Range Rover Evoque evokes such pleasure

As Halewood celebrates a first year of building the popular Range Rover Evoque, Andy Russell drives what has become a motoring phenomenon.

It is not until you are driving the new Range Rover Evoque that you realise just how many of them there are on the road.

The new 'baby' Range Rover had been an enormous sales success for Land Rover – with almost 80,000 in just nine months since launch – a tremendous achievement in opening up this prestige brand to a new breed of buyer by making it more affordable. And this new compact sport utility vehicle is also more environmentally acceptable with much lower fuel consumption and emissions.

The distinctive Evoque's badge appeal and prestige has really boosted the compact SUV market and brought it to the attention of more motorists. But the Evoque also attracts plenty of attention in its own right and that's because it is so distinctive combining traditional Land Rover styling cues, like the clamshell bonnet, in a modern design.

In fact Land Rover has to be applauded for being so brave in bringing such a bold design to the market. Here is a car that started life as the stunning LRX concept and it has barely changed – so often by the time concepts reach the road their original appealing wow factor has been severely diluted.

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Not so the Evoque, offered as a three-door Coupe or more practical five-door model which has remained true to the original design with its dynamic profile complete with high waistline, the roof sloping away to the back end and the shallow, tapering windows giving it a robust, muscular look. Nine months after launch the Evoque is still head-turningly attractive.

As well as being the smallest and lightest Range Rover ever produced, not surprisingly it is also the most fuel-efficient and most environmentally-friendly.

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Power comes from new 240PS 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol or comprehensively updated 2.2-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel engines and it is the latter that is going to go in most Evoques. Available with outputs of 150 or 190PS, the lower-powered one is also offered in a 'eco' two-wheel drive model along with the traditional four-wheel drive which is standard with the petrol engine and 190PS diesel.

While the 2WD diesel is capable of around 57mpg overall with CO2 emissions as low as 129g/km, the 190PS version is the best bet if you want more performance and towing ability with plenty of strong, low-down pull and punchy mid-range performance. Even worked hard it remains smooth and commendably quiet so fits in well with Range Rover's reputation for refinement. My only disappointment was the fuel consumption which hovered around high 30s running around and did not rise about 40mpg even with lots of sixth-gear cruising on a run.

At launch I had driven only automatic models so opted for the six-speed manual test car and while the change is smooth and light, the close gate means you can find yourself changing into the wrong gear until you get used to it. Given the Evoque's upmarket image, I would pay the extra for the automatic transmission which is a more pleasant combination and could make your Evoque more desirable as a used buy.

As SUVs go, the Evoque is very good to drive especially when you consider the suspension has been designed to be most capable off-road as I found out on the original launch in Scotland. On-road it is supple enough to soak up bumps and lumps and poor surfaces effectively but the suspension is not over-soft and soggy when it comes to roadholding with good steering feel so the Evoque makes surprisingly good progress on cross-country routes.

My test car was a sporty Dynamic which gets 20in wheels – they look great in the wheelarches and make the ride firmer, though not uncomfortably so, but the downside is significant tyre noise.

The five-seater Evoque has enough legroom in the back to seat six-footers comfortably and decent headroom but with the rear seat set low and shallow back windows short people can feel hemmed in especially with the oppressive black trim of my test car. Go to for the optional full-length panoramic glass roof with electric blind to light the cabin.

The 575-litre boot doesn't look that big but with careful packing holds a decent amount. Despite its height it's easy to get things in and out thanks to a low lip and an underfloor compartment offers good storage. The five-door model's rear seat backs split 60/40 to raise capacity to 1,445 litres but while there is no step from the boot floor they slope slightly.

The raised driving position has plenty of adjustment and provides commanding forward views but rear visibility is hindered by the shallow back screen. The fascia is a model of efficiency with big, clear dials, logical switchgear and many functions are controlled via an easy-to-use 8in touchscreen display in the centre of the fascia. And the cabin is beautifully finished with exposed stitching on uppermost surfaces and lots of soft, squidgy trim materials for a classy look and feel.

Three trims levels are available and – entry-level Pure with neutral colours and brushed aluminium, luxurious Prestige and sporty Dynamic. All models are well kitted and there are a host of accessories and customising options.

It's not difficult to see why the Evoque has sold so well.

It's as luxurious as it is stylish, a pleasure to drive and boasts big badge appeal.

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