The very car you see here - which we’re running for a year - beat the Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d and BMW X3 xDrive20d in a £40k 4x4s comparison in the 27 January issue, cementing its ranking as the top choice in the class.
It’s a very well-rounded package now, with much more competitive fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures than the earlier model, although it still comes with a few reservations in areas such as engine refinement and the quality of some of its cabin materials.
Rather than picking up our car from a dealer, we were able to collect it from JLR’s Halewood plant in Liverpool, where the Discovery Sport and Evoque are built, and have a quick tour of the trim and final assembly sections of the production line.
Before handing over the keys, Halewood operations director Richard Else gave us an insight into the former Ford facility, which was on the brink of closing in the late 1990s but has been rejuvenated in the intervening period and now churns out around 180,000 cars a year, with 4200 staff making Evoques, Discovery Sports and now Evoque Convertibles 24 hours a day over three shifts.
It may be relatively quiet inside, but the place is booming.
The model we’ve gone for is a mid-range HSE with an automatic gearbox and its list price is £39,400. Opting for that transmission over the £1805-cheaper six-speed manual means you have only one engine choice: the more powerful, 178bhp version of the Ingenium TD4, which is backed up by 317lb ft of torque at just 1750rpm.
Perhaps unfairly, I can’t help but wish that I had more powertrain options from which to choose. I’d almost certainly have a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid version if I could.
Still, you can’t expect everything at once. Standard features at HSE level include front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, panoramic roof, 19in wheels, powered tailgate, heated front seats, keyless entry, xenon headlights with automatic high beam assist and the same 8.0in touchscreen multimedia system with navigation as you get in the Jaguar XE.
To that list we’ve added a heated steering wheel, spacesaver spare wheel, metallic paint, a black contrast roof, privacy glass, traffic sign recognition and upgraded connectivity in the form of InControl Connect, lifting the price as tested by a relatively modest amount to £42,222.
The combination of Scotia Grey (actually a soft metallic green) body colour, black roof and black leather interior may seem relatively conservative, but the effect is really very classy, and I suspect it reflects the way the majority of buyers actually specify their cars when practicality is a consideration, as it usually is with a car like this.
First impressions of the cabin are that it’s quite plain but the driving position and seats are supremely comfortable, there’s a generous amount of space in the second row thanks to the standard sliding/reclining function and the +2 seats that fold out of the boot floor might actually be usable, even for adults if necessary.