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First Drive

First Drive: BMW iX3

The story:
This is first of BMW’s new breed of electric vehicles and the first time BMW will offer petrol, diesel, PHEV and electric in the same body.
Category:electric
Key rival:Audi E-tron
BMW iX3 Premier Edition
Price:£61,850
MPG:Range 285 miles
Emissions:0g/km
On sale:Summer 2021

 

Despite its popularity, BMW’s X3 has previously never really caught the imaginations of company car drivers. Historically, fleet customers have accounted for less than a third of X3 drivers, but that might well be about to change next year with the arrival of this all-electric iX3.

This is the first BMW that will offer buyers the choice of petrol, diesel, hybrid or fully electric power in the same bodystyle – something that will be repeated with future models. With an 80kWh battery, the iX3 offers a fully charged range of 285 miles and, obviously, zero emissions along with a zero BIK rating.

That’s a tempting combination for business drivers, particularly in a SUV bodyshell too, although its £58,850 list price is a hefty £9k above that of the plug-in hybrid version of the X3 recently introduced. The iX3 is also only rear-wheel drive, losing the four-wheel drive of the majority of the X3 range.First Drive- November 2020- BMW iX3- Image 8

Even so, there’s an awful lot to like about this iX3. For starters, as the first car to feature the latest generation of BMW’s battery technology, it’s very well packaged. Boot space is only marginally affected compared to the standard X3 – you lose just 40 litres of underfloor storage compared to 100 in the PHEV – and there’s some very clever tech too.

Existing EV drivers will be familiar with the ability to alter the level of your brake energy regeneration, and it’s the same here with low, medium and high settings. However, the iX3 has a fourth ‘Adaptive’ mode which uses Artificial Intelligence, the sat nav and the forward radar to adjust your regen level accordingly. According to BMW it enables 90 per cent of all ‘reducing-speed situations’ to be handled without using the brakes. It may all sound a little odd, but on the road it works surprisingly well and it’s hard to see regular drivers wanting to use any other mode.

That’s not the end of the good news on the iX3’s road manners either. While you’re never less than aware of its 2260kg kerb weight, it handles well with sharp steering, little body roll and a pretty decent ride quality too – in Comfort mode at least. The Sport mode is so firm that you’ll be on first name terms with your osteopath before long.

Of course, drive the iX3 with too much enthusiasm and you’ll soon be looking for a charger. BMW claims a 0 to 80% charge on a 150kW rapid charger in just 34 minutes (we wish you luck finding a 150kW charger…), and claims drivers can add 62 miles of range in just 10 minutes. A more realistic figure is the 7.5 hours full charge time on a domestic wallbox.

Overall, despite a price tag that’s almost the wrong side of 60 grand, it’s easy to see the iX3 being a big success story for BMW. While in a different sector, business drivers account for 70 per cent of sales for the i3 hatchback, so it’s not hard to imagine the iX3’s corporate numbers following suit, especially given its more practical and favoured SUV body. Make no mistake, we think the BMW iX3 could be one of the big company car hits of 2021.

nat barnes

The verdict

BMW’s new all-electric iX3 is likely to be one of the plug-in hits of 2021, but it certainly has a hefty price tag.