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BMW X3 sDrive20i 2018 review

Luxe for less - does the BMW X3 deliver?

You might also be interested in the Alfa Romeo Stelvio

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My family and I are heading overseas next week which is very exciting but there is so much to organise. This week I had to sort out all the children's things, finish all my work and get all of the shopping and cleaning and - oh fine - hair appointments done. It's a lot to organise!

I was in the BMW X3 sDrive20i for the week, which is the base level in petrol. It's a five-seater mid-size SUV in competition with the Mercedes GLA, Audi Q5 and Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Here's how it did over my super busy week where I spent a lot of time in the car picking things up.

You might also be interested in the Alfa Romeo Stelvio

image of Alfa Romeo Stelvio Compare to the BMW X3 Book A Test Drive Request A Brochure

How does it drive?

It's a sizeable car that doesn't feel sizeable at all. It's not what you'd call zippy, but it's certainly not heavy and nor is the steering wheel - in fact that's the most noticeable bit. When you turn the wheel, the car turns immediately so it's super responsive steering. It's quite smooth with no lurching or jerking, and it handles really nicely on the road. It also does what you ask it to, so if you need to pull out in traffic really quickly, it will, there's no hesitation.

When you turn the wheel, the car turns immediately so it's super responsive steering. When you turn the wheel, the car turns immediately so it's super responsive steering.

It has a 2.0-litre engine which is enough to get up hills and around town easily, but this spec is only a front-wheel drive, and I'm quite partial to all-wheel drives because I like the extra security of good traction on the road.

It's on the larger side of mid-size SUVs but it's still relatively easy to park, as long as you take the length of the car into consideration. There's a high-def reverse parking camera, but the 360-degree camera is a bit odd - it shows the car from above but doesn't show the surroundings, so you have to guess where the kerb/wall/pole is.

How spacious is it?

The interior space on the X3 is great. In the front there's plenty of leg and head space for my 185cm husband and I to fit. Even with the panoramic sunroof which extends all the way to the back seat and normally cuts into roof space, there is loads of headroom. The cabin is lovely and breezy and you don't feel compacted at all with the person next to you.

  • There's plenty of leg and head space in the front of the X3. There's plenty of leg and head space in the front of the X3.
  • The rear is no different - plenty of leg space for both children and adults. The rear is no different - plenty of leg space for both children and adults.
  • You can also fit a third child in the centre - you won't be struggling every time to do the seat belts up. You can also fit a third child in the centre - you won't be struggling every time to do the seat belts up.
  • Even with the panoramic sunroof, there is loads of headroom. Even with the panoramic sunroof, there is loads of headroom.
  • The boot is a good size and on par with the competition at 550 litres. The boot is a good size and on par with the competition at 550 litres.

In the rear my two children aged four and six had plenty of room - the seats are set quite far back into the car which gives a tonne of leg space. At 161cm, I had so much room between my knees and the seat in front, at least 20cm, so taller people will have no trouble fitting either. You can also fit a third child seat in the centre, with a fair bit more room in this car than in some competitors - you won't be struggling every time to do the seat belts up.

The boot is a good size and on par with the competition at 550 litres. Only the Jaguar F-Pace is bigger. This boot will fit a pram, groceries and most things a growing family needs. There's also a really good sized underfloor space in the boot with a handy compartment to fit the pull-out blind cover - I never know where to put that so this is a great inclusion.

What does it look like?

The X3 has a lovely exterior shape which is super luxurious. BMW has managed to nail a premium looking SUV shape which is no easy feat. The signature grille and curved lines aren't particularly sporty, but this BMW is saying upmarket rather than meet-me-at-the-race-track.

The inside looks stylish, but being the base model you can tell where pennies have been pinched. The dash is a touch harder than you might expect from a BMW. But everything else is pretty swish. There's a speedo display which is part digital, part hardware and it looks really cool, plus you get a head-up display on the windscreen to tell you how fast you're going and the speed limit.

  • The X3 has a lovely exterior shape which is super luxurious. The X3 has a lovely exterior shape which is super luxurious.
  • This is a sizeable car that doesn't feel sizeable at all. This is a sizeable car that doesn't feel sizeable at all.
  • BMW has managed to nail a premium looking SUV shape which is no easy feat. BMW has managed to nail a premium looking SUV shape which is no easy feat.
  • The signature grille and curved lines aren't particularly sporty, but this BMW says upmarket rather than meet-me-at-the-race-track. The signature grille and curved lines aren't particularly sporty, but this BMW says upmarket rather than meet-me-at-the-race-track.
  • The car comes in front-wheel drive only. The car comes in front-wheel drive only.
  • In this model you'll get partial leather seats which still feel comfortable and good to touch. In this model you'll get partial leather seats which still feel comfortable and good to touch.
  • There's a leather steering wheel but it doesn't have the fancy flat-bottomed shape you might find in competitors. There's a leather steering wheel but it doesn't have the fancy flat-bottomed shape you might find in competitors.

In this model you'll get partial leather seats which still feel comfortable and good to touch. There's a leather steering wheel but it doesn't have the fancy flat-bottomed shape you might find in competitors.

The centre console has a high gloss finish which looks beautiful, is clearly set out and easy to use, so it's functional as well. The high gloss finish extends to trims on the doors and it all makes for a wonderful driving experience.

How easy is it to use every day?

The car is not so huge that kids can't climb up. My two revel in being able to get into the car independently, so this is a good thing.

There are two cupholders in the front which are a good size, big enough to fit a one litre bottle or a large keep cup, and you'll find two in the back as well, plus a bottle holder in each door.

There's an average sized storage bin in the centre and a small spot to throw keys and a phone in the front.

The driver's seat is power operated and there is a memory setting so you can swap between preferences. The driver's seat is power operated and there is a memory setting so you can swap between preferences.

The boot opens and closes with a touch of a button on the key (beware, this is very easy to do).

I find this feature so handy for parents because you're often overloaded with bags and children hanging off arms, and scooters falling down backs. So joyful, these moments. Having a button you can press to automatically open and close the boot is fabulous.

Another handy feature is the triple-zone air con because I find I am always hot when the kids are cold and vice versa. This allows them to set their own temperature which doubles as a fun activity for them to own in the car.

The driver's seat is power operated and there is a memory setting so you can easily swap between your and your partner's personal preferences.

How good is the tech?

Contrary to most other companies, BMW has opted to make its own technology the hero, rather than install Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. You can still get them for an extra $623, but you might decide you don't need them as the BMW system is actually quite good.

The screen is high-def and helpfully, the sat nav is voice activated which means you can dictate an address and the route will come up, rather than having to clunkily type it out.

You'll find competitors in this price range (and much cheaper) have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, though.

There's a DAB radio and an excellent sound system that you can turn up quite loud without any distortion.

How safe is it?

The X3 comes with six airbags that cover driver and front passenger, and include side curtain airbags that extend to the back row. There are two ISOFIX points and three top tethers to fit children's car seats safely.

This new model X3 has not yet been ANCAP tested but it was awarded five stars in 2011. This new model X3 has not yet been ANCAP tested but it was awarded five stars in 2011.

You'll get blind spot monitoring, lane departure alerts, auto emergency braking, front and rear collision warnings in this model, but if you want active cruise control and cross traffic alerts you will have to go up a model. 

This new model X3 has not yet been ANCAP tested but it was awarded five stars in 2011.

How much is it to own?

The BMW X3 xDrive20i comes in at $66,900 before any extras. Fuel consumption in this petrol model is 7.4L/100km which is fairly average for a car in this category.

It's covered by BMW's three year/unlimited km warranty which is pretty basic these days.


The Wrap

On my super-frantic-organisational-nightmare week, the X3 came through. It was reliable, comfortable, luxurious and I felt confident hopping in and zooming all over Sydney. It was much more nimble than you'd expect of a car this size and the interior space was plenty for my family of four. Plus, I felt great driving it.

I gave it a family rating of eight out of 10, and my children gave it an 8.5 - I think they really enjoyed the extra space in the back seat.

Likes

Exterior design
Smooth drive
Interior space

Dislikes

No Apple CarPlay as standard
Front-wheel drive only

Scores

Nedahl:

4

The Kids:

4.3

$59,950 - $68,970

Based on third party pricing data

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