What's the used BMW X3 4x4 like?
The BMW X3 is for those who cast aside the more modestly sized, family SUV BMW X1 for being too small and the seven-seat, luxury SUV BMW X5 for being too large. In other words, it's the happy middle ground between the compact and colossal, and now the model is in its third generation.
For the latest car, it really upped its game in terms of technology, improved refinement and greater interior space. It's especially tempting as a used purchase, because this SUV can be had for the price of a new BMW 1 Series family car.
The main engine range consists of two petrols and three diesels that all come equipped with four-wheel drive and a very smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox. The 184bhp 20i is fine for those who do lots of urban driving, but the 187bhp 20d will be of more interest because of its deeper reserves of torque and lower fuel consumption.
For those who want more performance, there’s the 30d with a 261bhp 3.0-litre straight six diesel engine, an M40d with a 321bhp version of the same engine, or the really rapid M40i with a 355bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine.
A mild-hybrid system was added to the 20d in 2020, along was a 288bhp plug-in hybrid 30e and an all-electric model called the BMW iX3 that has an official range of 285 miles.
There are four different trim levels, starting with SE. It comes with LED headlights, 18in alloys, leather seats that are heated in the front, dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and an electric tailgate.
Higher-tier xLine has larger 19in wheels and sports seats, while M Sport gets a more aggressive exterior styling and firmer suspension. The two most powerful engine options only appear on the M-badged M40i and M40d, which both have bigger brakes and 20in alloy wheels.
Once you’re behind the wheel of the X3, you’ll soon realise that the X3 is one of the best large SUVs to drive. It splits the difference between long-distance comfort and driving pleasure really well. That's thanks in no small part to a relatively playful chassis with a rear-biased four-wheel drive system and impressively low wind and road noise levels.
The only slight criticism is that the steering doesn’t have the consistent weighting of some of its rivals. However, few get close to the X3 for ride comfort, particularly on models equipped with adaptive suspension that can be softened on a heavily rutted stretch of asphalt, then sharpened up in an instant when you approach a series of bends.
Inside, you’re treated to a very plush interior that’s awash with soft-touch plastics and has quality leather on the seats. Equipment levels are high, too, with all models getting climate control, cruise control, sat-nav, heated front seats and an electric tailgate.
Space is in plentiful supply, and most drivers should find that there’s enough adjustment in the seat and steering wheel to get their ideal driving position – although it’s worth noting that adjustable lumbar support isn’t standard. People in the back should have few complaints, even if there’s a central tunnel that cuts the available space for a middle passenger.
You can’t get seven seats in the X3, unlike the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but the X3 does have a large, usefully shaped boot with a decent amount of underfloor storage. Standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats make the most of the available space by being extremely flexible when carrying longer loads and passengers at the same time.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used BMW X3 4x4?
Make sure you check the alloy wheels for kerb damage, particularly on M Sport cars with larger wheels that are more susceptible to striking something. Parking sensors are standard on the X3, so parking dents and scratches shouldn’t be a major issue.
Even so, make sure there are no poor-quality paint repairs to the bumpers and bodywork because they could void the corrosion warranty if they weren’t carried out to the manufacturer's specification.
Some owners have reported the reversing camera being stolen. In response, BMW said: “The position of the reversing camera on a BMW is no more susceptible to theft than comparable cars of other brands. The camera is also discreetly positioned and out of regular sight.”
Replacing the camera can cost around £1000, but you can opt instead to go without and have a plastic cover installed for £133.
The interior is filled with lots of high-quality materials, but since these types of cars tend to be used by families, you should make sure there are no stains on the boot carpet or in the footwells – especially on X3s with a light interior colour.
What are the most common problems with a used BMW X3 4x4?
Some X3s built between 5 April 2018 and 14 January 2019 could have a problem with the rear spoiler coming loose. Find out from a BMW dealer if your car is affected. If it is, it will need to be inspected and potentially have the fixing screws replaced.
A manufacturing flaw with the swivel bearings on the front suspension could lead to fractures in the part over time. It affects vehicles made from 4-7 September 2019, and you can find out if your car is affected by contacting your BMW dealer.
Rear brake calipers
The rear brake calipers on some X3s built between 16 April and 8 June 2018 might not have been made to the correct specification, and this could result in reduced braking performance. You might also notice a soft brake pedal. Check with a local BMW dealer to find out if your car is affected.
A screw in one of the connections at the bottom of the steering column might not have been tightened correctly at the factory on vehicles manufactured from 11 April to 2 August 2018. If your X3 was built between those dates, it will need to be inspected by a technician at a BMW workshop.
Front seat belt buckles
The cable for the electrical connection in the front seat belt buckles has been found to be too short in some examples built between 15 January and 14 February 2020, and this could compromise safety. If this recall applies to your X3, it will need to be inspected at a BMW dealership and be replaced if found to be faulty.
High-voltage battery short circuit
A recall was issued in 2020 regarding potential particles in the cells of the high-voltage battery causing a short circuit. A total of 2665 cars were said to be affected, and by contacting your local BMW dealership the high voltage cells can be tested and replaced if necessary at no cost to owners.
Is a used BMW X3 4x4 reliable?
The latest X3, in petrol form, finished in fourth place out of 32 cars in the large SUV category in our most recent What Car? Reliability Survey, while in diesel form it was placed 10th out of 21 cars.
BMW as a brand managed a middling 16th place finish out of 32 manufacturers featured.
If you would like to see the full reliability list for small cars, head to the What Car? Reliability Survey pages for more information.
What used BMW X3 4x4 will I get for my budget?
Prices for the X3 start at £20,000 for an early version with a mileage north of 100,000. It'll most likely come with a diesel engine, too. Petrol models start at around £26,000.
The faster M models are understandably more expensive and start at around £32,000 for an M40i or M40d. For a 30e, expect to pay upwards of £35,000.
For a nearly new X3, you'll need at least £47,000.
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How much does it cost to run a BMW X3 4x4?
If you have an X3 with a diesel engine, you should expect to see more than 40mpg. The most frugal version is the 20d, with an official WLTP average of 45.6mpg. Remarkably, the six-cylinder 30d is only slightly down on this figure at 40.4mpg, while the M40d returns a decent 39.2mpg.
The petrol cars aren’t quite as good. The four-cylinder 20i averages only 36.2mpg, while the 34.4mpg combined figure for the high-performance M40i would have to be achieved with a very light foot.
All petrol and diesel X3 examples registered after April 2017 will attract a flat-rate fee of £180 per year under current road tax costs. Hybrid owners, on the other hand, will be charged £170 per year. If the X3 in question cost more than £40,000 when new, it will attract an additional fee of £390 per year for years two to six after the car has been sold new.
Servicing and insurance
Insurance costs should be in line with rivals unless you go for the M40d or M40i. BMW servicing generally undercuts that of rival Mercedes in terms of cost and is on a par with that of other rivals. However, your car's previous owner might have bought a service pack when the car was new, and this should cover all the routine maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles. You can check BMW’s website to see if your X3 has a pre-paid service pack.
Which used BMW X3 4x4 should I buy?
Of the numerous engines available, it’s the 20d that we would recommend, for its smooth power delivery, strong torque and good fuel economy. The other engines in the range tend to be quite expensive to buy and aren’t as readily available. However, if you only do short journeys, the 20i petrol might be better to avoid diesel particulate filter (DPF) clogging issues.
Our favourite specification is SE because it gives you all the equipment you really need. The next model up, xLine, is more of an appearance package and doesn’t offer any meaningful extras for the money. M Sport has firmer suspension as standard and really needs adaptive dampers to soften the ride on badly maintained roads (not all examples will have this essential extra fitted).
Our favourite BMW X3: xDrive20d SE
What alternatives should I consider to a used BMW X3 4x4?
The best alternative to the BMW X3 is the Audi Q5, which has an even swankier interior and can be had with Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit digital instrument panel – a configurable 12.3in display that provides the driver with lots of information. It’s also very good to drive, if less involving than the X3.
If you think your large SUV ought to have some serious off-road pedigree, take a look at the Land Rover Discovery Sport, because it should allow you to travel further from the beaten path than any other car in its class.
You do have to put up with a less luxurious interior, but it can be had with seven seats and there’s lots of room for people travelling in the middle row.
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