Jaguarâ€™s smallest SUV isnâ€™t brilliant, but itâ€™s good enough
Jaguar E-Pace D180 AWD R-Dynamic Auto
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Torque: 317lb ft
Gearbox: 9-spd automatic
Top speed: 127mph
Fuel economy: 50.4mpg
CO2/BIK: 147g/km, 28%
Get used to the sight of the new E-Pace, Jaguarâ€™s second and smallest-ever SUV. Itâ€™s all set to become the firmâ€™s best-selling model, simply because itâ€™s the right car at the right time. As its larger sibling, the F-Pace, is currently itself the British firmâ€™s best-seller, it means off-road-look Jags are going to become an ever-more familiar sight.
Sorry about that, sports car enthusiasts. Double apologies, for the car weâ€™re driving here is likely to be the best-seller: the 177bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel, complete with four-wheel drive and nine-speed automatic. The E-Pace is derived from the Land Rover Discovery Sport, is built in Austria and, no matter how it drives, is set to become one of the must-have cars of 2018.
Visually, itâ€™s easy to see why. The E-Pace is a very good-looking car; it may lack the F-Paceâ€™s elegance, but its more cutesy appearance is still attractive, and the interior is probably the best of any modern Jaguar â€“ more stylish than any German rival, even if itâ€™s not ergonomically as well-honed. Oh, and rear seat space isnâ€™t what it could be, either.
Perhaps predictably, given its ageing Land Rover underpinnings, itâ€™s also not as hot as it could be to drive. It isnâ€™t as crisp and well-developed as a normal Jaguar, feeling somewhat mediocre compared to them. Itâ€™s good enough to take on its rivals, but canâ€™t lay claim to being a true Jag.
Itâ€™s slow, as well. It barely crawls under 10 seconds for the 0-62mph dash â€“ a BMW X1 alternative is almost two seconds quicker. Blame the unfathomably heavy kerbweight: the E-Pace weighs more than the larger F-Pace, which is hard to believe until you clock the fact itâ€™s made from steel rather than aluminium. A fussy automatic gearbox hardly helps prowess either.
In fairness, handling is pretty decent, with a tied-down body that offers good control and agility in corners. But thereâ€™s a price to be paid for this â€“ a stiff ride that feels particularly jarring at slower speeds. Given how many of them will be driven in town, this could be a bit of a stumbling block for some.
Itâ€™s much better at motorway speeds, though, and this iteration of Ingenium diesel engine is also more refined than earlier versions, with less clatter and rattle. It means that, all told, the E-Pace is quite a nice steer, and a perfectly pleasant place to spend time.
We thus reckon itâ€™s a four-star car. Itâ€™s not a classic Jaguar, but itâ€™s more than good enough to take on other models in this class, with the looks and interior to help it stand out even when compared to talented alternatives such as the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. Even humdrum performance and a bitty low-speed ride are not enough to hinder it: we have no hesitation in agreeing with predictions that it will become a very popular Jaguar indeed.