- Lovely interior
- Well equipped
- No need for pricey option packs
- Not as fast as some competitors
- Less range than some competitors
Range (WLTP): 285 miles Top Speed: 112 mph 0 to 62: 6.8 sec Cost/Mile (@14p/kWh): 3.6p
BMW took an early lead in electrification with the i3, but let that slide and only now is starting to compete in the EV market with gusto again. The iX3 was actually launched before the iX and i4, and is based on the ICE X3 platform rather than being a pure-electric model. But this medium-sized SUV is not as compromised as its origins might imply, so how does it stack up in this very crowded sector for EVs?
Price and Options
Whereas BMW’s brand-new EV platforms – the i4 and iX – offer a range of drivetrain combinations, the iX3 only has one – a 286hp motor driving the rear wheels allied to a 80kWh battery with 74kWh usable capacity. There are also only two trim levels to choose from – M Sport, and M Sport Pro for £3,000 extra. The equipment level is excellent in both. The car we were sent for review was actually a launch-only model called the Premier Edition Pro, which you can no longer get but is broadly equivalent to the M Sport Pro, with just a few differences that are mostly cosmetic, such as the black alloy wheels seen on our review car.
All cars come with folding wing mirrors, leather seats with the front heated, Driving Assistant Professional, which includes adaptive cruise control, wireless phone charging, and Parking Assistant, which has some level of auto-park ability. Opting for the M Sport Pro trim turns the Parking Assistant into the Plus version, adds a Head-Up Display, acoustic glass, gesture control, and an upgraded Harman/Kardon sound system. A heat pump is included on all cars, too, so range shouldn't be so badly affected by cold weather.
The basic M Sport wheels are 19in, but the M Sport Pro gets 20in rims. As already mentioned, the entirely black wheels on our review car were only available with the Premier Edition Pro. There are no other wheel options, apart from the ones included with each trim. The basic colour for the iX3 is the black of our review car, with grey, white, or blue as free alternative paint options. There are no premium colour choices. You can also choose three different upholstery combinations and three interior trims, which are also all free.
In fact, unusually for a German car, there are very few options that cost extra for the iX3, apart from the blue BMW Laserlights, which enhance the existing LED headlights with a 500m range and cost £1,500. Otherwise, the choice is either almost fully loaded with the £60,970 M Sport, or for £3,000 more, all the toys BMW has to offer with the £63,970 M Sport Pro. Our Premiere Edition Pro car was £61,770, which is a little more reasonable considering it comes with the M Sport Pro kit.
So this is not a cheap car, and you could specify, for example, an Audi Q4 e-tron 50 to a similar option list for a bit less, but offering better range and performance. It’s also worth noting that if you’re BMW fan and not wedded to the SUV body format, the iX3 M Sport Pro price is in the territory of the BMW i4 M50, which is in a completely different league for driving experience. The Tesla Model Y, Ford Mustang Mach E and electric Volvo XC40 are all cheaper, too. However, unlike most BMWs, the fact the iX3 is so fully loaded means that you won't be paying more than the trim level prices to add necessary options, because they are already included.
Because, unlike the i4 and iX, the iX3 is not a pure electric platform, its appearance isn’t so radical either. In fact, it looks a lot like the X3 fossil fuel SUVs with which it shares a platform. The dimensions and appearance are almost exactly the same as an X3. The only obvious indications that the iX3 is electric are the “i” logos behind the front wheels and blue rings around the BMW logos.
Our all-black sample with black tinted privacy glass at the rear and glossy black rims had a decidedly mean appearance, which will definitely appeal to the urban 4×4 set, although this car isn’t all-wheel-drive. Also, being the X3 platform, the iX3 isn’t as big as the Range Rovers, X5s, XC90s and Mercedes G-wagons favoured by this kind of purchaser.
A welcome difference between the iX3 and BMW’s pure-BEV iX and i4 is that the kidney grille is nowhere near as pronounced. Although this is a clear signature of BMW’s branding, the need for a large intake is limited in EVs, so the size of this grille on the iX and i4 is surprising. With the iX3, the grille is textured like an air intake but smaller, so is more like BMW branding rather than an unnecessary homage to beaver teeth.
The keyless entry on the iX3 is one of the slickest we’ve seen. Rather than simply unlocking as you approach, the car unlocks as you reach for the door handle. At night, puddle lights illuminate the floor for both front and rear doors. Once you’re inside, the sense of quality is overwhelming. This is one of the most luxurious interiors we have seen from an EV.
The black Vernasca leather upholstery with contrasting stitching of our review car is standard, but you can have brown with blue stitching, or white with grey stitching, neither of which cost extra. There are also choices of two shades of aluminium or the gloss black interior trim of our review car, which are also free options.
The front seats are supremely comfortable, with electric adjustment and heating as standard. They keep your nether regions and back ache-free on longer journeys. However, the central console is high, which makes the driver and passenger feel enclosed, although there is plenty of headroom and space otherwise.
There are two cupholders in the central console, and initially it looks like one has come with its own small thermos flask, but this is in fact an ashtray – something we had almost forgotten cars used to have “back in the day”. The 12V car power adapter is also occupied by a cigarette lighter, which again we haven’t seen in any other EV we’ve reviewed. So if you regularly smoke a cigar to celebrate the wealth you accumulated to afford an EV in the first place, the iX3 has you covered.
Behind the cupholders is a wireless charging pad for one phone, which is standard kit on all trims. There's a Type A USB port next door, but no Type C. If you want the latter, you will need to open the decently sized cubby under the central armrest, where a single Type C port can be found. The glove compartment is also reasonably capacious.
Rear seat space is good, with plenty of headroom, although the knee room is more limited. The iX is much better endowed in this respect, being a bigger car in general. The middle seat is wider than some but suffers from the legacy inclusion of a transmission tunnel, which presumably serves no purpose in this electric vehicle. However, the panoramic sunroof that is included on all models gives rear passengers a greater sense of space.
If you don't have a middle rear passenger, the seat back can be pulled forward for an armrest with a couple of cupholders and a small cubby. Rear seat passengers also benefit from their own adjustable air vents alongside discrete temperature control, because the iX3’s air conditioning is tri-zone. They get a pair of USB C connectors for their devices too, beneath the vents. The two outer rear seats have ISOfix points for child car restraints, but this isn’t available on the front passenger seat.
Storage and Load Carrying
SUVs are all about having space, particularly in the back, and the iX3 caters well in this respect. All cars come with an excellent kick-release boot mechanism, one of the most reliable we’ve used. The standard boot capacity inside is a capacious 510 litres, although this is 40 litres less than the internal combustion X3 models.
The boot is covered by a manual blind, and the button to remove this mechanism entirely is well hidden. We had to look this up on YouTube, although once you work out how to remove the blind it works extremely well. You can then drop the rear seats down with a 40/20/40 split. The left-hand 60 and right-hand 40 can be dropped with buttons at the rear of the boot, which is very convenient, although you will have to put the seats back up manually. If you just want to drop the middle 20, this must be performed manually, but will allow you to have one long item in the back alongside two rear passengers.
The boot capacity with the rear seats down is 1,560 litres, which is again 40 litres less than the fossil fuel X3 cars. It’s also quite a lot less than a Tesla Model Y or Skoda Enyaq iV. But it’s around the same as mid-sized estate cars such as the Mercedes C-class or Audi A4 Avant. In other words, it will be adequate for most needs, if not class leading. The iX3 can also tow, if you spend an extra £850 for the towbar. But you can only tow 750kg unbraked or braked, which probably won't be enough for a caravan, just a trailer. The roof rails can manage 100kg, though, which is useful. Surprisingly, there’s no frunk, with a permanent plastic cover over the front electronics under the bonnet. If you do lever this off, you will see there is a lot of wasted space here – showing the disadvantage of the iX3 not being a pure EV platform.
Unlike the new i4 and iX, the iX3 has a more typical BMW interior where controls are concerned. The steering wheel looks conventional and has BMW’s typical layout, with cruise control buttons on the left, plus media, voice and phone controls on the right. There are discrete stalks for windscreen wipers on the right or indicators on the left, unlike a Tesla. The audio system and air conditioning system have lots of discrete buttons too.
Turning the car on involves a blue button on the dashboard, which will provide your first encounter with the sounds Hans Zimmer has created for BMW’s electric M cars. There's a gearstick to select reverse, neutral and drive, although you have to press a button on the side as well to avoid accidental jogging. You can push it sideways when in drive to enable B mode, which increases regen and allows near-single-pedal driving. Next to the stick are buttons to choose between Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro engine power modes, which also adjust the suspension and steering accordingly.
Further back is a button to select auto hold and the electronic parking brake, although if you forget to enable this the car turns it on for you when you turn the system off. To the left of the gearstick is a knob to control the media screen and this is surrounded by buttons to help you get to functions faster. But the media display is a touchscreen, so you don't need to use the knob if you prefer directly interacting with this display.
The dashboard instrumentation is a digital panel, with speed in numerical form and dial form on the left, plus power or regen displayed on the right. There are sundry car warning lights on the right, and the all-important battery meter on the left, showing percentage left as well as estimated remaining range. An excerpt of the satnav map sits in the middle. Overall, the arrangement emulates the dashboard of ICE BMWs.
Our car also had a HUD, which is included on the M Sport Pro but not the M Sport. It's a solid implementation that projects straight onto the windscreen, including current speed, limit, and the next limit you will meet when navigating. There are also ADAS warnings and (again when navigating) a really useful map excerpt with next turn, which we found much easier to follow than the map on the media display.
Speaking of the latter, this is another area where the iX3 is much more conventional than the iX or i4. The media screen is quite large at 12.3in, but doesn’t form part of a wide, curved wraparound display like BMW’s latest two EVs. However, the contents are similar. There’s a DAB radio, and the ability to connect directly to Spotify, as well as support for Apple Car Play and Android Auto. The sat-nav has connected features including live traffic, and an intuitive keyword-based search ability. But the colourful map does make it harder to see the route, leaving us pleased the directions are replicated on the dashboard (and HUD, with the M Sport Pro).
The iX3 M Sport Pro also includes BMW’s gesture controls, allowing you to control various functions with a flick of the hand, but it’s a bit of a gimmick. The settings menu, on the other hand, is logically laid out and highly functional. You can install extra applications with BMW’s media operating system, such as the Drive Recorder which can turn the car’s cameras into a dashcam and parking surveillance system.
Performance and Driving
You expect all BMWs to offer a solid driving experience, and the iX3 does better than the average two-ton SUV. With 286hp, this is a powerful car. But we would mention again that while this is an SUV, it’s not all-wheel-drive, it’s rear-wheel-drive only. It can still hit 62mph in 6.8 seconds, which is decent by general SUV standards, but there are quite a few faster competitors, such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Volvo XC40, and Tesla Model Y. Also, being rear-wheel-drive, there is no torque steer under acceleration, and the steering is reassuringly precise.
However, this is still a 2,260kg car, so despite the iX3 having a low centre of gravity for its height there is more body roll around corners compared to, for example, the Tesla Model Y. On the other hand, it feels a lot more planted in corners than the original Audi e-tron or Mercedes EQC, despite the latter being quite a bit faster in a straight line.
Sport mode in the M Sport Pro includes Hans Zimmer noises when you accelerate, which adds a little to the drama. They are nothing like the pretend engine noises of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, but once you get past this, they are good fun. Adaptive suspension is standard, so you can vary the ride with mode. Even in Sport mode, though, this car soaks up big bumps very well. It’s also extremely planted at motorway speeds. Overall, while not even being vaguely like a sports BMW, the iX3 is more rewarding to drive than, for example, the Mercedes EQA. So the iX3 is great for an SUV weighing over two tons.
Range and Charging
The 74kWh net battery provides up to 285 miles of range, which is a little behind the Tesla Model Y but ahead of some other SUVs in this class, such as the Volvo XC40. We’d still prefer over 300 miles, as offered by a number of electric SUVs from the VW Group. The heat pump included in all models will help get the best out of this range in cold weather.
You get 11kW AC charging, which would enable a 100% charge in eight hours if you have three-phase power, although it will be more like 12 hours on a standard 7kW home wallbox. The DC charging capability is decent, too, topping out at 155kW. This means it will take just 31 minutes to go from 10 to 80% capacity, assuming you find a fast enough public charger. To help with this, the bundled BMW charging card includes a year's membership of bp pulse and IONITY Plus and encompasses 170,000 chargers across Europe.
With a 14p per kWh supply you'd pay 3.6p a mile to run the iX3, which is decent if not outstanding. Insurance groups are quite high, however, with 44 for the M Sport and 45 for the M Sport Pro. There's a basic 3-year warranty, including paintwork, although the anti-corrosion warranty is 12 years. The battery has an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty but BMW doesn't state what the minimum percentage that will be for.
Whichever version of the iX3 you go for, the safety tech included is extensive. Automatic emergency braking is included – as it should be, being a requirement for a decent NCAP safety rating score. Blind spot detection throws up an orange triangle on the wing mirrors to warn you in case you missed something coming up on the side. There is lane keep assistance, which can be too intrusive at times.
Adaptive cruise control with traffic start-stop is standard too, a feature that all cars facing gridlock should have. The parking camera is also comprehensive and well thought out. However, the one difference between the M Sport and M Sport Pro trims is that the Parking Assistant Plus included with the M Sport Pro has a better parking sensor package than the M Sport's Parking Assistant, providing a more inclusive surround view when reversing with 3D representation.
|Price:||M Sport – £60,970; M Sport Pro – £63,970|
|Range (WLTP):||285 miles|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||12 hours|
|Charge time (11kW):||8 hours|
|Charge time (155kW, 80%):||31 minutes|
|Battery:||80kWh gross, 74kWh net|
|On Board Charger:||11kW|
|Cost per mile*:||3.6p|
|Cargo:||510 litres; 1,510 litres with rear seats down; towing 750kg braked or unbraked; 100kg roof rails|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh