What Car? says...
The BMW iX3 electric SUV marked a change of direction for the German brand – at least when it came to building cars that run on batteries.
What do we mean by that? Well, when the iX3 first showed up, BMW’s only previous EV (electric vehicle) was the much smaller i3 hatchback, which was built from the ground up to run on electricity.
The i3 had oddball looks, a lightweight carbon-fibre construction and fancy rear-hinged back doors. At the time it seemed like the future had come early – in fact, too early for most car buyers, as EVs didn’t catch on as quickly as many had anticipated.
Now, of course, it's looking pretty likely that electric motoring isn't just an appealing alternative to petrol and diesel cars, but is also likely to replace it altogether at some point (for most of us, anyway).
What BMW also discovered from the i3 was that not all buyers want their EV to look different to a 'regular' car. So the iX3, as you might well have guessed already, is essentially an electric version of the BMW X3.
It has no complex carbon-fibre construction or unconventional styling. In fact, the only things that mark it out visually from petrol and diesel versions are the solid plastic grille, aerodynamic alloy wheels and a smattering of blue highlights.
Perhaps more pertinently if you're thinking of buying one, the BMW iX3 has a long range, the ability to charge up quickly and, despite its premium credentials, a relatively tempting price tag.
How does the iX3 compare with some of the best electric SUVs available – notably the Audi E-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes EQC? And is it a better buy than lower-riding alternatives, such as the Tesla Model 3? This review will tell you everything you need to know.
When you’ve decided which make and model you do want to buy, make sure you find the best price available by using our free What Car? New Car Buying Service. It could save you thousands of pounds, and features plenty of new electric car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
If you’re expecting the BMW iX3 to deliver Tesla-esque performance, you’ll be mildly disappointed. It’s plenty quick enough (0-62mph takes 6.8sec), but acceleration is strong rather than especially thrilling.
However, if you switch to Sport mode in the range-topping M Sport Pro, you do get an eerie electronic soundtrack dreamed up by German film score composer Hans Zimmer. When you put your foot down, the noise gets louder and the pitch rises as your speed increases, just like it would if there was a petrol engine under the bonnet.
Depending on how you drive, the iX3 will officially cover 285 miles between charges, beating both the Audi E-Tron (up to 249 miles) and Mercedes EQC (252 miles). Granted, you’ll have to be extremely gently and wait for warm weather to match any of those numbers, but 220 miles should be easily achievable in fair conditions.
In our winter real range test with cold weather and the cabin temperature set to a toasty 21deg C, the iX3 managed to cover 211 miles on a single charge. That’s about the same as the Jaguar I-Pace based on indicated energy consumption and the usable capacity of its battery pack.
Unlike its four-wheel-drive rivals – the E-tron, I-Pace and EQC – the iX3 is only available with rear-wheel drive. That shouldn’t be a concern unless you regularly get snow or live down a muddy track because it has plenty of traction whether it’s wet or dry.
Filling a car with heavy batteries rarely does good things to ride comfort, but the iX3 does without the sophisticated air suspension of its main rivals (the E-tron and EQC have it as standard, the I-Pace as an option). Instead, it relies on good old steel springs.
You can adjust the stiffness of the suspension, tightening things up for country road driving or softening them for long motorway jaunts. It’s firmer than the wafty E-Tron and I-Pace, but deals with bumps in a perfectly agreeable manner, both around town and on faster roads. In fact, anyone who suffers from car sickness may prefer the iX3’s well-tied-down feel.
You get a bit more tyre and suspension noise with than you do with its main rivals, but anyone coming from a petrol or diesel BMW X3 will be pleasantly surprised. The electric motor is quiet (unless Herr Zimmer’s work has been activated) and you won’t feel the vibration of an engine, either.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The differences between the BMW iX3 and the BMW X3 are even harder to spot inside than outside. In fact, were it not for the blue starter button and a few more blue accents, you’d never guess you weren’t behind the wheel of the regular model.
If it sounds as though we’re slightly disappointed, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The X3 is one of the best posh SUVs you can buy and some versions even score our top five-star rating, so one that runs on electricity instead of fossil fuels is more than fine by us.
True, the interior perhaps isn’t quite as glamorous as in the Audi E-tron or Mercedes EQC, but it feels really well put together and has lots of dense, squishy materials in most of the important places. Only a couple of patches of hard, scratchy plastic – around the starter button, for example – let the side down a little.
Usability is tough to fault, with a logically arranged dashboard with proper buttons and knobs for the air-conditioning (rather than fiddly touch-sensitive pads like those in the E-tron). The fundamental driving position is also superb, although you do need to go for range-topping M Sport Pro to get adjustable lumbar support.
BMW is known for leading the pack when it comes to infotainment and the iX3 is another example of that, with the latest version of the brilliant iDrive system. The 10.25in touchscreen display can be operated using a rotary controller between the front seats, which is much less distracting than rival systems. You can also use touch, a series of set gestures or the natural speech voice control function, which works surprisingly well (most of the time).
On top of built-in sat-nav, bluetooth and DAB radio, all versions of the iX3 come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, and wireless phone-charging as standard, while top-tier M Sport Pro versions also get an upgraded Harman Kardon sound system.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
If you take a seat in the front of the BMW iX3, you’ll be treated to plenty of head and leg room, even if you're over six feet tall. The interior is also wide enough that you won’t find your shoulders rubbing those of your passenger.
It’s good news in the rear too, because despite the fact that a big battery has, in effect, been shoehorned under the floor, there’s as much space in the iX3 as in the regular BMW X3. That means two tall people can sit quite comfortably in the back of the car, with leg and head room to spare.
You can recline the outer rear seats to give a more laid-back seating position, a feature that isn’t available in the iX3’s direct rivals. Even if you add a middle rear passenger into the equation, things are still agreeable for all concerned. If it’s still not quite large enough for you, the Audi E-tron and Jaguar I-Pace will both offer your rear seat passengers even more room.
The main boot area is identical to the X3’s, which means it’s slightly smaller than an E-Tron’s but bigger than the one in the Mercedes EQC. The iX3 loses a bit of underfloor storage compared with the X3, but there’s still room for the charging cable. You get 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats as standard.
For more information about how the iX3 stacks up for space and practicality, head over to our BMW X3 review.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
While an Audi E-tron is available for similar money, that’s only the entry-level 50 version, which will struggle to cover 160 miles on a full charge in real-world driving. You’ll need the 55 version even to get close to the iX3’s range, at which point you’ll be spending a lot more cash.
So, at least when it comes to big electric SUVs, the iX3 is temptingly priced and will cost a lot less to run than a petrol or diesel version of the BMW X3. It's is also a seriously cheap company car, thanks to the tempting benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax rates available on all pure electric vehicles.
The iX3 matches the 150kW maximum charging rate of Audi E-tron, meaning that a 0-80% charge can be completed in around 34 minutes. The only trouble is that there aren’t many public CCS charging points in the UK capable of delivering that much power. Any time you need to travel more than 200 miles, you’re likely to find yourself plugging in to a 50kW charger on a motorway, and that will take just over an hour for a 10-80% charge.
Anyone planning to do very long journeys on a regular basis would do well to consider the Tesla Model 3, which gives you access to the US brand’s widespread Supercharger network for more reliable fast charging. If you intend to do most of your charging at home using a regular 7kW wall box, a full charge (0-100%) of the iX3’s 80kWh battery will take 11hr 30min.
There are only two trim levels to choose from: M Sport and M Sport Pro. Entry-level M Sport gives you plenty of luxuries, including 19in alloy wheels, a powered tailgate, a panoramic sunroof, leather seats (heated in the front), a 12.3in digital driver display and parking sensors.
Range-topping M Sport Pro trim gets you 20in aerodynamic alloys, a head-up display (which projects current speed, the speed limit and sat-nav directions on to the windscreen), auto-dipping headlights and keyless entry. That’s alongside a fancier sound system, lumbar support and IconicSounds acceleration sound effects.
We don’t have reliability data for the iX3, but BMW as a manufacturer finished 13th out of 30 brands in our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey. That puts it above Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes. For added peace of mind, every iX3 comes with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty and a separate electric battery warranty that lasts up to eight years or 100,000 miles.
Euro NCAP tested the X3 for safety in 2017, awarding it five stars out of five, a rating that also covers the iX3 after it was validated in 2021. That makes it hard to compare the iX3’s score with the five-star scores that the E-Tron and I-Pace achieved in 2019 and 2018 respectively, as the tests get more stringent each year.
Even so, it should keep you safe in an accident, as every iX3 comes as standard with plenty of safety tech, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assist, active side-collision protection and automatic speed-limit assist.
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The iX3 didn’t feature in the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey, but BMW finished a respectable 13th out of 30 in the manufacturers table, ahead of Tesla (15th), Audi (18th), Jaguar (21st) and Mercedes (joint 22nd). In fact, the only premium brand to beat it was Lexus, which came first. Read more here
The iX3 has an official range of 285 miles, bettering the 249-mile maximum of the Audi E-tron and the 252 miles of the Mercedes EQC. In our 2022 summer range test, the iX3 went 253 miles on a single charge in real-world driving conditions, while in our 2021 winter range test it managed 212 miles. Read more here
All iX3s come with a 282bhp electric motor and an 80kWh battery that can be charged from 0-80% capacity in as little as 34 minutes. However, we’d recommend upgrading from M Sport trim to M Sport Pro, because this brings lots of desirable extras, including keyless entry, adjustable front seat lumbar support and a head-up display. Read more here
The iX3’s infotainment system is packed with features and very user-friendly, with logical menus and sharp graphics. You can control it using the 10.25in touchscreen, physical controls, gestures or voice commands. Read more here
In a drag race, the iX3 would be trounced by the likes of the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model Y, but its 0-62mph time of 6.8sec still makes it faster than most large SUVs. For example, the 2.0-litre diesel version of the regular X3 takes 7.9sec. Read more here
The iX3 has a slightly smaller boot than the conventionally powered X3, but you still get 510 litres of space – enough for eight carry-on suitcases. In addition, the rear seats fold down in a handy 40/20/40 split, and there’s an underfloor space big enough for your charging cables. Read more here
|RRP price range||£67,165 - £67,165|
|Number of trims (see all)||1|
|Number of engines (see all)||1|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||electric|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£128 / £134|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£256 / £268|