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BMW X3 vs. X5: which is better for 2024?

Learn more about the BMW X3 vs. X5 dimensions, performance and tech in our comparison review

A comparison of the BMW X3 and BMW X5 models

X3 vs. X5

The BMW X3 and BMW X5 are two similar, very popular SUVs from BMW that combine luxury, space and tech.

There are plenty of used BMW options on offer as well - ideal for making savings.

Both models are family cars but depending on your budget, one might be the better choice for you.

BMW X3 vs. X5: Styling  

A comparison of the rear lights on the BMW X3 and X5 models

The BMW X5 is bigger than the X3, which means you can tell them apart from a distance. The X3 had its most recent facelift in 2022 whereas the X5 hasn’t been updated since 2019, so the X3 looks fresh.

The X3 is sleek and sophisticated with a sculpted side profile and the large BMW kidney grille, looking very modern without being two-dimensional. It looks like a classic family SUV but isn’t too in your face because of its more compact size.

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The X5 on the other hand, is larger, a full-sized SUV and more aggressive looking. It’s boxy and angular, with air vents and sharp edges that give it an assertive presence on the road. The X5 is also more obviously sporty to look at, especially if you get the M model.

While both cars follow similar design ethos, the X3’s softer aesthetic looks are great if you want a subtle small family SUV, while the X5, with its 4x4 rough and ready form, will be up your street if you’re fully signed up to the SUV trend.

BMW X3 vs. X5: What are they like to drive? 

A comparison of how it feels to drive the BMX X3 and X5 models

The X3 is the smaller version of the X5 with similar underpinnings and architecture, so the drive is not dissimilar. Both cars have four-wheel drive, except for the electric or plug-in hybrid models.

You get the choice between powerful petrol and diesel engines with the X3 and X5, but the X5 has more engine options along with more horsepower and speed. Both cars have M models, which are a big step up when it comes to performance – firmer, sportier driving and much more pace. These cars have more of a thrill factor.

The X3 is very easy to drive around town because it’s smaller, more agile and very quiet. Mpg is impressive on longer drives too – we’d recommend the 2-litre diesel for the best fuel-efficient motorway cruising. The X3 is a great five-seater car if you want premium driving at a more affordable price point.

The X5 is a true driver’s SUV. With multiple drive modes, impeccable handling, and air suspension, it glides over rough road surfaces. It really shines on country roads because the steering is so responsive, and you feel very confident behind the wheel. This makes it well-suited to being a town and country SUV, while the X3 thrives in the city.

BMW X3 vs. X5: Interior and technology 

A comparison of the BMW X3 and X5 interior

The X3 and X5 have very luxurious and well-made interiors front and back, with lots of technology and high-quality materials. The X5 has more space and the option of seven seats if you want.

The dash design in the two cars focuses on a 12.3-inch central touchscreen infotainment system, with air vents below and the drive mode selector below that again. The vibe is clean, crisp and angular but not minimalistic. Not identical, but very similar to look at.

You get a lovely, refined feel in both the X3 and X5 thanks to the plush leather, brushed metals and wood trims. This continues into the back of the car – back passengers are spoilt with a first-class feel.

Expect the latest technology too: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display with BMW’s IDrive control system, Bluetooth and sat-nav.

The interiors are highly customisable – the X5, due to its higher price point, has more standard features and more extras to add, including a panoramic sunroof with starlight illumination mode and Bowers & Wilkinson audio.

There’s not much in it really – it just depends on if you want to spend more for the extra deluxe feel.

BMW X3 vs. X5: Bootspace and practicality  

A comparison of the boot space in the BMW X3 and X5 models

The X3 is a five-seater, five-door SUV. The X5 also comes with seven seats if you opt for that model. Obviously, this makes the X5 the car for large families who need more bums on seats. Rivals like the Audi Q7 or Volvo XC90 have seven seats as standard.

The third-row seats are large enough for children but a bit tight for adults, although they’re adjustable, sliding forwards and back.

The X5 has more cabin space overall, with extra legroom and headroom, but the smaller X3 really maximises space with loads of storage.

Both models have multiway adjustable front seats. The ISOFIX points for child seats have flip-up covers that keep them tucked away when they aren’t in use and the rear doors open nice and wide, so you can get child seats in easily.

The X5 has a larger boot than the X3 – 650 litres compared to the X3’s 450, which makes it the most practical option for a family of five who need to pack for a two-week holiday, along with helpful features like a split tailgate.

Rear seats split 40/20/40 in both models and the tailgate is electronic.

It’s just a case of weighing up price against practicality.

Read our in-depth car reviews: 

BMW X3 vs. X5: Safety and reliability  

BMW makes safe cars, and the X3 and X5 are two SUVs full of safety features and driver assists. Many come as standard, and this makes both cars sensible family buys.

The X3 and X5 scored a full five stars in their latest Euro NCAP safety tests, ranking very high in the adult and child occupancy sections.

Both are reliable cars too, recommended by Consumer Reports and ranking highly in their respective classes. BMW also offers a three-year unlimited mileage warranty.

BMW X3 vs. X5 dimensions: 


Length:  4708mm

Width:  1891mm

Height:  1676mm

Boot space:  450 litres


Length:  4935mm

Width:  2004mm

Height:  1765mm

Boot space:  650 litres

Verdict: BMW X3 vs BMW X5: which should you buy? 

You’ve likely reached a conclusion while reading our head-to-head of these two capable SUVs, but in case you need a light nudge, our quick-fire verdict should help.

The X3 is the smart, more affordable choice for stylish and very comfortable family driving. It’s well-designed for city life, so we’d say this is the one for the urban family of five.

If you need a more rugged SUV that swallows up the miles and is great for a more country lifestyle, then the X5 is going to be a real winner. It’s also got the seven-seat option if you do need those two extra seats.

Read more about the BMW X Series: