As governments signal a move away from fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine (ICE) towards cleaner and greener solutions, carmakers are scurrying to develop and launch new plug-in hybrid and electric cars. Thankfully, BMW's ahead of the pack having learnt from the development of the existing i3 and the MINI Electric from within the BMW group. So the BMW iX3 electric SUV is a natural evolution, and it feels like an accomplished car as a result.
Although it exploits some of the newest electric technology, the BMW iX3 feels like a surprisingly conventional, almost conformist car when compared to outlandish competitors such as Tesla or the Jaguar I-Pace. This will appeal to people who want a "normal" car that brings the benefits of an electric SUV, without feeling the need to shout about it.
The BMW iX3 offers a reasonable official WLTP range of 285 miles from its 80kWh battery, making it a suitable family companion for longer journeys without needing to stop constantly recharging. The battery is smaller than in some rivals giving the BMW iX3 less power than other comparable models, but in return, this saves weight, lessens body roll and reduces any loss of space in the cabin, so in reality, it feels like BMW has got the balance right with the iX3.
There is a lot to love about the BMW iX3. It is well equipped and drives beautifully, the range is useable with over 200 miles of real-world driving, and it has several practical charging options. There is plenty of front and rear cabin and boot space for families. It is also good value when you pitch it against rival cars such as the Audi e-Tron and Mercedes EQC - have a look at their car reviews to see for yourself. If you're looking to make a statement about its electric prowess then you may find it a little conservative, but if you're not interested in driving an electric car resembling a spaceship then the BMW iX3 will be perfect.
Range, Charging, & Emissions
BMW offers a choice of charging options for the iX3, with the battery accepting up to 150kW DC rapid charging capability, returning it to 80% capacity in around 34 minutes if you can find a rare rapid charger, reducing the potential time hanging around at motorway services. A 50kW motorway charger will get you to 80% in around an hour. If you're charging at home, a standard 7kW wall box charger will take around 12 hours to recharge the iX3 from empty, or about 8 hours if you have an 11kW capability.
BMW says that the iX3's official range is 282 miles, quoting up to 3.2 miles per kWh, but this is obviously dependant on several factors including weather conditions, driving style and the amount of power you're using in the cabin. Even on the coldest, most miserable day, you should expect to get at least 200 miles. You can also top up during your journey using the clever regenerative braking system. You can drive using just one pedal, with the iX3 automatically applying the brakes when you lift off, to store the braking energy for later. It uses the sat nav to judge the braking rate when approaching junctions too, which is a nice touch. You can select how much braking force you want, or you can just coast if you prefer. The iX3 will even slow down at the correct rate to keep it a safe distance from the car ahead.
As with all electric cars, the BMW iX3 costs far less to run than petrol and diesel equivalents. A full charge will cost around £8 when charged at home. This will last around 286 miles far more than the average distance driven in the UK. Like the Audi e-tron, the iX3 supports rapid charging with a 150kW charger.
The iX3 sits in band 44 or 45 for insurance depending on the model. While high this is still lower than comparable models in this class with the I-Pace in group 49 and the Audi e-tron in group 50.
Another benefit of the iX3 is that it can be a very affordable company car thanks to the alluring BIK tax benefits on electric cars.
First-time drivers of electric cars are always surprised when there is no eruption of engine noise when the starter button is pressed, and the BMW iX3 is no different. Don't be fooled though, just press the accelerator and you'll experience the addictive instant acceleration that only an electric car offers. Driving is easy with the single-speed auto gearbox. You might be surprised to find that despite its SUV looks, the BMW iX3 isn't four-wheel drive. But it is rear-wheel drive, and we all know that BMW knows how to make amazing rear-wheel-drive cars.
The BMW iX3 has been designed to deliver its 282bhp of power smoothly from its motor, reaching 62mph in a brisk 6.8 seconds, with a top speed limited to 112mph to conserve range. It deliberately isn't as quick as some rivals which market themselves for having insane acceleration, but BMW has given this electric car more than enough oomph to haul it along at a satisfying pace. Considering the hefty weight of the lithium-ion battery pack under the floor, BMW has mounted it as low as possible giving the iX3 a low centre of gravity, resulting in surprisingly little body roll, and handling which is just as sharp as you would expect of any other BMW, thanks to the adaptive suspension.
With an electric motor rather than the more intrusive petrol or Diesel engine, the driving experience of the BMW iX3 is near silent, aside from a little wind and tyre noise as you'd expect of a tall car with big alloy wheels. If you upgrade to the Premier Edition Pro, you're rewarded with BMW's party piece in the form of their IconicSounds system, which pipes in an electronic soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer if you choose to activate it.
At first glance, you'd be forgiven for failing to notice that the BMW iX3 is any different to the familiar X3 on which it's based, but upon closer inspection, the lack of an exhaust pipe, subtle blue flashes on the bodywork and rear bumper, the solid grille and the 20" aero wheels suggest that something special lies hidden beneath the skin of the iX3.
The BMW iX3 is an upmarket and handsome car from the outside and should prove to be a popular choice for SUV buyers, even considering the ever-increasing competition as manufacturers bring out myriad SUVs to meet buyers' demands for this style of car. It is large, tall and imposing, and looks very similar to its bigger X5 sibling, ensuring it fits in well with the BMW family style.
As you clamber aboard it looks reassuringly like a normal X3 inside, apart from a few blue flashes of colour and the instrument cluster which shows battery charge and a power regeneration gauge instead of a rev counter. Everything else is exactly the same, which means that it is well screwed together and nice to use, with lots of soft-touch plastics and well-damped switchgear. BMW's German ergonomics are excellent as you'd expect, and unlike many rivals, BMW has not been tempted to replace traditional push buttons and dials with huge touchscreens. The 10" touchscreen mainly operates the infotainment and you can also use the dial to operate it manually.
The driving position of the iX3 is almost perfect, with a comfortable seat and a commanding view of your surroundings. Passenger space is also reasonable with minimal intrusion from the batteries hidden under the floor, and you can seat five adults in comfort without a transmission tunnel obstructing the middle rear occupant's legroom. Split-fold rear seats increase the already ample 510-litre boot space, so you'll have no issue carrying large loads in the rear of the BMW iX3.
Because it's based on the normal BMW X3, you'll find the BMW iX3 packed with all the same safety systems, with the addition of the extra radar sensors of the regenerative braking system keeping you well back from other traffic and ensuring you're not roaring towards hazards at high speed. The iX3 hasn't yet undergone its Euro NCAP crash test, but the standard X3 achieved the full 5 stars, so you could broadly expect the iX3 to do likewise. You'll get a brace of airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, stability control, ABS and other systems to help keep front and rear occupants safe on board.
The choice of trims in the BMW iX3 is fairly short to start with, but other trim levels may join later, so look out for news of these. At launch, there is a choice of the Premier Edition and the top-spec Premier Edition Pro. The Premier Edition comes well specified as standard including heated electric leather front seats, sat-nav, 20" alloy wheels, automatic high beam, an electric tailgate and a panoramic sunroof. Upgrading to the higher model will give you extra goodies including lumbar support, a head-up display, Harman Kardon HiFi, keyless entry/start and the IconicSounds interior soundtrack.
The recent change to government subsidies means that the BMW iX3, unfortunately, doesn't qualify any longer. The iX3 Premier Edition will cost £61900 and the Premier Edition Pro is £3000 more. This isn't a small number compared to its petrol and Diesel X3 siblings but is cheaper than many of its rivals, so it is actually better value than it looks.
Like other electric cars, the BMW iX3 emits no CO2, so road tax is free and you also get free entry to the streets of London should you choose to venture there.