BMW’s X3 launched in 2004 as a smaller alternative to the brand’s X5 SUV.


With a smaller and lighter body, car-like driving dynamics and a range of available engine options, this small, upscale SUV was engineered to cater to active shoppers who didn’t intend to slow down for bad weather.


Power came from several BMW straight-six engines, including both 2.5 and 3.0-litre units making 184 or 225 horsepower in early 2.5i and 3.0i models, respectively. From 2007 and on, the three-litre unit was the sole engine offering, making 215 or 260 horsepower in 3.0i and 3.0si trim.


BMW’s nomenclature change in 2009 saw the X3 switch to an “xDrive30i” badge, while a less powerful xDrive28i version was offered, too. All-wheel drive was standard on all models, and used shoppers can even search out an X3 with a six-speed manual on pre-2009 units. Five or six-speed automatic transmissions were available otherwise.

Look for feature content including heated leather, a sunroof, automatic climate control, wood trim, premium audio, tinted glass and plenty more.

What Owners Like

Styling, quality, handling, seats, all-weather traction, high-speed stability and a “fantastic” engine are all highly rated by BMW X3 owners in online forums. Many report getting “decent” fuel mileage, too.

What Owners Hate

Some X3 owners wish for a more premium feel to the X3’s interior trim, as well as a more comfortable and soft ride on some models.

Many owners report “strange” shifting from the six-speed automatic transmission. Finally, several owners report uncomfortable and slightly cramped rear seat accommodations.

Common Issues

On a test-drive, be sure to check all of the used X3’s cabin electronics, including the stereo, climate control, computer readouts and power accessories including windows, mirrors, seats and sunroof.

If the model you’re considering is an automatic and exhibits strange shifting characteristics, the fix may be a reprogramming or replacement of the transmission control computer.

A prominent “clicking” noise while turning could indicate a problem with the rear differential or a CV joint. If such a sound is apparent, be sure to have the vehicle inspected by a BMW mechanic ahead of your purchase.

Finally, note that any warning lights related to the ABS or four-wheel drive system should be investigated before agreeing to purchase a used X3.

The Verdict

X3 won’t be the used SUV market’s cheapest choice —but most owners agree it hits the mark where elevated levels of styling, handling and comfort are concerned.