A history lesson…
After the quite frankly ludicrous success of the X5, BMW wanted to expand its 4x4 range and they did by giving us the smaller X3. The anticipation was huge, but it’s clear to see that the X3 never really captured the public’s imagination, thanks mostly due to awful styling and high prices.
The first X3 was not built by BMW, but by a sub-contractor in Austria, which probably did help its credentials for being the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’. Despite these negatives, people still liked and bought the X3 and it’s still on sale today – albeit with a slightly updated face and spec list.
The main criticism for the X3 came with its pricing, as for just a few thousand more you could own a bigger X5, so why wouldn’t you just save up a little more?
Bang for your buck
All X3s were available with pretty much the same engines as the X5, so you were guaranteed a powerful lump with plenty of torque an power. Most buyers would opt for the 3.0-litre diesel model, as it provided not only all the over-taking torque you need, but a half decent return on economy, too.
Despite the X3’s negatives, it was brilliant on the road. This car is not a Range Rover – despite being marketed as a 4x4 – and BMW definitely designed the X3 to be comfortable on the tarmac. It’s one of the few big SUVs that can be sporty yet comfortable, which is impressive for such a big car.
All models receive DSC+ traction control and a whole host of airbags to keep you safe is the worst were to happen.
What you’ll pay
You’re looking at just over £10,000 for a 2.5i Sport, which is an attractive price considering that car when new would have been over £30,000. If you want a bigger engined X3, take a look at the 3.0-litre SE, which is currently going for around £11,000.
What to check
A lot of the body panels are plastic, so rust shouldn’t be a big issue; just make sure the panels aren’t too battered by any enthusiastic off-roading. All the engines are basically bullet-proof so no need to worry there. Just ensure the car has been looked after, as some cars will be coming up to ten years old now.
Typical BMW pricing as standard here, as replacement parts are not cheap. A new starter motor is around £120, headlamp about £165, a full exhaust is £360 and a new alternator is £100.
How it drives
This is where the X3 gets back some momentum, as BMW really did do the business with how the X3 drives. It’s anything but an off-roader, but on tarmac, there are few big cars that can match it. It’ll leave a Nissan X-Trail for dust, as it feels as tight as any other saloon BMW, which is mightily impressive when you consider its size.
Body roll is minimal, and those big tyres do their best to you on the road and not in a hedge. The clever traction control system works a treat, and while the interior quality is well-made, it is very boring; so try not to look down too much.
The X3 certainly makes more sense as a used car buy rather than new. If you want one, better going for a diesel model as they typically hold their value better and will give you respectable MPG figures.