- Stylish design
- Cabin greatly improved from 2021
- Driving experience also much better after 2021
- Not as spacious as rival SUVs
- Petrol and diesel versions aren't very efficient
- Pre-2021 versions are less competitive
Jaguar took decades to launch its first SUV - the F-Pace - back in 2016, and it rapidly became the brand’s best-selling model. This Jaguar E-Pace review looks at the more affordable SUV in the range. Jaguar also offers the all-electric i-Pace at the top of the range, commanding a higher price for green power.
It competes against a wide variety of premium rivals, including the Volvo XC40, Range Rover Evoque, BMW X2, and Audi Q3, to name just a few. The Jaguar brings to the table a sporty design inspired (loosely) by the F-Type sports car, and a choice of 2.0-litre engines.
Diesels range from 150PS to 240PS, while the petrols start with 200PS and go all the way up to 300PS. All but the least powerful diesel models are fitted with four-wheel drive as standard, and most variants also come with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, although there’s also a six-speed manual available on the cheaper diesel models. A plug-in hybrid was also added in 2021.
Unfortunately, the Jaguar E-Pace doesn't live up to its sporty styling and it doesn’t feel especially agile. It's relatively heavy, rolls in corners and has inert steering that doesn’t inspire confidence, even if it does have plenty of grip. That wouldn't usually matter in an SUV but Jaguars have a reputation for sportiness that isn’t lived up to here – the larger F-Pace is much more accomplished in this regard.
Its portly weight also blunts the Jaguar E-Pace’s performance. The entry-level diesels feel ponderous, and only the most potent models - which are thirsty on fuel - build momentum with any real urgency. For us, the relaxed D180 diesel automatic is the pick of the bunch, especially if you do a lot of motorway driving.
This engine struggles to compete with its rivals for efficiency though, partly as there’s no mild-hybrid technology to help it save fuel.The news isn’t much better when you consider the Jaguar E-Pace’s interior. It feels plasticky and, although it’s a five-seater, the middle seat in the back is set quite high, with a narrow base and nowhere to put your feet. It’s much better sampled with four on board.
The Jaguar E-Pace has plenty of clever interior storage which makes up for the fact it’s boot isn’t as large or as flexible as in rivals such as the BMW X1.
Entry-level models with front-wheel drive are keenly priced, especially considering the level of equipment on board. All have LED headlights, a 10-inch media screen, climate control and all-round parking aids.
However, we would upgrade to the S grade. It brings sat-nav and full smartphone integration, plus luxuries such as leather upholstery and electrically operated seats and a smooth-shifting auto gearbox.
Even in this configuration, though, the Jaguar E-Pace lags well behind rivals. Okay, so it looks sporty, but the driving experience doesn’t live up to the exterior styling, the car’s expensive to run, feels dated inside and isn’t as practical as rivals. Sadly, the entry point to Jaguar’s SUV range is the model most worth avoiding.
We've yet to review the E-Pace fully after its 2021 facelift, where the driving experience, interior quality and technology were all improved on. This review focuses on the earlier version.
Is the Jaguar E-Pace right for you?
The answer to this rather depends on what you want from your compact SUV. The Jaguar E-Pace is handsome, but feels lead-footed compared to its premium rivals, is quite pricey in its higher specifications with the stronger engines, and is less economical than other SUVs in this price range.
It trades more on its looks and the strong appeal of its badge than anything else, but the market does reflect this and there are some great deals on used and pre-registered cars. At the right money, the E-Pace starts to make a lot more sense.
What’s the best Jaguar E-Pace model/engine to choose?
Despite the athletic looking exterior, underneath the Jaguar E-Pace is on the heavy side for a compact SUV. This means it feels slower than other cars with a similar power output, forcing you to go for the pricier engines.
That takes the entry-level D150 diesel and P200 petrol off the table. While the front-wheel drive, manual versions of the former are the most efficient, they're not the smoothest to drive, and too slow to recommend.
Instead, we would step up to the D180 paired with the optional nine-speed automatic. This combination plays to the car's strengths as a cruiser, and while not especially quick, it is more effortless than the D150 model. Pick one up in S trim and you'll have a luxurious, capable four-wheel drive car that sneaks under the £40,000 barrier - saving you a packet on road tax - but you'll have to skip the R-Dynamic pack to keep below that limit.
What other cars are similar to the Jaguar E-Pace?
Few cars are closer to the Jaguar E-Pace than its sibling from sister brand Land Rover, the Discovery Sport. It unfortunately is the favourite child of the pair, with newer engines, a smarter cabin, and equally sharp looks. It's a seven-seater, though, so the Range Rover Evoque is a more comparable model.
Further afield, the BMW X1 offers a more car-like driving experience, exceptional build quality and class-best infotainment, but generic looks, while the Volvo XC40 oozes Scandinavian style, is comfortable and practical.
For the same money as a mid-spec D180 automatic, you could upgrade in size, getting yourself an Audi Q5. That car is lighter, faster, and more refined, along with having a bigger boot and fantastically roomy interior.
At the lower end of the spectrum, it's hard to ignore the value you get from cars like the Volkswagen Tiguan. It feels better built and more modern insider than the Jaguar, yet is cheaper to buy and run.
It features a chunky grab handle on the centre console that's lifted straight from the two-seater, and the sleek wraparound dash and high window line make it seem like you’re sitting lower in the car than you actually are.
Forward visibility is excellent, but the curvy design wrecks havoc with the rearward view. The shallow screen and thick pillars at the back make reversing tricky, and you'll find yourself relying on the camera and sensors to avoid bumps.
The interior is intuitive and laid out. Three oversized dials in the centre of the stack operate the air-con and heater. Above them is a 10-inch screen that's standard fit on all versions, mounted flush with the dashboard, although the angle it's fixed at does create some glare in bright sunshine.
Apart from the electronic handbrake being hidden away by the driver's right knee, most people won't find it taxing to work out where everything is, and both the standard analogue and optional digital dials are clear.
All but entry-level cars feature electric seat adjustment, so it’s easy to find the right driving position, and the seats are grippy and supportive, whilst remaining comfortable.
It's a shame that you have to step-up to pricier Jaguar E-Pace SE trim to get lumbar support, as this helpful feature can be the difference between hopping out relatively fresh from a long drive or nursing a stiff, sore back.
Quality and finish
Although it all looks smart enough, material quality in the Jaguar is one rung below what you’ll find in most of its rivals. Lower down in the cabin in particular, the hard plastics used don’t stand up well to closer scrutiny.
Even areas that should feel really solid - the infotainment screen surrounds for example - feel hollow and will creak if prodded firmly. Not a very encouraging sign in what is supposedly a very posh, premium product.
The leather on the steering wheel and (from S trim onwards) seats feels suitably plush, and you'll find some attractive faux stitching on the chunky grab handle on the centre console. Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic models add some bling details like bright metal pedals and illuminated scuff plates in the doors, enhancing the sporty interior theme.
Top spec Jaguar E-Pace HSE models feature super soft 'Windsor' leather seats, but adding such opulent extras only highlights the patchy quality of other parts of the cabin, whereas German SUVs feel consistently solid.
Again, this is an area that Jaguar has improved significantly in the 2021 facelift. We'll update our review in due course.
Infotainment: Touchscreen, USB, nav and stereo in the Jaguar E-Pace
Every Jaguar E-Pace comes with a 10-inch Touch Pro screen, punchy six-speaker Hi-Fi, DAB radio and Bluetooth. This display has clear graphics, bright colours, and fairly snappy responses. The menus are intuitive, and Jaguar anchors all the on-screen shortcut buttons to the lower edge of the screen so that they're easier to reach. Trouble is, they're little and tricky to hit.
Still, unlike the Volvo XC40 and Range Rover Evoque, there are separate physical controls for the climate and heater settings, with a large digital read out in the dials making it a doddle to fine-tune the temperature.
However, it's a little tight-fisted of Jaguar to leave smartphone mirroring (via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay) on the options list. It comes standard on S models, and allows you to hijack that nice big screen to use with your favourite navigation, streaming and messaging apps on your smartphone. This model also includes a built-in navigation system, on-board Wi-Fi and connected services like live traffic updates.
Step up to SE trim, and you get a brilliant Meridian sound system with powerful, rich sound, while top spec versions replace the analogue dials with a larger 12.3-inch digital display, although this comes as standard on rivals such as the Q3 and XC40.
Space and practicality: Jaguar E-Pace boot space
One of the main reasons buyers flock to SUVs is because they offer plenty of space and versatility. Despite its relatively compact footprint, the Jaguar E-Pace feels roomy inside, especially for those up front. There's ample headroom (even for the tallest of drivers) and plenty of well-placed cubbies for your odds and ends.
Special mention goes to the cavernous glovebox, which could easily swallow a handbag, and door pockets with neat moulded cutouts for drinks bottles. If that's not sufficient, you can open up the central armrest to uncover another large cubby, with a pair of USB ports.
In the back, two adults can fit comfortably. Headroom is reasonable, but a six-footer sat behind an equally tall driver will find their knees resting on the seat backs. Unlike many rivals though, the back seats are fixed, so you can't slide or recline them to free up load space. Adding a third is a squeeze.
Ignore the Jaguar E-Pace's official 425-litre boot capacity - Jaguar measures luggage space in a different way to most brands - which means once you get the tape measure out and compare them like-for-like, it will carry less than most SUVs. At least the boot has a square shape, no load lip and some useful additional storage space under the floor.
Flexibility is not the best, though. The Volvo XC40, BMW X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan come with a three-way 40:20:40 seat configuration – so you better juggle passenger and boot space – in the E-Pace you get a far more conventional 60:40 split to maximise boot space to 1234 litres.
In exterior dimensions the Jaguar E-Pace is smaller than the Volvo XC40 at 1648mm tall and 4395mm long but it's a touch wider at 2088mm with the mirrors folded out.
All Jaguar E-Pace models come with Adaptive Dynamics if you wish to tweak the suspension to your liking. Also known as adaptive suspension, this can increase the firmness of the suspension’s dampers in Sport mode, or soften them in Comfort mode. With Comfort mode selected, the E-Pace rides beautifully over broken roads as the dampers are constantly adjusted to provide the most balanced ride.