REVIEW | BMW's new X3 xDrive20d is impressive, but it's getting on the X-pensive side

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  • Our press-test 2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport had everything we'd want in a SUV.
  • But, with an asking price of over R1.1 million, it's getting a bit pricey.
  • It can be very economical if you plan to do long distances often.
  • For motoring news, go to Wheels24

BMW South Africa launched the locally-built facelifted version of the X3 Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) in the country late last year. We already had a chance to assess the sensational M40i version of the latest X3, which proved to strike an excellent balance between performance, presence, and price.

This time, we're taking the mid-spec diesel (xDrive20d M Sport) for a twirl.

Coming in at R1 037 176 in standard trim, the 2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport is certainly not cheap. In fact, our press car boasted a window sticker price of R1 135 676 as it had R98 500 worth of optional equipment and features fitted to it. Considering it's well-appointed, to begin with, you don't have to spend as much on options.

2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport
2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport

What made our test car special

The BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport comes with plenty of standard features, most of what you'd expect at this price point, such as sports seats for the driver and front passenger, ambient lighting, electrically operated windows and mirrors, automatic climate control and cruise control, LED headlights, high beam assist, and driving modes including Sport and Eco Pro.

READ: OPINION | The BMW X3 M40i might be the best SUV for executives looking to downsize

Our car had 20-inch optional wheels fitted to it, giving it a nice sporty look and stance and gearshift paddles on the steering wheels for those moments when more precise control of gear selection is required. It also had an optional tyre pressure monitoring system (although this should be a standard feature in this model, we think), and it also had comfort access which made it easier to open and close the doors as you don't have to press the lock or unlock buttons on the key, just tug on the handles as you require.

2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport
2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport

The Driving Assist system with Reverse Assist is one of the coolest optional features we thought was gimmicky when it was first introduced in the 3 Series. This feature "records" up to 50m of your driving input in terms of your steering angle, speed, and direction. You simply drive forward and park at low speeds in parking lots and tight curvy driveways. Then when you're leaving, you put the X3 into reverse gear, tap the reversing assistant function on the main screen and let the car guide itself out of the parking bay or back down the driveway.

READ: DRIVEN | Locally-built BMW X3 gets subtle but comprehensive updates on new model

You have to maintain braking control and pay careful attention as it's not fully autonomous and can get caught out sometimes, but it's convenient as the X3 is not a tiny car, and it can be a challenge to manoeuvre if you're still getting used to driving a family SUV.

2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport
2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport

More than enough space and practicality

BMW's X5 might have pioneered this segment along with the Mercedes-Benz ML (now GLE) back in the 1990s, but those cars are a lot more expensive these days, and they've swelled in size too. We like the X3 for its proportions as it looks large but not ungainly from the outside and it's well packaged on the inside with a spacious cabin and versatile folding rear seats.

The sporty seats are a bit on the firm side compared to some of the competitors in this class, but they offer reasonable adjustment and support so drivers of all shapes and sizes can easily find a comfy position behind the steering wheel. Our test car had manually operated seats, which is fine, I guess, but at this price point, and it being the M Sport model, electrically operated seats were expected.

READ: REVIEW | Hyundai i20 or Hyundai Kona: finding the sweet spot for the family car

In terms of size, the X3 measures 4 708mm in length, it's 2 138mm wide - including the mirrors - and it stands 1 676mm tall. Ground clearance on our car was a respectable 204mm, and while we didn't take it on any challenging off-road trails, it performed exquisitely on dirt roads that were somewhat choppy after recent heavy rains around Johannesburg.

If you're a family of four or five (with small kids), you won't have any issues using this vehicle as a daily driver or as a grand holiday tourer. A large boot, 550 litres expandable to 1600 litres, also gives you plenty of versatility if you want to move the odd mountain bike or two.

2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport
2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport

Built for moms and dads who love to drive

If you enjoy feeling a bit of the road through the base of the seat and you like communicative steering that's sharp and accurate, with handling dynamics that are on par with sporty saloons and hatchbacks, the BMW X3 is one of the best buys in this segment. Our M Sport model drove with such incredible energy: there was this sense that it was rear-wheel drive all the time, but there was a "planted feeling" from the xDrive system that gave the confidence that it was glued to the road.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine (140kW and 400Nm) fitted to the machine proved powerful enough to move the big body without feeling lethargic. The eight-speed automatic gearbox also shone, quickly working its way into the appropriate cog for every situation.

READ: REVIEW | The T-Cross 1.0 TSI Comfortline proves Volkswagen builds some of the best compact SUVs

During the three-day test drive, the driving mode was in Comfort for the most part, with the onboard computer claiming a fuel return of 9.5-litres/100km. That's almost twice as much as what BMW claims it will use. However, most of my driving was in the rain, crawling in Johannesburg traffic with the demister on full tilt mode. Our best return was 6.0-litres/100km in eight gear in Eco Pro mode on the highway loop.

Around town, the X3 xDrive20d's frugal traits won't shine through, but if you take to the open road often, you'll appreciate the potential fuel economy on offer.

2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport
2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport

Is it worth considering for your garage?

Absolutely. The 2022 BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport is a fantastic car that drives like it's from a bigger class of vehicle segment thanks to sharpened dynamics and premium luxury and safety features. We loved the confidence it inspired behind the steering, thanks to that sure-footedness of the xDrive system in wet conditions. The engine's quiet, there's little road noise (considering ours rode on 20-inches) and minimal wind noise, and thanks to class-leading connectivity features and multimedia systems, it ticks all the right boxes as a premium family vehicle.

READ: 4 Reasons why the 2021 Honda Fit Hybrid is an exceptional family vehicle to consider

My only reservation about the latest BMW X3 is the rising cost of the model. As mentioned, this test vehicle came in at nearly R1.2 million, and that's a heck of a lot of cash for a mid-ranger vehicle in the mid-size SUV segment. Sure, it's feature-rich, and it's built to last with premium materials, and it comes with a decent five-year Motorplan, but at this price, I'll consider an EV.

Already, you can buy an all-electric Volvo XC40 (around 400km range per charge) for about R1.2 million. Seriously, if your X3 will spend most of its life in the city as an A to B (albeit a fancy one) for work and to cart the kids around, maybe the time has come to consider an EV. Chances are this won't be the only car in your family garage, so while I can highly recommend this X3 xDrive20d M Sport, why not wait for an iX3 if you must have this shape in your life, or, better yet, why not consider saving up a bit more deposit and go for the iX xDrive40 that's listed for R1 650 000 instead.

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