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Dashboard, infotainment, sat-nav and passenger space

Whether you find its particular hue fetching or not, the quilted ‘Siena Tan Windsor’ leather of our test car holds your attention immediately. And perhaps that’s just as well, because the clean architecture of the E-Pace’s interior is so conservative as to be just a little sterile, and it therefore relies on the quality and colour of its materials to bring it to life.

The E-Pace is a mixed bag in this respect, because while its cabin is a pleasant enough place in which to while away miles, closer inspection is hardly likely to endear it to owners. Plastic – matt finished, and of fairly high quality, admittedly – features no more heavily than in many of the car’s premium rivals, but you perceive it more acutely because there’s not much in the way of switchgear to break up its expanse.

I was appalled to discover that a £40,000 SUV didn’t have any cup-holders. Until, that is, I found them hidden under a plain plastic tray ahead of the central armrest.

A smattering of chrome finish helps matters, although, somewhat curiously, that of the air-vent surrounds is more lustrous and cooler to the touch than the large piece found on the transmission tunnel.

Jaguar’s Touch Pro infotainment, which is standard across the range, uses a 10in touchscreen neatly integrated into the dashboard (rather than sitting atop it in the manner of so many rivals’ systems).

That means there’s no click-wheel – a device we find currently offers the best balance of control and usability. Latency is usefully improved over slightly older Jaguar models, even if some of the icons along the bottom of the screen are inconveniently small.

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The screen’s matt finish can make it difficult to read in sunlight. Conspicuous by its absence is any potential for smartphone mirroring, either with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although Jaguar does have its own in-house software called InControl. This connects your phone to the car’s system and allows the use of certain apps, including Spotify.

The driving environment – strongly demarcated by the central passenger grab handle first seen in the F-Type – is hard to fault ergonomically, but the steering wheel buttons feel cheap. The underlying sentiment is that the cabin has been assembled to meet a less-generous budget than you might expect of a £40,000 car, and that’s a problem when Audi, Volvo and BMW set such high standards.

The E-Pace does provide well for families on long journeys, however. You can have up to four 12V charging points and five USB connections that cater for front and rear passengers.

The car’s own 4G wi-fi hotspot can also provide for up to eight devices, and most people will find there’s more than adequate rear head and leg room – in fact, the Jaguar surpasses the Volvo XC40 in this regard, although Volkswagen’s Tiguan possesses comfortably more rear-seat leg room than either.

Boot space isn’t so generous, though, but that’s the price you pay for that sloping roofline.