What's good? Gorgeous design. Quality materials. Economical.
If the BMW X1 is too small for you, the BMW X3 too ugly, the BMW X5 too expensive, and the BMW X6 too big, what are you to do? This is the reasoning behind the new BMW X4, which is a baby X6 with the space and price tag to match. The range includes the xDrive 20d SE (£36,595), xDrive20d xLine (£38,595), xDrive 20d M Sport (£39,590), xDrive30d xLine (£44,895), xDrive30d M Sport (£47,403), and the xDrive35d M Sport (£48,995).
To get a sense of what the X4 is like, I took out the entry-level model, the xDrive 20d SE. Be sure to read my full BMW X4 review below to see if this car is right for you.
The BMW X4 looks like an X6, only better (in my opinion). It has a sloping roofline, fat tyres, quite a high ride height in SE spec, and BMW's latest 'pinched grille' styling. It is much smaller than the X6 and shorter than the X5, but it's much sportier looking than the X5 or X3, and so should appeal to younger drivers and families.
SE spec doesn't have sporty alloy wheels or a sporty body kit, but it looks cool enough.
I have always been slightly disappointed by the way M Sport BMW's ride, but I have always been very happy with the way SE BMW's ride, and this rings true with the BMW X4; I haven't tested an M Sport version, but the SE version is just, just about right for British roads, with good damping and a suspension that doesn't feel unsettled over speed bumps, potholes, or rough surfaces. Any firmer and I would think that the X4 would be frustrating on the move, but I'll reserve judgment until I drive an M Sport model.
the xDrive 20d has all-wheel-drive and a 2.0-litre diesel engine. This is the same engine that's in the BMW 3-Series, and it's unchanged for the X4. So it makes 187 horsepower and 295 lb /ft of torque. I imagined that this would feel underwhelming in the X4 - a car much bigger than the 3-Series - but to be honest it performs well and the excellent sound proofing of the car means it doesn't sound too gruff from behind the wheel either; there is some vibration in the cabin, but on the move the engine is quiet and motorway driving rather relaxing, thanks to barely any wind or road noise.
If you are familiar with BMW's current design language then you will feel right at home sat in the BMW X4. The centrally-mounted transmission lever along with the iDrive controls are lined with aluminium, as are the air vents and other parts of the interior, and this is welcome in SE trim which should feel hard done by as it's the bottom spec in the range but it doesn't feel it. Every material in the X4 SE feels great actually, from the soft touch door lining to the plastics underneath the dashboard.
Where the X4 falls short is character; it's unmistakably German inside, awash with dark materials and little to inspire you on the move. But it more than makes up for that with its quality and all of the very expensive feeling controls, which are just about as robust as you can get.
Importantly, the X4 is very spacious. It has a 500-litre boot that can be extended to 1,400-litres, and the sloping roofline doesn't affect rear headroom as much as I thought it would. It helps I think that the rear bench is positioned quite far forward, but there's still enough legroom in the back for taller people. Of course, like all BMW, the X4 has lots of little cubby holes and drink holders.
If you plan on choosing an X4 for business purposes, this is the model to go for, for its 143 g/km CO2 rating is palatable and when you combine that with a potential 52.3 mpg, the BMW X4 in this spec begins to make sense. As I have already mentioned, this economy does not come with much of a performance sacrifice either, as the diesel engine in this car performs well. For the time being, this is the most economical X4 money can buy, and it's unlikely that we will ever see an 18d version.
Trim and equipment
Despite being the entry-level spec, the X4 SE is well equipped. Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control, cruise control, DAB radio, media and satellite navigation systems, Bluetooth, heated seats, and front and rear parking sensors. You also get the usual stuff, such as heated electric mirrors, automatic wipers and lights, and lots of safety tech including curtain airbags.
xLine spec adds design elements such as underbody protection for off-road use, unique alloy wheels, and leather upholstery. M Sport trim further adds to the cars sporty appeal, with deeper bumpers, larger alloy wheels, and exclusive Carbon Black paintwork.
It's hard to find fault with the BMW X3 SE, so I'm not going to. Instead, I'm just going to say that if you are looking for a car with significant road presence, solid residuals, excellent build quality, accessible performance, and respectable economy, then you should seriously consider this car. It is also important to consider that there's room for your family to grow with it as well, because the 500-litre boot space is very respectable and this can be extended to 1,400-litres with the split/fold rear seats.
For sure, this isn't the cheapest way to lug a family around nor the best way to satisfy company emissions goals, but it offers practically everything you will need in a car. I say take a test drive and decide for yourself.