Say hello to Jag's new baby
Big Cat's latest SUV looks the part but lacks the edge to justify its hefty price, writes Geraldine Herbert
SUVs are the lifeblood of car makers as more families opt for something sportier than an estate and more substantial than a hatchback. Sales of crossovers and SUVs are expected to more than double by 2020 and they have become the go anywhere, all-conquering family transport.
While none of us may actually venture off road, we like to turn up at the school gate at least looking prepared for every eventuality.
The latest to battle for market share is Jaguar's new E-pace. Based on the same chassis as the Range Rover Evoque, this - the smallest Jag - is designed to rival cars like the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Volvo's XC40. Chic, sleek, sophisticated, the E-Pace certainly has an edge over rivals. Designer Ian Callum has successfully reinterpreted the lines of the F-Type and deftly transferred them to the small SUV. The result is unmistakeable Jaguar style.
Inside, it is well thought out, modern and comfortable, with nods to the F-Type throughout. It is also awash with charging points and USB connections as well as a 4G wifi hotspot for up to eight devices. Every E-Pace also features the latest generation of Jaguar's Touch Pro infotainment system. Natural voice control technology, a 10-inch touch-screen interface and a customisable home screen make interactions with the system quick, simple and intuitive. The boot is a generous 577 litres, but despite its size the car never felt particularly roomy inside and space in the back is far from generous.
On the road, the bodywork is heavier than you'd expect, the result is a reassuring sturdiness but the downside is a weighty car that feels cumbersome when compared with the larger F-Pace. The E-Pace is neither a fun-size F-Pace or a reworking of the Evoque. Instead, it borrows its genetic heritage from the sporty F-Type. But, disappointingly, the E-Pace is firm-riding but without the dynamism of a hot hatch.
The Jaguar SUV also pays for its overweight by high fuel consumption figures, and we achieved nothing close to the official 5.6 litres per 100km quoted for our 180PS two-litre diesel test car.
If you decide to buy one, there are numerous decisions to make; petrol or diesel, manual or automatic, FWD or AWD and four trim levels, Base, S, SE, HSE that are all available as Dynamic Models. There is also an exclusive First Edition model available only for the first year of production. Prices start at €36,000 for the 2.0D 150PS FWD manual model (124g/km, €270 road tax).
There are two other diesel engine options: 180PS and 240PS and two petrol options: 249PS or 300PS. Our First Edition test car is based on the R-Dynamic SE spec pack and includes sports seats and is priced at €77,425.
When Jaguar made a sharp turn two years ago and moved from building sporty cars to SUVs, purists may have baulked that it was the end of an era rather than a new beginning. But the F-Pace seduced more than 100,000 motorists around the world. Destined to become the best selling Jaguar ever, the E-Pace is a handsome-looking SUV and handles in a way you would expect from a Jag but falls short at delivering the kind of refinement and smooth-ride quality that appeals to its core buyers.
Plenty of people want an engaging and premium SUV that will garner admiring glances in a supermarket car park and for those the E-Pace is that car.