From £27,0659
Beautiful poise and supple handling earns this smallest Jag a class-leading recommendation. It's not perfect, mind, but it's very good.

What is it?

One of two all-important four-cylinder diesel versions of the new Jaguar XE. You’ll have seen the cringe-worthy, overcooked TV advertising campaign and you may even have seen one on the road - or perhaps on the back of a vehicle transporter. But will you be driving one?

The numbers in the brochure give the XE every chance. With the entry-level diesel version priced at under £30,000, emitting less than 100g/km of CO2 and getting an 8.0in touchscreen multimedia system, sat-nav, DAB radio and cruise control as standard, it’s got the makings of a popular fleet saloon.

But it’s the higher-output 2.0-litre ‘Ingenium’ turbodiesel that’s under scrutiny here, and it has some equally competitive power, torque, performance, economy and emissions figures. We’re testing the eight-speed automatic version, in higher-end Portfolio trim.

What's it like?

Many of the same observations we made of the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol XE road-tested earlier this month also apply to the oil-burner. It’s a handsome design and recognisably a Jaguar, but it’s not as stylish or daring as its bigger four-door siblings.

Gaydon has played it a bit safe with this car, and understandably so given that it has ambitious volume targets for it. The sharply drawn front-end and fuselage profile are stand-out visual features, although the car is less distinctive from the rear, where it borrows more styling cues from the German opposition.

Inside the cabin, the XE adopts a similar position to those of the XF and XJ relative to their market rivals. It’s not quite as plush or as accommodating as some at the price, but it makes a virtue out of its simplicity and compactness.

Occupant space for the driver is adequate, but snug rather than generous. A slightly high-mounted seat combines with a typically graceful swooping Jaguar roofline to limit headroom for taller drivers. The closeness of the extremities of the footwell, meanwhile, and the raised centre console, support your knees and elbows rather than restrict your movement.

Second-row cabin space is broadly competitive although short of the standard of the most practical compact executive saloons, so full-sized adults may struggle a wee bit for knee and head room. The boot is a fair size but the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series offer a little more cargo space.

Jaguar isn’t known for outstanding material cabin quality and won’t be changing its reputation by out-dazzling the likes of Audi and Mercedes with the XE. The car’s interior is nonetheless very pleasant, fairly luxurious and consistently well-finished.

The black plastics and leathers of our test car were a bit plain, but lighter and more visually appealing two-tone upholsteries are offered. The car’s switchgear is all either grained or rubberised, and its instruments are pleasingly conventional and clear.

For a brand new engine, Jaguar’s ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre turbodiesel doesn’t make the greatest of first impressions. Starting with some notable shake and shudder, its audible signature is a little more coarse than the most refined four-cylinders, and it remains so under load and at high revs.

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It offers strong low and mid-range pulling power, though, and while you’d bet that its outright performance isn’t quite segment-leading, it’s well metered out by ZF’s excellent eight-speed automatic ’box.

The transmission’s natural bias is to upshift early and keep the engine spinning at fairly low revs, where it’s at its quietest and most economical. Throttle response at those crankspeeds is good, however, and power delivery is pleasingly muscular and elastic.

Cycle through Dynamic, S and manual paddleshift modes and you can make the gearbox hold a ratio for as long as you like, but the reward for doing so isn’t as compelling as it might be. While the engine revs more freely than some, it doesn’t do so all that willingly beyond 4000rpm.

Better, really, to settle for a more typical, torque-propelled turbodiesel driving style. The XE 2.0d 180 can certainly be spirited along quite quickly that way, and has grip and handling composure to spare on the road.

The car’s most laudable qualities are its fluent, consistent and uncorrupted steering, its balance and precision when cornering and its expertly judged blend of body control compromised against a supple and quiet ride. On all of those fronts, it’s king of the compact executive class.

Our test car had standard passive suspension, although firmer sports springs and adaptive dampers are available as an option. But the XE needs neither to feel athletic and involving, and to conjure an effortless and instant sense of poise that a BMW 3-series will only approach in perfect specification and dynamic setting.

The XE’s steering is quite quick just off-centre but is predictable and feelsome thereafter. Moreover, the suspension doesn’t seem to need to resort to overly firm springing or uncompromising anti-roll control in order to maintain good grip, body control or directional response.

Ultimately it handles cross-country roads with a dexterity unknown to most small saloons, and manages to feel at once stable, compliant and well-damped at motorway speeds.

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Should I buy one?

Do you care more about the dynamic performance of your business saloon than anything else? Since you’re reading this, we’ll assume that you do, and if you do, the XE makes a strong case for itself. Narrowly – and perhaps only for the likes of us – a winning one.

The XE doesn’t dominate its rivals like the current BMW 3 Series did at launch, leaving at least a bit to be desired on practicality, material quality and mechanical refinement. But it’s a competitive prospect even where’s it's relatively weak: something you’d never have said of the old X-type.

Moreover, Jaguar has evidently concentrated its budget and effort where it knows it can create a real selling point for the XE: on driver appeal. And, as ever, we’re a sucker for it.

Jaguar XE 2.0d 180 Portfolio

Location Surrey; On Sale Now; Price £35,425; Engine 4 cyls, 1999cc, turbodiesel; Power 178bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 317lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic  Kerb weight 1565kg; 0-62mph: 7.8sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 67.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 111g/km, 20% 

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dipdaddy 17 July 2015

i's say test drive and see

i's say test drive and see for yourself.

Autocar have always come across as a bit biased towards Jags claiming that if you peel away the Aluminium XK chassis what you have in essence is the old XJS chassis, little do they know structure of a monocoque steel XJS chassis will very much differ from one made of aluminium even if both were of monocoque type. they just have to knit pick at the littlest of things to belittle it. they forgot to mention DB7 was based on the XJS and so was the old XK.

I have read a lot of positive reviews of the XE on quite few magazines and websites and i wouldn't hold autocar's opinion as definitive.

bowsersheepdog 15 July 2015

You'd have to be barking....

Autocar are now informing us that a cramped and poor quality interior is a positive selling point....I think I'll move out of my house into the dog kennel.
RayCee 15 July 2015

Drive it!

There is only one way to know if you like the car or not. Go to a dealer and drive one. Compare with other makes, then choose what suits you. If your budget doesn't stretch that far, then your opinion won't affect sales anyway. I won't be buying one but I'm glad Jaguar has moved into this segment with a true competitor. It will sell well.

Does anyone know what the sales targets are? How many could they make running at full tilt? Just wondered.