REVIEW: BMW X3 adds to 'growing snowball' of great SUVs

The role of an SUV has changed quite a bit over the last decade or so. These lumbering vehicles used to be hardcore off-road machines; unapologetic in their mission to be robust and meaningful. 

The role of an SUV has changed dramatically as they now need to cater to an entirely different market and might never see the great outdoors. 

Think of it as a snowball: rolling down a mountain, growing bigger and gaining momentum. Only, in this case, smart automakers won’t be demolishing anything in their path but rather absorb challenges in their path. 

The BMW X3 has been around for quite some time and in late 2017 and in 2018 the automaker launched the newest version of its popular SUV on local soil.

Featuring more technology, improved on-road dynamics, and a striking design, this BMW is a good example of the type of SUVs that's capable of catering to many different buyers. 

In your face 

The first acquaintance anyone will make with the X3 is its design. Though it may appear huge, the SUV does well to mask its true size. It’s just over 4.7 meters long, 1.6m high, and boasts a ground clearance of 204mm. That’s true SUV diameters, and even the weight of 1.8 tons does not make its presence felt. But this X3 looks properly good in its silver paintwork and topped off by huge 21-inch wheels, it has a menacing presence. 

bmw x3

                                                            Image: Wheels24 / Janine Van der Post

A quick glance will have you mistaking this SUV for its bigger brother, the X5. It's a testament to BMW of how well they've transformed it. The X3s design continues to resemble BMW’s family of SUVs and though the vehicle has been altered, the design still says ‘This is a BMW SUV’. But it really does look like a mini-X5, hey.

What a drive! 

At the start of the test period, the X3 immediately impressed with its compliant ride quality. It’s not always that a vehicle manages to impress from the get-go but this X3 did. BMW's has focused its technical prowess towards the SUV’s sturdiness at low speeds and its ability to absorb bumps. 

Steering-feel at low speeds is nice and weighty but not to the point where the car is a drag to turn - even with a turning circle of 12m! But it’s on the open road that this car really comes into its own; a literal devourer of kilometres and a master cruiser while using as little fuel as possible. One can be forgiven for thinking that the inline six-cylinder 3.0-litre diesel engine will run your budget into the ground but it’s anything but a fuel-guzzler. 

The 195kW/620Nm turbocharged engine is not afraid to unleash its full power when called upo, but most of the time there is rarely any need to exploit everything. At speeds, there is no hints of body roll and is the X3 assertive of what it wants to do. 

Three driving modes (Sport, Comfort, Eco) alter the responsiveness of the throttle, steering, gear changes, and chassis. And unless you are really pressed for time Eco and Comfort strike a very good balance in terms of driving a pleasure. 

bmw x3

                                                         Image: Wheels24 / Janine Van der Post

Jogging along at national speeds, the eight-speed automatic gearbox will assist in bringing fuel consumption down to around the 7.0-liter/100km mark, which is really great considering the size of this vehicle. Plus, it has an all-wheel-drive system to contend with! BMW claims that this X3 will average 6.2-litres/100km but that figure 7.0-litres is a win in my books. 

It’s not every day that a 3.0-litre engine will return those numbers. That snowball… but the X3 has fallen victim to the snowball. It moved away from something you can use to tackle gravel and sandy terrain with and is it much more comfortable in the city. 

The tyres on some models, like this test unit, have very low profiles. And even when you drive sedately and cautiously, you are taking a risk off the beaten track. Be that as it may, the X3 is a pavement hopper rather than a gravel-road conqueror.

It’s a bold statement of having ‘made it’ in life. It speaks to a new buyer, a new audience, that finds themselves far away from the outdoors - the original terrain SUVs were made to traverse. The X3, like many other vehicles in this market category, have all of the best qualities of a sedan but without the limitation of space. It’s huge, can seat five and their luggage, has raised ride-height to crawl over a cobblestone, and with enough technology and features, you’d ever need.

But this X3 is perhaps the finest example of a pavement hopper. It may be pricey with a base price of almost R940 000, but it executes its purpose quite well. Even if you never find yourself in the SUVs original terrain, just driving around the city will be gratifying.

bmw x3

                                                          Image: Wheels24 / Janine Van der Post

Wheels24's Janine Van der Post says: "Current BMW models are difficult to fault and the X3 is no different. I come packed with driver assistant programmes and all the bells and whistles you could imagine, even in base-model form.

"The X3 is also one of those cars you think of when you're listing proper SUVs, or cars urban moms drive around in for a shopping trip or the daily school run. But it's really worth its weight in gold.

"You can choose a driving mode to suit the occasion whether it's comfort, sport or eco - I prefer the latter. It's amazing that a car of this stature can deliver fuel consumption figures of under 7.0-litres/100km. However, that's almost to be expected from a 3.0-litre diesel model from the BMW stable. 

"I enjoy the edgier styling of the X3 too and how the automaker has taken on a uniformed even with its cabins. The distinctive kidney grille design flows inside too in the design of the air vents and even the interior lights. Subtle touches that just enhances everything else in the vehicle too.

"Any extra goods will cost you more out of your pocket, and maintenance to any BMW is never an easy pill to swallow, but with that said and weighing up reliability, and fuel consumption still makes it one of the best options in the market."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Brought to you by
Voting Booth
Do you think Mercedes will return to form later in the 2022 F1 season after two poor races?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, don't discredit them.
33% - 608 votes
Who cares, F1 is exciting again!
44% - 807 votes
No, it's Ferrari's turn to dominate again.
23% - 425 votes