Crossover & Midsize

The BMW X3 Had a Rough Couple of Years Starting in 2011

The BMW X3 has been around since the model year 2004 and is now in its third generation. Consumer Reports didn’t love the first two generations though. Between 2004 and 2010, the first-generation BMW X3 had a stiff and bumpy ride. The second-generation reviewed well, but its reliability still struggled – at least until the 2016 model year. Here’s a look at these rough second-generation years of the BMW X3.

Poor reliability ratings for the 2011 through 2015 BMW X3

Consumer Reports collects information from its members through a yearly survey. Members are asked about problems they’ve experienced with their vehicles over the past 12 months across 17 different categories. Vehicles are then also compared to other ones within the same model year.

In its review, Consumer Reports liked the handling and finishes much better in the second generation of the BMW X3. It found the X3 to be a nice size for a compact luxury SUV with comfortable seats, an understated interior, and “sporty handling.”

However, the reliability verdict and owner satisfaction ratings were quite low across most of the second generation. Reliability stayed at just one out of five from 2011 to 2013. It inched up to two out of five for 2014 before dropping back down to one for 2015. Owner satisfaction was below average for these years as well. The X3 received a two out of five for owner satisfaction in 2011 and 2012, dropped to one in 2013, and returned to two for 2014 and 2015.

Problematic areas

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Reliability issues popped up between 2011 and 2015 in a number of categories. The 2011 BMW X3 got the lowest reliability rating in the categories for engine major, engine minor, engine cooling, drive system, fuel system, electric system, body integrity, power equipment, and in-car electronics. That’s nine of the 17 categories with the worst rating.

Engine reliability ratings slowly improved, with the lowest rating only reappearing for engine major in 2013. The drive system concerns were resolved by 2014. Fuel system issues lingered, with the lowest ratings in 2012 and 2015, lower than average in 2013, and average reliability in 2016. From the second generation, only 2014 had an above-average rating for the fuel system.

The electric system also improved after 2011, with average in 2013 as the only mediocre rating. Paint/trim received below-average reliability ratings for 2011 and 2014 but above-average ratings for the other years. Body integrity remained average or lower through 2017. Body hardware was below average in 2011 but above average since then.

Power equipment has been average or lower every year except for 2014. In-car electronics had the worst ratings in 2011 and 2012. A few new reliability issues popped up during these years periodically. The suspension had a poor rating in 2012, and brakes had a poor rating in 2014. 

Improvements for the 2016 BMW X3 and after

In 2016, the Consumer Reports reliability rating bounced up to four out of five from just one the previous year. Owner satisfaction also jumped up to three out of five. In this year, “average” was the lowest reliability rating received, and 12 categories received the highest reliability rating. The less-than-perfect categories were fuel system, exhaust, body integrity, power equipment, and in-car electronics.

In 2017, the reliability rating stayed steady at four out of five, but owner satisfaction fell back down to two out of five. This year had just four categories that didn’t receive perfect reliability ratings. The body integrity was below average; the body hardware was above average. Power equipment and in-car electronics were rated average.

The BMW X3 was redesigned in 2018 for the third generation. It offered new technology, safety, and luxury features. What it didn’t immediately offer was reliability. The 2018 model year had just a one-out-of-five reliability rating, paired with a four-out-of-five score for owner satisfaction.

Despite that low overall rating, it still received top reliability ratings in 10 of the categories. Of the categories that didn’t have the top rating, the drive system, climate system, brakes, and body integrity were above average. Power equipment was average. The fuel system was below average, and in-car electronics had the worst rating.

The 2019 X3 jumped back to have four out of five for both reliability and owner satisfaction. It had top marks in all categories except for power equipment and in-car electronics. The 2020 model year currently has a predicted reliability rating of three out of five along with four out of five for owner satisfaction.

The BMW X3 may have had a couple of tough years between 2011 and 2015, but its reliability did continue to improve. Used car buyers looking for a reliable second-generation BMW X3 should probably stick with one from 2016 or 2017, though.