“Stunning to look at, highly capable on and off-road, luxurious and efficient to run… the Range Rover Evoque has it all.”
Just how good is the Range Rover Evoque? Well, the premium SUV sector has been changed forever by it, raising the bar to an entirely new level. The visually stunning SUV comes in two compact bodystyles - three or five-door - with three engines and three specification levels to choose from. Its price structure makes it an ideal entry point to owning a Range Rover and the choice of a more traditional 4x4 option or two-wheel drive (a first for Range Rover) further increases the choice on offer. The Evoque is such an impressive package, we awarded it CarBuyer's Best Luxury 4x4 for 2012. It's also Range Rover's most efficient and environmentally cleanest model ever, so it's cheaper to run and own than anything else in Land Rover's garage. And, of course, its drive and ride, both on the road and off it, is terrific. Finally, nothing out there looks like it, either - some of its sleek design has even been applied to the latest Range Rover, surely the ultimate nod of respect that Land Rover can pay to its new arrival. It even makes rivals like the Audi Q3 pale in comparison, in any of its 12 body colours, three roof colours and seven wheel designs.
The Evoque is the sportiest Range Rover that Land Rover has ever produced - and it's as good to drive as it is to look at. It comes with a range of powerful engines to choose from: one 2.0-litre petrol and two 2.2-litre diesels. Two and four-wheel-drive versions both give an outstanding road-driving experience, with the Terrain Response system adjusting the Evoque's suspension according to current driving conditions. It corners well, with limited body roll for a larger car and has precise steering. Then, when you go off the road, Land Rover's MagneRide electronic dampers make sure it's as accomplished over uneven terrain as any of its larger stablemates. The 187bhp 2.2-litre diesel is our preferred engine thanks to its acceleration and overtaking ability, but the entry-level 147bhp version will certainly have enough power for most people. Both the six-speed automatic and manual gearboxes are smooth and easy to use, but the auto is set to be replaced by a groundbreaking nine-speeder which will improve performance and reduce fuel consumption.
Don't let its compact size fool you - inside, the Evoque is very comfortable and luxurious. The interior is spacious, well-appointed and made from the highest-quality materials. There's nothing cut-price about it. The dashboard sports a satisfyingly solid centre console and you can opt for an (admittedly pricey) panoramic roof that floods the interior with light. And whatever the surface you're driving on - smooth motorway tarmac, pot-holed urban streets or rocky off-road paths - everyone inside always remains comfy.
The Evoque is still a bit too new to feature in any customer satisfaction surveys, but Land Rover hasn't been that impressive over the years compared to other rival 4x4 manufacturers. In a rally cry for solid British engineering, recent models have been setting the world to rights with strong reliability, so things are looking up for the Evoque. Safety, however, is a strong point, with the compact SUV securing the maximum five stars from the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, aided by most models having four-wheel drive, adaptive dampers and powerful brakes.
The 'baby' Range Rover still has plenty of space on the inside. While the sharper-looking three-door Evoque may not be as versatile or as easily accessible as the five door, the sleek dimensions don't limit headroom as much as you might think just from looking at the exterior. But if space is important to you, the larger five-door model is 40mm higher, which gives the three adults who can fit in the back plenty of leg and headroom. And when the rear seats are folded flat, the already generous boot grows to approximately the same size as a Volkswagen Golf estate. The seating position offers the best of both worlds, being low enough to make driving the Evoque lots of fun but being high enough to look out over other traffic. When off-road, the Evoque's practicality soars thanks to four-wheel drive, hill descent control and a terrain response system that has different settings for different types of surfaces.
Value for money
Considering the name on the badge, the Evoque really does offer brand prestige, hi-tech equipment and a taste of luxury for a relatively affordable price. While, lower-spec models are a perfect point of entry into Range Rover ownership, top-of-the-range models are more expensive but still fall well below anything else Land Rover has to offer in terms of list price. Spec levels are as impressive as you'd expect from Land Rover, with an extensive list of standard equipment - just watch out for those awfully tempting optional extras, as they'll merryily run up the cost of the car before you know it.
While the 2.0-litre Si4 turbo petrol model of the Evoque may only return 25mpg, fear not - the front-wheel-drive eD4 version comes equipped with a 147bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine that returns fuel economy in the low 50s and emits only 133g/km of CO2. Even the 4x4 diesel models can manage to return 40mpg and emit 149g/km, so the Evoque is as frugal as you want it to be. Three specification levels are available - Pure, Prestige and Dynamic. Pure comes with gloss black detailing and leather seats as standard, while Presige adds a full-leather interior, wood finishes and sat-nav. Dynamic, meanwhile, targets the sporty buyer with 20-inch alloy wheels and body-coloured bumpers and sills. Overall, the Evoque is by far the most efficient Range Rover model yet, offering luxury for far less money.