SMALLER premium SUVs are enjoying a surge of popularity and they don’t come much more prestigious than having a Jaguar badge on the grille.
The F-Pace might be a little on the large side for your needs, but its smaller sibling E-Pace is no less attractive to look at, drives reasonably well and there’s plenty of choice.
It’s the smallest car on sale in Jaguar’s SUV line-up but still offers a decent amount of interior space, and with four wheel drive underneath, you should be able to pull your caravan off a muddy field without too much trouble.
There are a fair few others fighting for sales in this sector, notably BMW’s X1 and X2, Audi’s Q3 and the Volvo XC40. You can probably add the Range Rover Evoque to that list.
Don’t look on the E-Pace as a shrunken F-Pace though. It’s got its own distinctive proportions with its shorter front and rear overhangs and low roofline to the rear.
The E-Pace range is made up of standard, S, SE and HSE trims, and all can be upgraded with an R-Dynamic pack that adds a sportier look inside and out.
Front-wheel drive features on the D150 in standard and S guises, but the rest of the range is four-wheel drive, which you’ll feel through the chunkier responses as the Jaguar moves along.
The Chequered Flag edition sampled here adds a panoramic roof and motorsport heritage-inspired design flourishes.
Inside the dash layout is user friendly, utilising a lot of existing Jaguar switchgear. Took me a little while to work my way through the various controls and functions on the steering wheel but I found the head up display in the end, which is a £920 option.
There’s a decent central screen, a good commanding driving position in firm but comfortable leather seats with plenty of adjustment to the steering wheel, and a big panoramic sunroof that lets light into what could otherwise be a fairly dark interior.
Legroom is more than acceptable though tall passengers may be a bit restricted if the driver also has long legs.
You can always rely on a Jaguar to deliver in the handling department, and even though this is taller and heavier than some of its rivals it does stay pretty well upright through corners, only showing signs of dissent when you’re in Dynamic mode and pushing along. It proves even more responsive and makes it quite rewarding to drive rather than just ambling along. There’s a firm feel and poor surfaces will make it a bit jiggly but a decent road will highlight its attributes.
Around town, the steering can feel quite heavy, though the electric power assisted steering helps out here.
All versions of the E-Pace come with a rear-view camera, along with front and rear parking sensors. Upgrade to SE trim or above and you’ll get a 360deg parking aid that displays a graphic on the infotainment system to indicate how close you are to obstacles around you. Handy when that sloping rear end and big C pillar makes rear threequarter viewing a bit restricted.
When you’re out and about testing cars during a lockdown period you don’t expect to see a great deal of traffic around you but it wasn’t exactly quiet. Don’t go out if you don’t need to is a message that wasn’t getting through, obviously.
Jaguar E-PACE D180 Chequered Flag
Price: £40,800 (£47,435 as tested)
Engine: 2.0 litre, four cylinder, turbo diesel
Transmission: 8 speed automatic
Top speed: 127mph
0-60mph: 8.6 seconds
CO2 emissions: 158g/km
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