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Review: BMW iX3

  • BMW iX3 from £60,970 (M Sport).
  • Tested: BMW iX3 M Sport Pro, from £63,970.
  • On sale since: December, 2021.

Introduction

Eight years ago, BMW stunned the automotive world with its i3 all-electric hatchback. A year later, it did it again with the i8 plug-in hybrid coupe. However, this electric BMW iX3 SUV is a rather more sober offering…and there are a number of reasons for that.

The iX3 is a fully electric version of the X3 SUV – a car BMW already sells in huge numbers, so many in fact that almost one million have been sold in Europe alone since its introduction almost 18 years ago.

Understandably then, BMW made the deliberate decision not to go radical with the design of the new iX3, opting instead to add aerodynamic wheels, sky blue trim accents, a new pair of bumpers and side skirts and a smoothed-off grille to an already familiar package. None of those are remotely superfluous as all were extensively tested in the wind tunnel to ensure they are slippery enough going through the air to maximise the iX3’s driving range.

The iX3 is an X3 SUV for EV adopters who want a fully-electric powertrain, but who don't want to shout too loudly about it.

Exterior

The iX3 was introduced in 2020, but recently underwent a mild facelift and this is the model that is now available in the UK. Although subtle, the changes reflect those made to the recently refreshed ICE-powered X3.

They bring larger front grilles (as we know, BMW has recent form in that area) and sharper, more distinguished headlights. The rear lights have been given a redesign too, though they are an understated change on the previous iteration.

Interior

Inside, the iX3 feels much like any other BMW X3 with the exception of some blue-coloured trim. Build quality is excellent and the infotainment system is among the best available anywhere.

The steering wheel with silver buttons is new, while a 10.25-inch infotainment display and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is carried over, as are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that are easy to use.

Materials are of a high quality, but there aren't any novel features like trim made from recycled bottles or cork, as seen in many environmentally conscious EV models. The design of the dashboard, with its instrument binnacle and infotainment screen perched above the dashboard, hasn't changed much in the last ten years. Some may appreciate that, but others may prefer the minimalism found in any Tesla model.

Practicality and boot space

Concerned that the iX3 is compromised compared with the regular model? Don’t be, because it isn’t. It's as usable for a family of five as the petrol or diesel car and the boot offers more space than that found in the BMW X3 PHEV.

There's plenty of space for adults in the front and back of the iX3 to stretch out, with the battery located out of the way beneath the car's floor. There's enough room for two child seats in the back or three adults in a pinch, while the panoramic sunroof helps the interior feel even more spacious. In reality, most won't need the extra space found in the larger BMW X5 but unlike the bigger model, there's no option to make the iX3 into a seven-seater with a third row.

The iX3 has a 510-litre boot, which is just 40 litres less than the petrol and diesel BMW X3. To be fair, most will be hard pressed to notice the loss. Surprisingly, its 510 litres is 60 litres more than the X3 PHEV and marginally bigger than the boot in the Mercedes EQC and Jaguar I-Pace. The electric motor and transmission of the iX3 is actually more compact than in the X3 PHEV, so takes up less space.

There's also a small storage space under the iX3's boot floor where the charging cables can be kept and folding down the rear seats creates a large 1,560-litre luggage area.

Trim grades

Initial versions of the iX3 were called Premier Edition and Premier Edition Pro but in August 2021 these were replaced with M Sport and M Sport Pro. There's a choice of four exterior colours (black, white, grey and blue), along with three choices of interior trim and leather upholstery (Mocha, Black and Oyster). Standard kit impresses and includes 19-inch aerodynamic alloy wheels, heated front sports seats and a panoramic sunroof.

M Sport Pro as tested adds 20-inch alloy wheels, a Harman Kardon stereo, head-up display and BMW's Driving Assistant Professional package. It also brings technology that allows iPhone owners to use their phone as a digital key and set corresponding driver profiles.

Powertrain and transmission

The iX3 builds on EV technology that originally debuted in the BMW i3 – battery density has increased and charging capacity has improved. It's moved on significantly from the ground-breaking small BMW electric car, having benefited from eight years of further development.

It has a large 81kWh battery and a claimed 285-mile range. That range depends on a variety of factors, but can be increased by making liberal use of the regenerative brakes (which harvest energy when slowing down).

The electric motor powers the rear wheels and BMW says that it uses no rare metals in it, unlike other electric motors. The system is 30 per cent more efficient (denser battery packs mean more charge stored in any given space) than in the company's existing EVs. The new style of dense battery pack will be used also in the forthcoming iX, iX5 and i4.

Charging

The iX3 should be compatible with almost every kind of charging station or power outlet, including super-fast 150kW chargers, which will give it an 80 per cent top-up in just 34 minutes. Better still, you can add around 60 miles of range in about 10 minutes.

Charging from less powerful outlets such as a home wall-box charger or three-pin plug will take around 12 hours, which will cost you around £13 per charge.

On the road

If you’re expecting the BMW iX3 to deliver blistering performance, then you’re in the wrong car. Of course it’s reassuringly brisk taking a respectable 6.8 seconds to reach 62mph from a standing start, but acceleration is strong rather than white knuckle inducing.

However, if you switch to Sport mode in the range-topping M Sport Pro, you do get an eerie electronic soundtrack written by German film score composer Hans Zimmer. Put your foot down and 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.

Unlike its four-wheel-drive rivals such as the Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes EQC, the BMW iX3 is only available with rear-wheel drive. That shouldn’t be a concern unless you regularly get snow or live down the end of a muddy track. The iX3 has plenty of traction whether it’s wet or dry, and while a Tesla Model 3 Performance feels more nimble, the iX3 leans over less and feels more agile than the Audi e-tron, Merc EQC and even the Jaguar I-Pace. That makes the iX3 one of the most enjoyable electric SUVs to drive.

Bolting on a pack of heavy batteries to a car rarely does good things to ride comfort, but the iX3 does without the sophisticated air suspension of its main rivals (the Audi e-tron and Merc EQC have this as standard, but is an option on the I-Pace). 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, so, while it’s certainly firmer than the wafty e-tron and I-Pace, it 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 to its floatier rivals. Personally, I have no penchant for sitting on a moving blancmange.

Reliability and safety

Electric cars have far fewer moving parts than ICE-powered vehicles, so any teething problems should be easier to iron out. While the iX3 might be new, BMW has had several years to iron out any niggly naggly issues that may have arisen in the i3 hatchback.

The iX3 has yet to receive a safety rating from crash-test experts Euro NCAP, but the regular BMW X3 SUV has already obtained a five-star safety rating. While this isn't directly transferable to the iX3, it would be unlikely were the electric SUV to perform any less effectively.

Standard safety equipment includes BMW's Driving Assistant Professional, with a number of features designed to help avoid collisions, particularly on the motorway. You also get Parking Assistant to help take the stress out of manoeuvring and a clear Live Cockpit Professional instrument cluster that flags up vital safety information as you drive.

The M Sport Pro model also comes with a head-up display, helping to convey vital information such as speed and navigation instructions without the driver taking their eyes off the road.

Summary

The BMW iX3's trump card is its simplicity. It takes a gimmick-free approach to an EV lifestyle, provides a decent range and enough space for all the family and its detritus. The interior really is superb, with fine materials and BMW's excellent latest media system. Think of ‘casual shirt and chinos’ with Orlebar Brown swing tags and you’ll get the idea.

Because you’re here and you have been, thanks for reading.

KEY FACTS: BMW iX3 M Sport Pro

  • Powertrain: Single electric motor.
  • Drive: Rear-wheel drive.
  • System power/torque: 286 bhp/400 Nm.
  • Battery: 81 kWh.
  • Power consumption: 3.3 miles per kWh
  • Range: Up to 282 miles.
  • Transmission: One-speed automatic.
  • Acceleration: 0-62 mph: 6.9 seconds.
  • Top speed: 112 mph.
  • Eligible for OLEV grant: No
  • Kerb weight(unladen): 2,185 kg
  • Luggage capacity: 510 / 1,560 litres.

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By Wayne Gorrett

Wayne has been covering developments in the UK's automotive sector for over 10 years, providing news, reviews, first-drive impressions and opinion pieces for a number of print and web outlets in the UK and South Africa. A former marketing director, Wayne is based in a rural village near Winchester, Hampshire. You can follow him on Twitter: @WaynesWorldAuto Facebook: WaynesWorldAuto Instagram: WaynesWorldAuto