Range Rover Evoque: driven

* First drive of the baby Range Rover * On sale September 2011 * Should you buy one? Oh yes!...

Range Rover Evoque: driven

What is it?

The Evoque is the smallest, lightest, greenest Range Rover yet and possibly the most desirable new car of 2011.

The Evoque will be available as a four-wheel-drive car with three or five doors and four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. A two-wheel-drive diesel version will follow. Sustainability, from the start of the production process to the day the car is scrapped, has been at the core of its design and development.

When is it on sale?

Most versions will be on sale from September, but you'll have to wait until early 2012 for the two-wheel-drive option.

How much?

From less than £30,000 to more than £40,000 but we'll be able to tell you exactly how much next Monday.

Fuel consumption?

The 2.2-litre manual diesel Evoque will average 44.1mpg and the 2.0-litre petrol, which comes with a six-speed automatic 'box, will do 32.4mpg. The two-wheel-drive eD4 model with a detuned diesel will be capable of 58mpg.

CO2 emissions?

Emissions are from less than 130g/km to 199g/km.

Why would I want one?

Well, just look at it for a start. This is 4x4 meets GTI. It's also a Range Rover through-and-through, with a stylish, high-quality cabin that offers lots of personalisation possibilities and a surprising amount of cabin and cargo space for a car that's less than 4.4 metres long and styled like a coupe.

The driving position is great and the range of gadgets on offer, from an eight-inch dual-view touch-screen navigation system to self-parking and all-round cameras that even help you line up the car when hitching a trailer, should keep dealers laughing all the way to the bank.

We haven't even touched on the best bits yet, though. The Evoque is a car that drives exactly as it looks, a fact that will delight the legions of drivers who are desperate to buy one and praying that the car is not just a pretty face.

We've driven petrol and diesel versions at Land Rover's test facility in the West Midlands, and can unhesitatingly say it doesn't disappoint in any way.

Both models had the optional adaptive dynamics variable suspension system, and with this in place, the Evoque feels more like a VW Golf GTI than a compact 4x4. It rides well, steers well, makes mincemeat of corners and keeps road- and wind noise to a minimum.

The 2.2 diesel (188bhp and 311lb ft of torque) will probably be the best-seller, but unless you're likely to be doing high mileage or are worried about the impact of company car tax, we'd recommend the 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo petrol engine (236bhp and 251lb ft).

It doesn't feel significantly less torquey than the diesel, because what it's got is available across such a wide rev band. The extra power is immediately noticeable and it's more refined and sounds better.

So far weve driven the car only at a proving ground, but we were able to go quckly enough to learn that theres negligble wind noise within UK speed limits and no discernible road noise on most surfaces. The diesel rumbles a bit under hard acceleration, but both engines are generally refined.

We haven't tried either version off-road yet, but we're assured the legendary Range Rover capabilities haven't been diluted. It actually has more ground clearance than a Land Rover Freelander.

There must be something to dislike?

The fuel economy and CO2 figures don't look that impressive against some small SUVs, but the Evoque will be a much more capable car over a wider range of terrain.

Over-the-shoulder and rear visibility is hampered by the coupe styling, and the rear seats don't fold down totally flat.

So, would we recommend one?

Absolutely. If you're at all tempted, get in the queue now it's going to stretch round the block. Twice.