We road test the 100% electric version of the popular BMW X3 SUV…
BMW was one of the first mainstream manufacturers to get to grips with the zero emissions future when it launched the revolutionary i3 way back in 2013.
A futuristic family car, it remained in production for nearly 10 years and is still a great EV choice.
Things went a bit quiet after the i3’s launch, and it wasn’t until 2021 that BMW introduced the iX3 – essentially an X3 with a battery pack and electric motor.
It may have been a little late to the party, but the genius of this move was to capitalise on the success of the SUV sector and to launch an EV which appealed to drivers who prefer their electric cars to look more conventional.
Almost identical to its ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) siblings, the only giveaways externally are the blanked out BMW kidney grille, aerodynamic alloy wheels and blue highlights on the sills and rear diffuser.
The big difference is out of sight where there’s an 80kWh battery and single (rear-mounted) electric motor developing 282bhp, which is good for a 0-62mph of 6.8 seconds.
If you can find a rapid 150kW public charger, then a 10-80% boost will take as little as 31 minutes. It will also charge overnight if you have a home wallbox, while BMW claims a range of up to 285 miles from a full charge, which is OK, but not as competitive as some more modern rivals.
BMW has kept things simple and there are two well-equipped specs – the iX3 M Sport (our test car) and M Sport Pro.
The entry-level M Sport comes with 19-inch alloys, adaptive suspension (you choose between soft, comfortable settings and stiffer, sportier ones), pre-heating, a panoramic glass sunroof, plus sports seats up front.
M Sport Pro adds 20-inch alloys, a head-up display, acoustic glass and a Harman Kardon sound system incorporating BMW IconicSounds Electric.
Inside there’s a 10.25-inch infotainment system in the centre of the dashboard, plus a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display. Below the main screen there are air vents, plus dials and buttons to control the air conditioning, for instance.
Compared to the latest generation of BMW ‘i’ cars with minimalist dashboards, the iX3’s interior looks more slightly dated. There’s even a chunky gear selector in the centre console.
Granted, some drivers prefer the balance of screens and buttons, so it’s unfair to be too hard on the iX3’s system, which works well – but it does lack the wow factor.
Naturally, there’s a commanding view of the road thanks to the high driving position. As ever, I’d prefer more downwards adjustment, but that’s SUVs for you.
The good news is that it’s a light cabin with a superb feeling of space.
In fact, rear passengers can relax in comfort with ample head and legroom, though there is a transmission tunnel in the centre – a legacy of its ICE roots. Boot capacity is a generous 510 litres, expanding to 1,560 litres with the rear seats flipped down.
Off the line the iX3 feels faster than the official figures suggest. There’s also plenty of grip, but it’s worth remembering that it’s rear-wheel drive so it can’t match some dual motor rivals when the going gets tough.
The steering is sharp and the ride is firm, but not excessively so. The result is that the iX3 delivers a surprisingly agile driving experience, with little body lean in faster corners. Remarkable given the car’s 2,270kg weight and chunky proportions.
As ever, Comfort drive mode offers the best balance. Sport sharpens up the handling and the steering is heavier, but the ride is too firm for anything other than short bursts of fun.
Overall, the power delivery is smooth and refined. Arguably, it’s at its best on longer runs, where it’s effortless and relaxed.
The iX3 claimed efficiency of 3.3 miles per kWh was broadly in line with our experience and we’d estimate that it has a real-world range of around 230 miles, which isn’t best-in-class, but still useable with the right planning on longer trips.
Of course, you can claw back range via brake regeneration too, which captures kinetic energy during deceleration and stores it in the battery so it can be used as electricity to power the electric motor.
There are various settings and some clever tech so that the system works intelligently in tandem with the sat-nav (for upcoming junctions, speed limits etc) and the radar sensors (for traffic speeds ahead).
As you’ve guessed, we like the BMW iX3. It’s not perfect, but it’s as good, if not better, than many newer rivals.