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First Drive

First Drive: Jaguar E-Pace

The story:
Jaguar has moved into the small premium SUV sector with the E-Pace, which isn’t, as you might think from the name, the electric Jag. That’s called I-Pace. This is the BMW X1 rival that sits below the F-Pace.
Category:Premium small crossover
Key rival:BMW X1
Jaguar E-Pace 2.0 150D FWD S
On sale:Now

Jaguar has been working hard to fill gaps in its range, with the F-Pace SUV having launched in 2016 to give the British brand a long-awaited competitor to the likes of the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3.

Now it’s added a little brother, the E-Pace, to grab a share of the small SUV market.Jaguar E-Pace - 2018 - Image 1

It’s poised to take on the Audi Q3, the BMW X1, which is our CCT100 Premium Crossover of the Year, and the new Volvo XC40, another car with designs on making life tough for the established models.

The E-Pace is an important car for Jag, and is expected to become its biggest seller in 2019 when it enjoys a first full year of sales. It’ll take over that position from the F-Pace.

The car is described by the manufacturer as “a five-seat compact SUV that packs the design and performance of a Jaguar sports car into a spacious, practical and connected all-wheel drive vehicle”. However, that all-wheel-driveness doesn’t stretch to the entry-level car that, for cost and efficiency reasons, is offered in front-wheel drive form as well as 4×4.

Jaguar E-Pace - 2018 - Image 18This 150hp diesel and the 180hp version of the same 2.0-litre engine are also the only ones getting a manual gearbox option as well as the nine-speed auto that’s fitted as standard to every other engine. The manual driven here impresses more than Jaguar manuals have in the recent past, and is crisp, precise and solid-feeling in its shifts, whereas the auto is a touch more lethargic and feels like it saps a little power. It’s a turnaround from the normal Jaguar position of the excellent auto being a no-brainer over the notchy manual.

The E-Pace’s design is more than just a carbon copy of the larger SUV’s, and works – in part. The front end, with the headlights wrapping round the front corners and the huge grille dominating the nose don’t quite look right to some eyes on a higher-riding car, but the rear, which includes typically Jaguar slender tail lamps, is more elegant.

There’s a good quality to the interior, an area Jaguar says it was aiming for class-leading status on, and the buttons below the 10-inch touchscreen all have a classy feel when pressed.Jaguar E-Pace - 2018 - Image 22The E-Pace is maybe not as sporty to drive as expected, with the soft brake pedal and light feel to the steering slightly at odds with the composed ride and handling package. This 150hp diesel predictably needs to be worked, but feels better to drive than the 180hp automatic.

Overall, the E-Pace shows well for whole-life costs, thanks to a huge 51.3% predicted residual value from KeeResources; the XC40 is at 48.8%, the X1 at 44.3% and Q3 at 39.5%. That more than makes up for the E-Pace costing a touch more than its rivals, and not being as efficient as the Audi or BMW.

paul barker

The verdict

Jaguar looks to have another hit on its hands with excellent whole-life costs, although the driving experience maybe doesn’t match the class best.