You dream, as a parent, that the endless ‘taxi service’ will become a thing of the past when your offspring disappear to university. But we reckoned without the end-of-year accommodation switch, when all those pots and pans, guitars, amplifiers and furniture, delivered to their digs only months ago, must come home again. Fortunately this chore coincided with the arrival of the Evoque. At first glance its compact proportions gave us cause for concern. How many trips will it take? But we needn’t have worried.
With the rear seats folded down, the Evoque swallowed the lot in one go. Better still, with our payload blocking the rear window, it was the perfect chance to try the ClearSight digital rear-view mirror. Normally, with a tall middle-seat passenger or a full load obscuring the rearward view, there’s no option but to rely on the door mirrors. Not in the Evoque. ClearSight (standard on the HSE and HSE R-Dynamic models) receives sharp images from a roof-mounted camera, giving a clear, particularly wide, view of the road behind. Problem solved; all the luggage ‘disappeared’. If only unloading it was as simple…
ClearSight is just one of a number of key changes on the new Evoque that make it a substantially better car than its predecessor. The biggest change of all is that it feels bigger, more ‘Range Rovery’ than before. It’s partly an illusion, as it is in fact just 1mm longer, 10mm wider and 14mm taller. But better weighted, slightly quicker steering, finely-judged, nicely absorbent suspension and a slightly roomier cabin thanks to the wheelbase being longer by 21 millimetres.
As this will be predominantly a London car, with little need for the D240 engine, we chose the 178bhp D180, which offers a satisfying blend of power, refinement and reasonable economy. Matched to a smooth-changing nine-speed automatic gearbox, it sprints from 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds, but feels faster in practice. I’ll never get near the top speed of 127mph, unless Land Rover let me loose on their high-speed test facility.
Good news for city-dwellers is that this new Evoque is ‘greener’, too. It’s the first to use Jaguar Land Rover’s Premium Transverse Architecture platform, which facilitates mild-hybrid electrification. On the Evoque, the system cuts in at speeds below 10mph, ‘killing’ the diesel engine as, for instance, you cruise up to traffic lights. It’s good for London’s air and the engine re-starts smoothly, instantaneously, every time, ready to pull away again. I like it. In London you spend a lot of time in jams, which means plenty of time to study the cabin. It feels luxurious, with high quality materials that are easy on the eye and pleasant to the touch.
When we do escape The Smoke, the Evoque feels super relaxed on motorways. The intuitive adaptive cruise control takes the strain out of long journeys. But when slower vehicles in front pull over, the Evoque takes a little longer than I’d like to accelerate away again; following drivers might wonder what I’m waiting for. On long journeys the seating is supportive, but the effect is marred on the driver’s side by the headrest which – for this driver at least – protrudes too far forward, making the perfect seating position elusive.
Off-roading in this no doubt accomplished 4×4 has so far been limited to soggy fields for photo opportunities, where the mud and ruts setting came in handy. I shall put the wading depth (up from 500mm to 600mm in the new model) on trial at Land Rover’s own testing facility, soon. Can’t wait to see how this refined vehicle fares.
Date arrived 16th July 2020
Economy (WLTP combined) 38.2-41.5mpg
Economy (On test) 33.4mpg
Clever and sophisticated 4WD system that is switchable at speeds of up to 62mph.
Barbarian X trim comes with some desirable features, but the illuminated door entry guards will divide opinion.