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First Drive: Jaguar E-Pace 148bhp Diesel S

Does Jaguar’s new compact SUV live up to standards set by the popular F-Pace? Jonathan Musk finds out…

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SECTOR Compact SUV   PRICE £28,545   FUEL 60.1mpg (combined)   CO2 124g/km

Jaguars of late offer a bold alternative to the mainstay fleet favourites. With the introduction of cars like the F-Pace and forthcoming I-Pace, the company is also staying ahead of the curve, with aluminium components a core differential. The E-Pace, however, is the company’s compact SUV that rests on the shoulders of the Range Rover Evoque rather than the company’s lighter F-Pace aluminium platform, which immediately puts the car at a disadvantage with more weight than the its larger sibling.

Nevertheless, Jaguar has equipped the F-Pace with a frugal 148bhp Ingenium diesel engine that offers a credible 60.1mpg with six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. With CO2 at 124g/km and a starting price of £28,545, this looks to be a fleet-friendly option offering both style and substance. All-wheel drive bumps the price up by £1,810, while an automatic transmission isn’t available on the FWD model and thus adds a further £1,760, pushing the total to £32,115 in base trim.

Other engine options include a 178bhp diesel only available with AWD, or a 237bhp at the top of the diesel tree. In practice, the 178bhp diesel doesn’t bring much to the party over the entry-level diesel despite its slight increase in performance.

Petrol 246bhp or 296bhp AWD automatic-only options round out the range and provide reasonably premium refinement with plentiful performance, at the obvious expense of fuel consumption and emissions.

Specifications and equipment levels are high across the board, with features like LED headlamps, Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, cruise control and a rear camera with front and rear sensors all as standard, even on the cheapest model. S and above add incremental upgrades that will appeal to some, but there’s a fairly steep price hike with every bell and whistle added. Sadly, the 10-inch Touch Pro infotainment system isn’t anywhere near as convincing as the trim levels either and feels dated and is difficult to master.

The cabin is well-laid out with plenty of storage space and a capacious boot that easily swallows up buggies and shopping alike. However, it does suffer the typically tall boot lip that’s standard on most SUV-style cars.

Driving the E-Pace around bumpy country roads was pleasantly surprising. Though its heft is very much apparent and the E-Pace isn’t going to win any prizes for cornering ability, it nevertheless offers an enjoyable drive. This is made all the better by the six-speed manual, which has spot-on gear ratios, combined with the engine’s high-torque output. Plenty of sound deadening and an already smooth engine keep the cabin impressively refined too.

Arguably, the biggest problem the E-Pace has is its arrival on the market comes at a time when others have already made good headway, namely the popular Audi Q3 and BMW X1. Add to that Volvo’s excellent new XC40 and BMW’s X2 and the Jaguar has its work cut out. Whether Jaguar has done enough with E-Pace will largely depend on personal taste, as there’s not a bad car amongst them and there’s certainly a proven appetite amongst consumers for a Jaguar, as the F-Pace has shown. The E-Pace should be able to follow the good fortune that precedes it with options like the fleet-friendly diesel, front-wheel drive manual that has stolen a march to market on Volvo’s XC40 D3.

What we think

Jaguar’s E-Pace puts the cat amongst the pigeons. While there’s very stiff competition in this segment, the E-Pace offers plenty of reasons to take a closer look.

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.