- The best BMW to buy?
- Strong engine choices
- Decent standard safety gear
- Comfortable, well-appointed cabin
- Ferocious M versions
- Mighty expensive when loaded up
- Wallflower styling
- Grabby hybrid brakes
- A few cheap touches inside
features & specs
The 2021 BMW X3 is a do-all small crossover loaded with luxury, technology, and usability, with a dash of sporty personality.
What kind of vehicle is the 2021 BMW X3? What does it compare to?
The 2021 X3 is a small crossover SUV with a decidedly sporty bent. Its broad lineup squares off against the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, Volvo XC60, and Audi Q5, among others. If you’re shopping in a luxury-car showroom, you’ll find an X3 competitor.
Is the 2021 BMW X3 a good car/SUV?
Overall, the X3 lineup is a solid home run for BMW. Though there’s a lot to take in here in terms of engine choices and optional equipment, the core X3 scores an impressive 7.3 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
What's new for the 2021 BMW X3?
A new plug-in hybrid added eco-friendly interest late in the 2020 model year with its 18 miles of electric-only range and grunty 288-horsepower turbo-4. Additionally, this year there’s more active safety tech than before, Android Auto finally makes an appearance, and the Competition trim has been shuffled into a line-item package.
No matter the badge on the back, the X3 has conventional two-box styling that fortunately doesn’t stray as far from the norm as BMW has done with its larger SUVs and its coupes.
The X3 range comes in several flavors, with the 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the 30i version the one you’ll find most commonly on dealer lots. With 248 horsepower, it’s plenty quick for real-world use, and it comes in rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations.
About $4,600 separates the xDrive30i from the xDrive30e, and that final letter swap indicates the addition of an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack. Given the relatively modest price hike, the selectable 18 miles of electric range—you pick when you want to access it—may actually pay out for some drivers.
From there, the lineup gets sporty—and expensive. The M40i swaps in a twin-turbo inline-6 with 382 hp, while the borderline bonkers X3 M shoots out 473 hp and tops $70,000 before you’ve even started to add options. The $7,000 Competition package is costly but fun with race-lite seats, 30 hp more, and a rorty exhaust.
Base X3s are reasonably frugal; expect mid-20s mpg on premium fuel. More power, more thirst. M versions won’t see 20 mpg.
All X3s can seat five adults in relative comfort, though the middle-rear seat can be a tight squeeze. Cargo space grows from 30 to 60 cubic feet with the second row folded. The X3 is tech-heavy, with a big infotainment screen, wireless Apple CarPlay, and even gesture controls for the audio system.
Automatic emergency braking is standard fare, though BMW charges extra for adaptive cruise control.
How much does the 2021 BMW X3 cost?
BMW will sell you a base X3 rear-wheel drive for around $44,000, or $2,000 more with all-wheel drive, though realistically most cars have at least $5,000 in options. Figure $52,000 for a comfortably-equipped X3 xDrive30i, though we’d be tempted to pay the $4,600 premium for the plug-in hybrid.
Loaded up, an X3 M with the Competition Package, extra-cost paint, and a bunch of “well as long as you’re here” options runs upward of $82,000.
Where is the 2021 BMW X3 made?
In South Carolina.
2021 BMW X3
The 2021 X3 hardly pushes the envelope, but it has a pleasant, classy look inside and out.
Is the 2021 BMW X3 a good-looking car?
Compared to most everything else in a BMW showroom these days, the 2021 X3 is the definition of demure. Against the rest of autodom, it’s a clearly styled crossover that looks nice enough to merit extra exterior and interior points for a 7 out of 10 on our scale.
There is some flair to the design with the chunky grilles, plus sportier versions can ride on big 19-inch or larger wheels that fill out those wheel wells nicely (admittedly at the expense of ride). M versions have beefy body kits, the automotive equivalent of a gym membership.
Inside, the X3 is thoughtfully arranged without looking as though it was designed by committee. Big screens abound, with a central controller serving as the primary means of operation while on the go. BMW offers a wide range of interior hues and trim finishes, so look closely to tailor one to your taste.
2021 BMW X3
With a lineup this broad, you can’t go wrong with any 2021 X3.
Is the BMW X3 4WD?
Most versions of the X3 come with all-wheel drive meant for rain or snow, but not serious off-roading. The base X3 sDrive30i is rear-wheel drive, and it’s the one you’ll probably find most commonly from Miami to Dallas to Los Angeles.
How fast is the BMW X3?
No X3 is a slouch. Base cars use BMW’s excellent 2.0-liter turbo-4, which thrums out 248 hp through an 8-speed automatic transmission. This excellent combination is more than enough for nearly any use, thanks especially to the slick moves delivered by the transmission.
This year’s new xDrive30e adds to the turbo-4 a 12-kwh lithium-ion battery and an electric motor, which amp things up to 288 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. A little quicker in real-world use, the 30e makes itself most known for passing when the electric motor delivers terrific thrust. A center console button allows drivers (or pesky passengers) to choose when to use around 18 miles of electric range, such as in town where lower speeds will maximize electric driving.
Base X3s have a comfortable ride and sharp, well-weighted steering. Braking is strong, though the xDrive30e’s regenerative system that adds a little juice to the battery can feel artificial.
From there, the lineup gets decidedly sporty. The X3 M40i hits a sweet spot with its 382-hp turbo-6, which delivers 0-60 mph sprints in less than 4.5 seconds.
The X3 M squeezes as much as 503 hp out of the turbo-6, and comes with a dialed-in suspension that makes the most of a twisty road. It’ll shoot to 60 mph in well under four seconds. It’s an over-the-top performance statement, but with any X3, you’ll drive one of the best vehicles BMW builds.
2021 BMW X3
Comfort & Quality
Luxurious and surprisingly spacious, the 2021 X3 is a solid family crossover.
The 2021 X3 is small enough to squeeze into just about any garage, but plenty spacious inside. Its front and rear seats deliver good enough stretch-out space, its cargo area can swallow plenty of suitcases, and its interior has a nicely upscale feel in most regards. We rate the X3 at 8 out of 10.
Four 6-footers can ride in comfort, and someone with a smaller frame will likely tolerate the second-row middle seat without too many complaints. Rear-seat passengers have upward of 36 inches of leg room.
Cargo space behind the second row is around 30 cubic feet, which more than doubles with those seats flopped forward.
The X3 has a nice look inside, though synthetic leather is standard fare and the piano black center console trim attracts hairline scratches.
2021 BMW X3
The 2021 BMW X3 is a safe choice made safer this year thanks to more collision-avoidance tech.
How safe is the BMW X3?
A solid complement of collision-avoidance features makes the 2021 BMW X3 a safe choice. We rate the range at 8 out of 10 thanks to top scores from the NHTSA plus lots of standard active and passive equipment.
The NHTSA gives it five stars overall. The IIHS gives it good scores as well, but without a pedestrian rating on its crash-mitigation system, it doesn't carry a Top Safety Pick designation.
For 2021, BMW has made more active safety gear standard. Joining automatic emergency braking are lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts. Adaptive cruise control is a pricey option at around $1,700, however.
2021 BMW X3
The 2021 BMW X3 can be a budget-buster if you’re not careful.
Watch that right-hand column closely as the 2021 BMW X3 can get expensive. We rate the lineup at 9 out of 10 overall based on the high level of standard comfort, convenience, and tech gear. This year, the X3’s even better thanks to BMW finally including Android Auto capability in addition to Apple CarPlay.
Which BMW X3 should I buy?
The X3 lineup might overwhelm at first. Base X3s cost around $44,000 to start and check most boxes, though plan to spend $2,000 for all-wheel drive if you live where it snows or rains.
Most crossovers will probably have a few options, including the Convenience package that adds a sunroof, keyless ignition, and adjustable lumbar support. Leather upholstery runs a hefty $1,450, while paint colors other than white or black are at least $550.
The X3 xDrive30e runs about $5,000 more, while the sporty M40i comes in at around $58,000.
Our money would be on an xDrive30i. Add leather, the Driving Assistance Professional Package (adaptive cruise control), heated seats, and a few other niceties and you can plan to spend around $50,000.
How much is a fully loaded 2021 BMW X3?
M versions are for the truly committed; plan to spend at least $71,000.
All X3s come with a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty that includes the first three scheduled service visits.
2021 BMW X3
The 2021 X3 is reasonably frugal for a crossover, at least until you step up to the powerful M versions.
Is the 2021 BMW X3 good on gas?
Most versions of the X3 will average 25 mpg or higher in normal driving, which is enough for a 5 out of 10 on our scale. The new plug-in hybrid is rated at 24 mpg combined, or 60 MPGe, and it boasts around 18 miles of electric-only range that can be accessed at the tap of a center console button.
The M40i is rated at around 23 mpg combined, which is just OK. Not OK is the 16 mpg combined promised by the X3 M—plan to visit fuel stations often.
All X3s use premium fuel.