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Can a car be more than the sum of its parts? That’s the quandary that’s been buzzing around my head for much of the past year, ?as nominated custodian of What Car?’s Range Rover Evoque.
Here is a car which you could easily argue falls short in a number of areas (outright practicality, infotainment, fuel efficiency to name a few), and yet Evoque owners will forgive the baby Rangie almost anything.
Our five-door Evoque turned up in March last year. We’d opted for one of the most common mechanical set-ups: the 188bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine, with four-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic gearbox. We also chose Prestige spec, which brought a more luxurious cabin.
Its list price was £38,990 at the time, and even though we stayed modest on the options list, our two choices, a panoramic contrast roof and the adaptive chassis dynamics package, cost a further £2400, bringing our car up to £41,390.
Our decision to go for white paint with a black roof, and a tan/espresso cabin, kept the car reasonably close to the LRX concept model that spawned the Evoque. It was fascinating, ?in fact, to pick our car up from Land Rover Design HQ in Gaydon, and use the opportunity to sit in our car alongside the LRX; even with an extra pair of doors, the production model’s stance was impressively close to that of the show car. It looked a million dollars; it still does.
Perhaps more impressive still was the ease with which the Evoque took to everyday life, because it definitely wasn’t ?a genuine SUV with the accompanying boot space. Nonetheless, it had (just about) enough capacity to cope with four adults and modest amounts of luggage. All guests were impressed by the slightly elevated seating position, the finish of the cabin and the Evoque’s ability to deal with motorways in comfort.
They were also pleased with the stereo’s sound quality, although the slow, low-resolution infotainment system was a different matter.
The Evoque’s first service came up after barely nine months, at 16,000 miles, so we took it to Guy Salmon in Thames Ditton. It was hard to question the customer experience, but the bill was eye-watering, at more than £500. As it turned out, they’d charged us for a Range Rover service instead of an Evoque, but even so, that still meant a hefty £400.
That one-off hit wasn’t quite the most galling drain on resources, though, because the Evoque’s fuel economy was a constant cause for concern. It started off at around 30mpg and pretty much stayed there. My daily commute mixes traffic-clogged motorway, a stretch of empty motorway, and school run-infested urban roads at either end, so it’s not exactly conducive to fuel efficiency.
Even so, our overall average was still more than 25% off the Government figure of 43.5mpg, at just 31.5mpg. It’s even short of our True MPG average. I’d like to think that the six-speed auto was responsible for a fair chunk of this thirst; it never seemed the cleverest of transmissions, and was too keen to send revs rising. Perhaps the recently announced nine-speed unit will work some magic.
At least I can report that reliability wasn’t a concern. Our car behaved pretty much faultlessly, with only one small breakage (a clip for the parcel shelf) and no oil use to speak of. It also lived up to Land Rover’s 'go anywhere’ reputation during the winter snowfalls.
The cabin wore extremely well, too. Given that I wear jeans to work most days, I’d expected some denim blue 'rub-off’ to appear on the tan leather seats, but their colour stayed resolutely fast.
Lots of positives from 12 months, then, but am I sad to see it leave us? Yes and no. It’s a great thing to walk up to in a car park, but I’ve found a few too many shortcomings for this to be the finest small SUV you can buy.
Equally, though, I can see why this is just about the most desirable car on the road. Long after the debate about its flaws has died down, the core appeal and ‘rock star’ quality will remain – and for thousands of owners, this will be more than enough.
Range Rover Evoque 2.2 SD4 Prestige 4WD logbook
Price when new £38,990
Price now (new) £39,910
Extras Panoramic contrast roof £1250; Adaptive Dynamics £1150
Total price new £41,390
Current part-ex value £33,500
Overall test fuel economy 31.5mpg
Worst fuel economy 26.3mpg
Best fuel economy 36.0mpg
True MPG 36.4mpg
Official fuel economy 43.5mpg
CO2/tax liability 149/24%
Contract hire £554
Cost per mile 81p
Insurance group/quote 34/£886
Servicing and repairs
Servicing ?16,000-mile service £404
By John McIlroy