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Driven: Jaguar E-Pace D200 AWD R-Dynamic HSE

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The Jaguar brand is synonymous with luxury sedans and grand tourers. The name conjures up images of the legendary XK150 and E-Type sports cars, the XJ12 luxury car and the sporting XJR’s that followed in the 90’s. As trends changed and manufacturers started building SUVs, Jaguar was one of the last premium brands to introduce a high-riding premium vehicle.

The F-Pace, first seen in 2016, became the company’s most successful model and remains the top seller. But with a starting price of R1 164 618, it may be out of reach for many customers who dream of driving a Jag. Enter the E-Pace, which first saw the light a year after its bigger brother. A recent mid-life update has given the Evoque rivals fresher looks, with improved tech and a more sumptuous cabin. 

Interior, standard features and practicality

With a starting price of R902 280, the E-Pace is priced at a more accessible price point than the F-Pace. Its rivals include the Lexus UX, Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. Our test unit, a D200 AWD R-Dynamic HSE, retails for a considerable R964 280. As standard, the top-spec E-Pace receives a full suite of luxury and safety features, including six airbags, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, satellite navigation, electrically adjustable front seats and more.

Jaguar's latest infotainment system is a joy to use, feeling far more responsive and intuitive than before. The screen, crisp and beautiful to look at, is operated via touch and boasts myriad features, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Quality wise, we were bowled over by the solid-feeling cabin. Perceived quality is a strong point, the interior feeling really premium, despite the E-Pace being the entry-level Jaguar. The compact dimensions means that passengers in the rear can feel a touch cramped, but this criticism can be directed at the E-Pace’s rivals, too. Still, children and shorter adults will be perfectly comfortable, cosseted by the supportive and plush leather-trimmed seats.

Boot space is on par with rivals and, despite the compact bodyshell, even rivals that of bigger SUVs. As an example, the Mercedes GLB and GLC offer 565 and 550 litres, respectively. The Jaguar boasts a superior 577 litres, but loses out when it comes to utility space. Fold the rear bench down and it musters up 1 234 litres of cargo space, compared to the GLB’s cavernous 1 800 litres and the GLC’s still impressive 1 600 litres.

Performance, comfort and refinement 

The 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine has a fine blend of economy and performance. With 147 kW and 430 Nm of torque, performance is impressive. 0-100 km/h is dealt with in a sprightly 8.4 seconds, which translates into a lively daily drive. Part of this responsiveness is down to the smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission, which blurs through the gears rapidly and without fuss. 

The auto ‘box also aids in the Jag’s stellar fuel consumption. Over our week with the compact Brit, we managed to achieve an average fuel economy figure of 7.6 L/100 km. Not bad, but some way off the 5.3 L/100 km Jaguar claims. Typical of the brand, the E-Pace – despite wearing classy 20-inch alloys – rides beautifully, softening out rough roads with its well-chosen ride. 

Refinement is a hallmark of the smallest Jaguar, with a hushed cabin at 120 km/h. The diesel powertrain can sound a touch gruff at start-up, though. This disappears into the background as the engine warms up. To drive, it’s not as dynamic and engaging as its bigger brother, the F-Pace. But in its class, it feels a touch more spirited than the Range Rover Evoque (which uses the same basic platform as the Jaguar.) 

Verdict

At just over R964 000, the little Jaguar is certainly a pricey SUV. When you compare it to the competition, you’ll notice the E-Pace is priced considerably higher. In fact, for the same price, you can purchase a bigger, more spacious BMW X3, Audi Q5 or Mercedes-Benz GLC. Look at the Jaguar’s comprehensive list of features and that price starts to make sense, though. In HSE guise, Coventry’s compact crossover is packed to the rafters with luxury and safety features which, on most of the competition, are costly extras. Spec a GLA, GLB or Evoque to this level and the cost will exceed the Jaguar’s asking price. As lovely as the GLA and GLB are, neither can match the exclusivity and plush interior of the Jaguar. While the Evoque can give the Jag a run for its money (in terms of refinement and badge cachet) it too can’t match the exclusivity afforded by the Leaping Cat. Add in a comprehensive five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan and the E-Pace starts to make sense. This is a car you can buy with your head and your heart.

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