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2021 BMW X3 Review

The 2021 BMW X3 ranks at the top of the luxury compact SUV class because of its spacious interior, easy-to-use features, strong engine performance, poised handling, and good predicted reliability.

Pros & Cons

  • Muscular engine options
  • Poised ride and handling
  • Easy-to-use infotainment system
  • Roomy seating and cargo space
  • Higher starting price than many rivals

New for 2021

  • Android Auto newly optional
  • Blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning now standard

8.6

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.8
Performance: 8.1
Interior: 8.1
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.7 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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Is the BMW X3 a Good SUV?

Yes, the 2021 BMW X3 is a great luxury SUV. The X3 has an upscale interior, roomy seating for five passengers, and a large cargo area. It’s comfortable and relaxing to drive day to day, yet still agile and exciting for carving up twisting backroads. Engine options range from a turbocharged four-cylinder to a plug-in hybrid and a twin-turbo six-cylinder that each scoot the X3 up to speed confidently.

Other X3 highlights include a user-friendly infotainment system, numerous standard safety features, and a good predicted reliability rating. This adds up to an SUV that’s as enjoyable to drive as it is practical.

Why You Can Trust Us: 22 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 22 BMW X3 reviews, as well as data points like reliability ratings and fuel economy estimates, to help you make the best car-buying decision possible.

This 2021 X3 review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2018.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the BMW X3?

You should definitely consider the 2021 BMW X3 if you’re shopping for a luxury compact SUV. It offers a mix of performance, comfort, and practicality that few of its competitors can match. That said, it’s not a bad idea to check out other top-rated alternatives as well, like the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Volvo XC60.

Compare the X3, Q5, and GLC »

2020 vs. 2021 BMW X3: What's the Difference?

There are two main differences between the 2020 and 2021 X3 models. The 2021 X3 is the first available with Android Auto capability. Additionally, BMW added lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring to the 2021 model’s list of standard features. These features were previously optional.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 X3 »

Here are the key changes for the BMW X3 over the last few years:

  • 2018: fully redesigned (start of third generation) with updated exterior styling, upgraded infotainment system, and stronger base engine; performance-oriented X3 M40i model debuted; turbodiesel engine discontinued
  • 2019: rear-wheel-drive model added; previously optional forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and parking sensors added to standard features list
  • 2020: plug-in-hybrid and high-performance M models arrived
  • 2021: support added for Android Auto; blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning now standard

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 X3, 2019 X3, and 2020 X3 reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the BMW X3 Cost?

The 2021 BMW X3 has a $43,000 starting price, which is at the upper end of the luxury compact SUV class. Less expensive alternatives in this segment include the Acura RDX, Lexus NX, and Infiniti QX50. The X3’s price rises to $56,600 for the sportier M40i model, and it soars to $76,900 for the high-performance X3 M Competition variant.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local BMW dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our BMW deals page.

BMW X3 Versus the Competition

BMW X3 vs. BMW X4

The BMW X4 is mechanically similar to the X3. It offers the same engines and transmission as the X3, as well as the same safety and convenience features, similar handling, and comparable interior styling. The biggest difference is that the X4 has a low coupelike roofline, whereas the X3 has boxier styling. This translates to less seating space and a smaller cargo area than in the X3. The kicker is that the X4’s starting price is higher by about $8,000. Stick with the X3. It’s a better SUV and a better value.

Compare the X3 and X4 »

BMW X3 vs. BMW X5

The BMW X5 is a luxury midsize SUV, and it offers a few key benefits over the compact X3. The X5 has roomier seating space for five, a larger cargo area, a higher towing capacity, and a range of burlier six- and eight-cylinder engine options. Also, an available third row can raise the X5’s seating capacity to seven. That said, both models have upscale interiors, many standard safety features, and the same easy-to-use infotainment system. Choosing between these SUVs is an issue of price and preference. Go with the X5 if you have a larger family and need the extra space. Stick with the X3 if you have a tighter budget. Its starting price is lower than the X5’s by about $16,000.

Compare the X3 and X5 »

Compare the X3, X4, and X5 »

X3 Interior: Posh and Practical

X3 Cargo Space

The BMW X3 has 28.7 cubic feet of cargo space with its rear seats upright and 62.7 cubic feet with those seats folded. That’s among the largest cargo areas of any vehicle in the luxury compact SUV class. The tailgate opening is relatively square, making it easy to load and unload bulkier items.

How Many People Does the X3 Seat?

The BMW X3 is a two-row SUV with five seats. The front seats are supportive and well-cushioned, and they provide sufficient headroom and legroom, even for taller occupants. The driving position is comfortable, and outward visibility is good in all directions. The X3’s back seat is roomy enough for three kids or two adults to sit comfortably. Better still, the cabin does a fine job of muffling road and wind noise at higher speeds.

Synthetic leather upholstery and power-adjustable front seats are standard. Available upgrades include genuine leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, rear sunshades, a heated steering wheel, and racing-inspired M Sport seats with large side bolsters.

X3 and Child Car Seats

The BMW X3 has two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat.

X3 Interior Quality

The BMW X3 has an upscale interior with plenty of high-end materials and great build quality. The interior design is crisp and modern but somewhat reserved next to opulent rivals like the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60.

X3 Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The BMW X3 is outfitted with a wide 10.2-inch touch screen. This screen responds promptly to inputs and boasts vivid graphics. The menu structure is intuitive, and the display’s placement at the top of the dashboard makes it easy to see and use while driving. There are numerous buttons on the dashboard and steering wheel, as well as a knob and touchpad on the center console, so you don’t have to tap or swipe on the screen to manage every function.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available and allow users to integrate their smartphone interfaces on the touch screen. All in all, this is one of the most user-friendly infotainment setups in the luxury compact SUV class.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 10.2-inch touch screen, navigation, Apple CarPlay, a Wi-Fi hot spot, Bluetooth, two USB ports, HD Radio, satellite radio, and 12 speakers
  • Available infotainment features: Android Auto, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, a 16-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, a gesture control system, and wireless device charging
  • Additional standard features: tri-zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, push-button start, and a power liftgate
  • Other available features: proximity keyless entry, a hands-free power liftgate, rear sunshades, and a panoramic moonroof

Read more about interior »

X3 Performance: Strength in Numbers

X3 Engine

The 2021 BMW X3 30i comes standard with a 248-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available. This engine hustles the X3 around town and up to speed briskly. Accelerating from zero to 60 mph takes just six seconds. There’s ample passing power at highway speeds as well, and the transmission provides smooth yet prompt gear changes.

We think most drivers will be happy with this 30i model. If not, there are three other powertrains to pick from: a 288-horsepower plug-in-hybrid four-cylinder (xDrive30e), a 382-horsepower turbocharged straight-six (M40i), and a 473-horsepower twin-turbocharged straight-six (X3 M).

The xDrive30e plug-in hybrid offers the benefit of silent all-electric driving, and it feels slightly quicker than the 30i model in stop-and-go city driving. The X3 M40i is a hoot to drive – zero to 60 mph takes 4.4 seconds – and its inline-six engine revs smoothly and eagerly. The X3 M feels unbelievably quick. It can hit 60 mph in four seconds, throttle response is instantaneous, and the engine keeps pouring on the power well beyond legal speed limits.

X3 Gas Mileage

The BMW X3 sDrive30i and xDrive30i models get an EPA-rated 25/29 mpg and 23/29 mpg city/highway, respectively, which is great for a luxury compact SUV. The M40i model nets a respectable 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. The X3 M model returns a poor 14/19 mpg rating.

The X3 xDrive30e plug-in hybrid gets 24 mpg in combined city/highway driving, and it can travel up to 17 miles on battery power alone. Recharging its 12-kWh lithium-ion battery pack takes about 11.5 hours using a 120-volt household-style power outlet. Level 2 public chargers or a 240-volt home outlet can fully recharge the pack in around 3.5 hours.

X3 Ride and Handling

The BMW X3 strikes an exceptional balance between on-road agility and ride comfort, two qualities that often don’t intermingle. The X3 feels very stable and composed when rounding tight turns, the steering is responsive and well-weighted, and the brakes slow down the SUV assertively. The standard suspension soaks up bumps and dips in the road comfortably, resulting in a smooth and relaxing ride. The available M Sport suspension – equipped on the M40i and M models – yields even sharper driving dynamics, though the ride quality becomes jittery on rough pavement. Stick with the standard setup.

X3 Towing Capacity

The BMW X3 can tow up to 4,400 pounds when properly equipped.

Read more about performance »

X3 Reliability

Is the BMW X3 Reliable?

The 2021 BMW X3 has an above-average predicted reliability rating of four out of five.

BMW X3 Warranty

BMW covers the X3 with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty.

Read more about reliability »

X3 Safety

X3 Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 BMW X3 an overall safety rating of five out of five stars. The X3 earned five stars in the frontal and side crash tests, as well as four stars in the rollover test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 X3, but the organization gave the very similar 2020 model excellent ratings across the board.

X3 Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane departure warning

Available advanced safety features:

  • Adaptive headlights
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Head-up display
  • Hands-free parallel park assist
  • Surround-view parking camera system
  • Lane keep assist
  • Adaptive cruise control

Read more about safety »

X3 Dimensions and Weight

The X3 is 15.5 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,931 to 4,620 pounds, depending on configuration.

Where Is the 2021 BMW X3 Built?

BMW builds the 2021 X3 in South Carolina.

Which BMW X3 Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 BMW X3 comes in four basic trims: 30i, 30e, M40i, and M. There are perks to each trim level. The 30i model has a potent four-cylinder engine, and it’s the only trim offered with either rear- or all-wheel drive. The 30e is a sporty plug-in-hybrid model that can drive up to 17 miles on battery power alone. The M40i and M models bring the heat with powerful inline-six engines.

We think the 30i model is the best bet for most shoppers. It has the lowest starting price, solid engine performance, and a nice array of standard and available features.

BMW X3 sDrive30i and xDrive30i

The entry-level X3 sDrive30i starts at $43,000, and it’s outfitted with a 248-horsepower engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive. The X3 xDrive30i variant costs $45,000 and adds all-wheel drive.

Standard features include the iDrive infotainment system with a 10.2-inch touch screen, a navigation system, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, two USB ports, HD Radio, satellite radio, 12 speakers, a Wi-Fi hot spot, remote keyless entry, push-button start, tri-zone automatic climate control, SensaTec synthetic leather upholstery, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, a power liftgate, parking sensors, a rearview camera, LED headlights, and 18-inch alloy wheels. The X3 also includes BMW’s Active Driving Assistant, which bundles forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning.

Options include genuine leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a panoramic moonroof, rear sunshades, proximity keyless entry, a hands-free power liftgate, a digital gauge cluster, a gesture control system, wireless device charging, and a 16-speaker Harman Kardon stereo. A head-up display, adaptive pivoting headlights, parallel park assist, a surround-view parking camera system, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, M Sport brakes, 19- and 20-inch wheels, and an adaptive suspension are also available.

BMW X3 xDrive30e

The X3 xDrive30e starts at $49,600. It features a 288-horsepower plug-in-hybrid system, as well as a digital gauge cluster and Android Auto capability. All options carry over unchanged.

BMW X3 M40i

The X3 M40i starts at $56,600, and it adds a brawny 382-horsepower engine, a stiffer M Sport suspension, M Sport brakes, 19-inch wheels, 14-way power-adjustable front seats, a panoramic moonroof, and adaptive headlights. Most options carry over.

BMW X3 M

The high-performance X3 M costs $69,900, and it adds a 473-horsepower engine, an M Sport adaptive suspension and differential, 20-inch wheels, proximity keyless entry, a hands-free power liftgate, heated front seats, and a Harman Kardon stereo. In addition to the previously listed options, the X3 M is also available with a Competition package that increases engine output to 503 horsepower and adds an M Sport exhaust system, 21-inch wheels, and heavily-bolstered front seats.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local BMW dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our BMW deals page.

See 2021 BMW X3 specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 BMW X3 provides just about everything you could want in a luxury compact SUV. The X3 has zesty engine performance, spry handling, impressive fuel economy, and a cushioned ride. It’s stylish inside and out, and it offers plenty of space for passengers and cargo. The infotainment system is easy to use as well. Wide safety feature availability and a high predicted reliability rating are other highlights. There are less expensive alternatives in this class, but the X3’s overall refinement is worth the price.

Don't just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "What really separates the X3 from its peers is how it drives. If you ever wanted the sports sedan handling of a 3 Series but need the practicality of an SUV, the 2021 X3 is the answer." -- Autotrader
  • "Though it doesn't stand out in any one category, the BMW X3 is a capable all-rounder. It's comfortable and enjoyable to drive. The cabin isn't as pretty as those of its contemporaries, but overall the X3 is a solid pick for a compact luxury SUV." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "The 2020 BMW X3 compact SUV is one of the most enjoyable vehicles of its kind. Surrounded by such competitors as the Audi Q5, Lexus NX and Mercedes-Benz GLC, the X3 comes out ahead with its impressive handling abilities, rear-drive layout and advanced high-tech features. Sure, you’ll pay a bit more for the X3, and once you start adding options, you’ll pay a lot more. But for driving enthusiasts and die-hard BMW fans, the extra cost is worth it." -- Kelley Blue Book (2020)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: October 16, 2020

Dropping Sales: The X3, which is BMW’s best-selling vehicle in its lineup, has had a hard time on dealerships lots lately; sales to date this year have shrunk by 27.2 percent relative to the same period in 2019. That said, the X3 is still currently the second-best seller in the luxury compact SUV class, since many SUVs in this segment have also been struggling to sell lately due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Competition for the top spot is close, and the X3 is nipping at the heels of the Acura RDX.

Research more buying advice »
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