BMW iX3 review: Is an electric X3 worth buying? - MrLiambi's blog


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Thursday, 30 December 2021

BMW iX3 review: Is an electric X3 worth buying?

While many would consider the likes of the Jaguar i-Pace to be one of the first electric cars on the road, it's almost too easy to overlook that BMW put an electric car on the road long before many rivals - and the BMW i3 is still out there aplenty.

However, that i3 really doesn't share much with this more recent iX3 - other than some characters in its name. Instead, the iX3 takes the X3 SUV as its root model and gives it the electric treatment. But as it's not on a bespoke platform, does it succeed in this increasingly competitive space?


In many ways, taking the X3 and converting it to run on batteries makes a lot of sense. It lands firmly in compact SUV territory, a popular category for those looking to switch to electric, while giving BMW customers a model that looks pretty much the same as the existing BMW X3.

Audi took a similar approach with the Audi e-tron; we've seen similar from Mercedes with the EQA; and it means that everything is familiar for the driver. In that sense, the character of the BMW X3 is retained, the looks are pretty much the same, and so is much of the experience. The flipside is that the iX3 doesn't look exciting or new.

Of course, the grille has been enclosed, there are dashes of blue throughout, while a lack of tailpipes at the rear highlights there's no combustion engine under this car's bonnet. In a strange twist of timing, the Premier Edition photoed here has already been updated, so there's a more aggressive nose to the model you'd actually go out and order.

That the iX3 launched first in China perhaps reveals where BMW thinks this model will have most appeal - although it's now widely available. There aren't a huge number of trim choices, but there are some colour selections to be made - and now there's the choice of M Sport or M Sport Pro in terms of models.

Conventionality is the reward you get from the iX3, sitting alongside the slightly more radical BMW iX - which has been designed from the ground up as a next-gen electric SUV and is different in many ways (not to mention more expensive).

Familiar interior

There are some sacrifices that come with adapting a combustion-designed model to electric. That sees the ground clearance reduced, the boot capacity reduced to 510 litres, and there's no front storage - because this car wasn't designed with that in mind.

collection: interior

Indeed, compare the BMW iX3 to something like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 - the latter a bespoke electric model - and you'll find the BMW's interior less spacious and more constrained by the model it has evolved from.

But it's still a BMW and that means you get a quality interior with plenty of technical detail. If you're already a BMW owner then you'll feel completely at home in the iX3: here it's a reflection of the X3 equivalent, nicely finished and offering plenty of visibility. As with other SUVs, ride height is a definite advantage, paired with ample headroom.

There's not huge legroom for the rear seats, but you can comfortably slide an adult or three into that rear bench. As we said, the BMW iX3 drops from 550 litres of boot space to 510 litres, so you'll still be able to fit in enough luggage to take the family away for the week.

The best part about the interior - if you're a BMW driver - is that everything just falls to the touch where you expect it. Many modern competitors have radically changed the interior to make it more modern - the VW ID.4 being one such example.

Not so the iX3. So if you have some reservations about switching to electric, the iX3 makes it easy. Indeed, it's virtually the same as the combustion models, including the gear selector which you knock sideways to engage B mode, in the same way you'd engage S/M mode on combustion models.

The 10-inch central display sits atop the dashboard, rather than embedded, so it's easier to glance at when driving. There are some button controls for media - which feel rather detached, as they're some distance from the display - but the aircon controls, however, are easy enough to manage.

Quality finishes characterise the BMW iX3, sitting alongside the Mercedes EQA or the Audi Q4 e-tron, and it certainly is a very comfortable place to be.

An iDrive tech selection

BMW's interior technology has been slowly evolving over recent years, with the iX3 offering Operating System 7. That's not as advanced as the incoming BMW iX - which steps up to Operating System 8 - but it does offer lots of connected advantages and smooth interaction.

collection: display

That includes not only the physical iDrive controller - which is essentially unchanged over the last 10 years - but also touch interaction on that display, as well as gesture controls on some models. That might sound a little odd, but it means you can rotate your finger in front of the display to change the volume, for example, without having to reach for the physical controller. There's also the option for a head-up display (HUD), beaming useful information onto the windscreen.

There's support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (both wireless), as well as a wireless charging pad. If you use smartphone-based systems, the voice button will work with the native system from your phone, meaning as easy route to getting Siri in your car. However, there's also BMW's Hey BMW voice assistant - which is actually pretty good, able to pick out commands and return sensible results.

The overall BMW system is easy to use, and because this is Operating System 7 you can customise the homepages to get the information you want on the home screen. Among the screens you can find data on consumption, as well as controls for things like regeneration (with "adaptive" being the default).

Flip the gear selector over to B for battery and it'll move you into the highest level of regen. This provides one-pedal driving, which we much prefer for urban driving. You can, through the settings, define the regen level for driving in D to suit how you want the car to feel.

In reality, however, it's pretty easy to flip that gear selector from one position to the other, sticking to D on the motorway, for example, so you can coast without a regen braking effect, then flip to B in urban environments to get better regen from the more frequent stop-start driving.

You can also search for charging points easily enough and we like that you don't have to wade through a full selection of irrelevant points of interest before you get to these - and there's a good deal of customisation on offer too, so you can search for a particular power of charger, rather than having a list full of slow chargers.

During our time with the car we weren't able to ascertain how up to date this charger listing was, but it's worth knowing that you can also use the BMW app for those - both to check the charge of your car and find a charger and send the navigation details to your car for convenience.

The digital driver display measures 12.3-inches, but is rather limited when it comes to customisation. It just doesn't offer the same degree of flexibility you'll get from something like Audi's Virtual Cockpit - and we can't help feeling that the minimal colours make it a little less visually exciting.

On the road

Unlike some rivals, you don't get options for battery or motors here, which at least keeps things simple. There's an 80kWh battery, of which 74kWh is usable. It's capable of charging at up to 150kW, which is fast enough to see you back to 80 per cent charge in around 34 minutes. It's not the fastest charging car available, but practically speaking, it's rare to find public chargers that will give you a faster charge.

BMW cites the range as 285 miles; in our real-world driving we were able to pull out an average of 3.4 miles per kWh - which would come in at 251 miles (using the 74kWh usable capacity). This was on mixed road driving, but we note that it only includes 2.8kWh of regen (urban driving would push this up, longer motorway driving would push this down).

Of course the actual range you'll achieve depends on many factors, including the weather, how your drive, and how loaded the car is. BMW's performance here is pretty average really; in context you'll get better range for your money from the VW ID.4, as one example.

That might not worry BMW drivers too much, because it's still going to be ample range to get you through most of your daily driving and, in reality, when it comes to driving longer ranges, you'll still have been in the driving seat for several hours before you'll need to find a charger.

What's interesting about the BMW iX3 is that it's rear-wheel drive, the motors sitting on the rear axle, and it loses the all-wheel drive you might expect from its X Series designation.

There's a 210kW motor (286hp), offering a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds, so it's a little faster than some rivals and that helps make this BMW a blast to drive, still hanging onto feeling like a BMW, rather than like some wafty eco warrior.

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