; we managed 2.6 to 2.7mi/kWh on our drive, in spite of the rancid weather and the brisk nature of our test route. In our experience, the heavier EQC and e-tron both return between 2.0 and 2.2mi/kWh in normal driving.
The iX3 matches all of its rivals when it comes to charging, too. The BMW can charge at up to 150kW; find an appropriate public point and you can top up the batteries from zero to 80 per cent in just 34 minutes, while a home charge on a 7kW wallbox should take less than 12 hours. Being pure electric means it escapes any annual road tax levy, and falls into the lowest company car tax band, too.
As we alluded to earlier, the iX3 is instantly recognisable as one of BMW’s range mainstays – albeit with some subtle details and unique aerodynamic alloy wheels. It’s the same story inside, where you’ll find little more than a few flashes of blue, plus an iX3 badge on the centre console.
Those taken by Tesla’s single screen set-up, or the double displays found on Merc’s EQC, may find the BMW’s dashboard a little bland. It’s ostensibly the same set-up we’ve seen in everything from the 1 Series to the X7 for over a decade – so while the iX3 feels exceptionally crafted, the design is starting to show its age.
But while the BMW may lack a little flair, it’s on the money when it comes to equipment and in-car kit. There are just two launch models to begin with, with first deliveries due in July 2021. Cheaper variants are due later in the year.
Premier Edition models cost £58,850 and get those 20-inch aero wheels, plus an automatic tailgate, adaptive suspension and panoramic sunroof. On top of this, buyers also benefit from wireless phone charging and heated seats trimmed in Vernasca leather, plus the brand’s Driving Assistant Professional pack with semi-autonomous drive functions.
Above this sits the Premier Edition Pro, which is closest to the German-spec test car we sampled. For an extra £3,000 you get a head-up display, a Harman Kardon stereo, gesture control for the infotainment, plus features like self-parking and automatic high-beam headlights. Given the standard Premier Edition is so well-equipped, we wouldn’t bother paying the extra.
No matter which version you go for, though, the iX3 remains a pleasingly practical family SUV. There’s a small compromise to make when it comes to boot space, but at 510 litres is marginally bigger than the EQC and I-Pace’s, plus with a space under the floor you can tuck the BMW’s charge cables out of sight. The back seats are roomy enough for adults, with plenty of space to stretch out.
|Model:||BMW iX Premier Edition Pro|
|Transmission:||Single-speed auto, rear-wheel drive|