The third generation BMW X3 raises its game to take on the likes of the Jaguar F-Pace and Volvo XC60

The BMW X3 used to have things pretty much its own way, but in the decade and a half since the original launched the market has exploded with quality rivals. BMW knew the X3 had to respond effectively, and it has. The latest version brings new levels of refinement, ride quality and style, as well as a raft of new technologies that return the model to the ranks of the market leaders.

The latest X3 is practical and spacious too, although the lack of a seven-seat option will be a disappointment to some.  A new range of petrol engine options – and the promise of a plug-in hybrid to come – caters for drivers turning their backs on diesel

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BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport

The BMW X3 was one of the first compact premium SUVs out of the blocks, but the third generation X3 (which uses BMW's internal code of G01) has a tough fight on its hands. That's because it's on sale in a market that has changed beyond recognition from when the original model was launched in 2003.

In the intervening years, rivals have been introduced to challenge BMW's position in the premium SUV sector. Today, there's a real variety in the sector, with cars such as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Audi Q5, Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Lexus NX, Mercedes GLC, Porsche Macan, Range Rover Velar and Volvo XC60 all battling for sales. Thankfully, the latest X3, introduced at the end of 2017, has stepped up its game and is still a strong contender in the class.

The latest X3 gets a look that's an evolution of what's gone before, but under the skin it's all-new, with running gear borrowed from the BMW 5 Series. All versions come with xDrive four-wheel drive as standard, but there's no manual gearbox option – only six or eight-speed automatics are offered.

BMW X3 vs Volvo XC60 vs Jaguar F-Pace

The range comprises xDrive20i, xDrive20d, xDrive30d, M40i and M40d engines, with the numbers relating to engine size. That means the 20i and 20d models get a 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol and diesel respectively, while the 30d gets a 3.0-litre straight-six diesel. Just to confuse things, the M40 models also get 3.0-litre straight-sixes, but with larger power outputs.

There’s also a high-performance X3 M Competition model, powered by a tweaked version of BMW’s turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six that’s earmarked for other M models in the future; power sits at 503bhp. The X3 M Competition gets a suitably sporty makeover inside and out, with the obligatory unique alloy wheels, quad exhaust pipes and sports seats all added to the specification.

Strong performance from all engines, and handling that’s close to the best in class
The BMW X3 isn’t a budget option, but running costs should be as good as rivals
The sharpened up exterior wraps a more premium cabin, with no shortage of tech
A premium cabin and lots of space make the BMW X3 both luxurious and useful
Top notch NCAP results, but BMW makes you pay extra for some of the best tech

Prices for the X3 start from around £39,000, but that means all models bar the entry-level version cost £450 a year in road tax for the first five years. That base model is SE trim, but it's still pretty well equipped, with leather seats, three-zone climate control and a 6.5-inch display on the dashboard with sat-nav, a rear camera and iDrive control wheel all included on the standard kit list.

Moving up the range gets you xLine trim, which adds 19-inch wheels, smarter exterior trim and sports seats inside. M Sport models come with a subtly sporty bodykit and more body coloured trim, a sportier cabin with a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen added. At the top of the range, the M40i is considered a standalone model, and comes with a 355bhp twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six. The range-topping X3 M Competition, meanwhile, starts at around £77,000.

Overall the X3 is still a strong contender in the compact premium SUV class, thanks to its efficient yet powerful engines, spacious interior and involving driving experience.

Last updated: 
16 Jul, 2019