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The Range Rover Evoque drew heavily on style as a selling point, but also possesses the substance to back it up

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The Range Rover Evoque is proof that a car can have both style and substance, so it’s no surprise it enjoyed all of the attention.

The first generation looked spot on straight out of the box and has barely changed – crucial qualities in a used car market that punishes failure and facelifts.

This Land Rover is an SUV right at the premium end of the compact 4x4 market

Buyers of new cars flocked to this first-generation Range Rover Evoque (2011-2018) with the result that the classifieds are awash with used ones at all ages, mileages, specifications – and prices.

The idea of a bargain basement Evoque may surprise those who thought the little Rangie way beyond their reach. Diesel dominates, whether it be the 2.2-litre unit or Jaguar Land Rover’s 2.0-litre Ingenium range introduced in 2015.

The 2.2 came in two power outputs. The 147bhp Evoque eD4 was offered with front-wheel drive and the 147bhp Evoque TD4 four-wheel drive. A 187bhp version, badged SD4, was four-wheel drive only. It’s punchy and about as economical as the 147bhp unit.

In the petrol corner was the 237bhp turbocharged Evoque Si4. It’s a thirsty old thing but smooth and, of course, free of the diesel particulate filter (DPF) issues that can affect the diesels.

In 2014, the six-speed automatic available with the SD4 and petrol engines was replaced by a nine-speed one. It’s a slick-shifting affair that boosts economy while offering the benefits of a very low first gear that’s good for off-road and towing work.

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In 2015, the 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine replaced the 2.2-litre. Offered in 147bhp (Td4) and 177bhp (Sd4) outputs, it’s torquier, more flexible and more economical than the earlier engines. In 2017, a third, producing 236bhp, joined the lineup. At the same time, the 237bhp Si4 petrol was joined by a 285bhp one.

Confused? Just remember that diesel is the sensible choice, and if your budget’s tight but you want four-wheel drive and a bit of muscle, go for the 2.2 SD4, and if you’re feeling richer, the later 177bhp 2.0-litre Sd4.

Trims? How long have you got? At least 10 were offered during the Evoque’s life but Pure Tech models were the most popular and are the best value. Kit includes cruise control, Trailer Stability Assist, an 8.0in infotainment screen, electric windows, parking sensors and automatic lights and wipers.

Options can distort prices massively. Make sure the one you’re interested in has a full service history and is sold with a solid-gold warranty. It’s a great car, the Evoque, but a poor showing in the 2018 Reliability Survey of our sibling title What Car? means you should go over it with a fine-tooth comb. Just saying…

Range Rover Evoque 2011-2018 common problems

Engine: Check for EGR coolant leaks. Inspect the turbo hoses for cracks and splits. 

Transmission: Check for a ‘traction reduced’ message indicating a fault with the Haldex oil pump, which can become blocked (budget around £1000). Check the effectiveness of the 4x4 system by parking half on grass and half on Tarmac, accelerating and checking grass-side wheels don’t spin.

Feel for lazy changes or shunting on the six-speed auto. If nine-speed auto thumps into Drive after a prolonged engine stop/start standstill, it could require a software update. If stop/start doesn’t function, battery level may be too low.

Suspension: Listen for knocks and groans from tired bushes and dampers, and feel for looseness and knocking through the steering wheel. You may have to accept suspension clonks over speed humps.

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Warning lights: Ensure they all go out. Engine warning lights could suggest problems with the emissions control systems, including the DPF. This is sensitive to repeated regeneration cycles, which can cause oil-in-fuel dilution, creating more soot.

Body: Any rust is probably accident related. Check underside for off-roading graunches. Failure of door latches to operate on remote control is common. 
Interior: Make sure all comfort features, including the infotainment, work. Take a test drive over rough ground to check the integrity of trims and fittings. Don’t accept saggy leather seats.

Recalls: Check all safety recalls have been actioned. 

DESIGN & STYLING

Range Rover Evoque rear

A car’s styling often merits no more than a few cursory mentions in our road test, but the Range Rover Evoque demands an exception.

Supercars aside, only the Citroën DS3 (2010-2015) and some retro hatches draw so heavily on their design as a selling point.

There's no denying that the Evoque has attention-grabbing looks and some fine detailing

The Evoque was born out of a desire to make Land Rover appeal to a more youthful audience. After a number of design studies were created, they were finally honed into the LRX concept car, which saw daylight at the 2008 Detroit motor show.

Even then, its future was uncertain; part or all of it could have become a premium Land Rover, or it could have been left as a show car. In the end, the whole design was adopted and given the Range Rover moniker.

The Evoque is, as much as possible, the LRX in production form. Land Rover was coy about having the two cars – concept and reality – photographed together, lest the production version look limp by comparison.

Little chance of that, we’d have thought. To our eyes, the Evoque is a brilliantly successful interpretation of how relevant, approachable and striking a contemporary 4x4 can look.

Have you ever seen an SUV with slimmer side and rear windows and a wedgier waistline? Nor have we.

INTERIOR

Range Rover Evoque interior

The Range Rover Evoque brought new dynamism and sparkle to the Range Rover marque inside. The dials add bling to the dashboard, and the centre console – throughout Land Rover history as upright as the car’s nose – rakes steeply down towards the transmission tunnel.

There rests the rotary gearlever dial, born in a Jaguar but now feature of all automatic JLR cars, and surrounded by more neatly designed, smaller switchgear than in previous Range Rovers.

Unforgivably for an SUV, the Range Rover Evoque dispenses with a spare wheel

Land Rover has trodden a careful path with the Evoque’s cabin. It would have been easy to over-glamorise it. Instead, it just errs towards the classy, without being overly bejewelled (except perhaps in the dials department). Perceived quality is broadly very commendable; plastics, leathers and textures are all outstanding.

Those surfaces extend to leather seats, whose shape looks more appealing than it feels to sit in during spirited driving, where several of our testers felt them too flat.
They’re a compromise somewhere between the upright ‘command’ driving position of which Land Rover is proud (and which this car’s short length dictates if decent rear legroom is to be maintained), and the conventional low-car driving position most Evoque buyers will be more familiar with.

A widely adjustable steering wheel means most will be able to find a comfortable driving position, but it took some of our testers a touch longer than usual to do so.
The rear cabin is respectable for adults, but the three-door variant (which costs more than the five-door) does put headroom at a much greater premium. With a high floor, a low roof and a stubby rear overhang, you’d expect the boot to be small, but it’s respectable, at 550 litres.

However, it dispenses, unforgivably for an SUV, with a spare wheel. Throw the rear seats forward and you create 1350 litres of volume. Meanwhile, Land Rover has, perhaps more astutely, taken care to ensure the Evoque can take a set of golf clubs “without long clubs having to be removed from the bag”.

There were some 10 trims over the course of the original Evoque’s life across three-door, five-door and convertible models. Early models were badged Pure, Prestige and Dynamic, names were changed to SE, HSE Dynamic and HSE Dynamic Lux with small spec changes.

The entry-level Pure is adorned with heated front seats, climate and cruise control, rear parking sensors, and an 8in infotainment system with Bluetooth. Later SE models added an improved infotainment system, DAB radio and AEB, although only Tech Pack models came with sat-nav.

Prestige models packed larger 19in alloys, Oxford leather seats, xenon headlights and a reversing camera; HSE Dynamic models added a 380W Meridian audio system.

Dynamic brings 20in alloys and adaptive suspension, kit that was supplemented with a panoramic roof, a powered tailgate, lane assist, autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition and an 825W, 16-speaker Meridian sound system on later HSE Dynamic Lux models.

The range-topping Autobiography models come with adaptive LED headlights, thick carpet and Oxford leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and JLR's InControl Connect Pro pack. Completing the standard Evoque range is a limited edition Ember model which includes all the equipment found on the HSE Dynamic Lux model plus a snazzy black body and red roof paint job.

The convertible models are available in HSE Dynamic and HSE Dynamic Lux trims, which mirror their coupé and five-door siblings on the equipment front plus an all-terrain control mode and protection against rolling over on the former, while the latter adds a 660W Meridian sound system plus a wind deflector to the package.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Range Rover Evoque cornering

Beneath the revolutionary skin, the Range Rover Evoque is a rather more evolutionary tale. Because it rolled down the same Merseyside production line as the Freelander, the two cars’ architectures are inextricably linked.

The Evoque’s engineering is its own, true, but without the Freelander links, which extend to about 30 percent of the architecture, there’d be no Evoque.

Under the skin, the Evoque and the Freelander are inextricably linked

The Range Rover is up to 100kg lighter than the Freelander, though, partly because it is much shorter (at 4355mm it’s shorter than a Volkswagen Golf) and partly because of more extensive use of aluminium, both in its body panels and suspension, and plastics in the body.

That’s part of a drive for greater efficiency, as is the Range Rover Evoque’s electric power steering system, which is fixed to the front subframe, rather than the body, to improve steering feel.

The 2.2-litre diesel used in the Freelander, and in a raft of Ford, Peugeot and Citroën models, was replaced with two versions of its Ingenium 2.0-litre oilburner - the an eco-friendly and efficient eD4 (available in only driving the front wheels, or 2.0-litre TD4 unit which produces 178bhp.

Thumb the starter to fire that particular diesel and chances are that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the relative absence of clatter at idle. For initial refinement, it feels to us on a par with this engine’s application in the Jaguar XF or, in fact, anywhere else that derivatives of this unit have been used to date.

To haul 1815kg, as tested, the Evoque’s 178bhp is on the modest side. At our test track, that power and 317lb ft of torque propelled the Evoque to 60mph in 9.5sec and dispatched 30-70mph in 9.5sec. The claimed maximum is 124mph. These are not poor figures and people do not usually come to SUVs expecting to find they go fast.

Most Evoque buyers, however, will not have come to an SUV before and might be a mite surprised by how moderately their monetary outlay performs compared with the estate or coupé they had before it.

The Evoque features Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, which affects not only how the hardware and stability software reacts to different road surfaces, but also how much accelerator movement you need to make progress. Left in either ‘no program selected’ or Dynamic, both intended for road driving, the response is clean and smooth. There’s a little creep from rest, step-off is clean and the six-speed auto feels like it begins to lock up early to give positive shifts.

Smooth progress is easy to make, with the ’box shifting mostly intelligently. It returns its best economy in its Drive programme, so sometimes it is a little flustered if you ask for slightly more power than it was expecting, making for a reluctant downchange. Select Sport and things improve, but if, say, you’re cruising between roundabouts but want a kick in the back on the way out, neither is quite the ideal compromise.

There are shift paddles on the steering wheel if you want to make the decision yourself – something we found ourselves doing a touch more often than we’d expected.
A 148bhp eD4 variant is available just as a two-wheel drive model.

Thanks in part to the 75kg weight saving from the deletion of the four-wheel drive gubbins, the two-wheel drive Evoque will emit as little as 109g/km and return as much as 67.3mpg.

The other available engine is a 237bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol, mated to 4WD and an automatic gearbox only. This engine dramatically alters the Evoque's character, playing to the strengths of taut, agile handling overlaid on proper off-road ability. It takes just a few hundred yards to sense this fastest Evoque's eager pace and the crisp revvability of its engine.

The convertible models are only available as automatics powered by the range-topping diesel or petrol engines.

RIDE & HANDLING

Range Rover Evoque rear cornering

 

As with the Freelander, the Range Rover Evoque sits on MacPherson struts at the front, with a multi-link variant (a strut with lateral and longitudinal control links) at the rear. There was a very tough compromise to be made here. Any Range Rover is, after all, a Land Rover vehicle and so it must be capable of reaching places that are unusually difficult to drive to.

Compromises are evident, but the Evoque will go further off-road than rivals

Yet it is also the smallest, most efficient and road-focused Range Rover yet and will be bought mostly by people whose idea of a green lane is a leafy side street. In the end, this car is for them, and Land Rover admits that the Evoque will not go quite as far off road as others in the line-up, although it will still go further than any rival.

A sell-out? Not at all. A car must be fit for its purpose and the Evoque retains an extremely broad set of parameters; it’s just that the width has shifted at both ends.
Nonetheless, compromises are still evident. Riding on 19-inch wheels and tyres, the Evoque is far from an uncomfortable urban car, but if you expect the kind of ride isolation you’ll find in one of its bigger brethren, you’ll be searching for a long while.

The Evoque is coil sprung, with magnetorheological dampers (an option) that, in their Normal mode, are set up to retain good body control in what is still a relatively tall car. That they can adapt, to stiffen and reduce the body’s movement compared with the wheel travel, is what helps keep the body tied down on poorer surfaces or at higher speeds, and this is where the Evoque shows its better side. It outrides a BMW X3, yet finds equivalence in body control and should go further in the rough.

Tie the body down further by selecting the dampers’ Dynamic mode and the Evoque is even better on a spirited hack, at the inevitable expense of more nobbliness over poor road finishes. Most owners will probably leave it alone except on smooth, winding roads.

And what of the 2WD model? Is it a proper mud-plugging Range Rover? From our experience in comparing it with the four-wheel drive cars, it does of course possess lower limits off-road. However, the gap in ability between the two isn't as wide as perhaps expected, and the 2WD Evoque is certainly more capable off-road than its more road-focused rivals at this price.

The Evoque’s steering is – only occasionally – slightly less convincing. For the most part, the new electrically assisted system has all the smoothness, linearity and consistency that we’ve come to expect from a Jaguar or Land Rover.

At 2.4 turns lock-to-lock, it’s quicker than that of other Range Rovers, and pleasingly so. But there’s an occasional stiction around the straight-ahead and a slight inconsistency in weight at manoeuvring speeds. It’s still one of the stand-out systems in the class, but a touch less polished than some of its JLR siblings.

 

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Range Rover Evoque

It is best if you look away from mere statistics with the Range Rover Evoque, because in any spec, it requires a great deal of money spent on a car that is no bigger and no more powerful than a Ford Focus.

And even when you cast statistics aside and get down to the objectivity of driving, the Evoque still seems like an expensive car. Yes, it is well finished; yes, it is very refined; yes, it comes well equipped and, yes, it has a breadth of ability few other cars have.

The Evoque is well finished, refined and well equipped... but expensive

But you’re paying not just for the tangible things, but also for intangible things like how it will make you feel. That leaves the Evoque with few direct rivals.
Anyone with this sort of money to spend is as likely to have a BMW 5 Series touring or Audi A5 coupé as they are a BMW X3 or Audi Q3. From that standpoint alone, while the Evoque’s touring economy is poor for a 2.0-litre diesel, it is not bad by the standards of most cars costing £40,000 when new.

Of course, if economy is more of a concern, the 148bhp eD4 Evoque, with only two driven wheels, promises a more parsimonious experience.
The introduction of the nine-speed automatic transmission in place of the six-speed box brings better fuel economy and CO2 enhancements than when the Evoque was first launched.

Another key addition to the Evoque line-up is Active Driveline, a system that decouples four-wheel drive at steady driving speeds above 22mph and only sends drive to the rear axle when it is needed. This system, which saves fuel and reduces CO2, is initially only available as an option with the Si4 petrol engine.

VERDICT

Range Rover Evoque rear quarter

As a car for us to assess, in some ways the Range Rover Evoque calls to mind its Freelander stablemate. Not in the way it drives, looks or feels, but in the impression it leaves on you.

A few of our testers came away feeling merely satisfied with the small Range Rover – neither disappointed nor blown away.

Like the Freelander before it, we anticipate that the Evoque will have lasting appeal

Yet the same was true with the Freelander, and it's true appeal and enduring qualities only really told later. It was a four-star car when we tested it, and its rating hasn’t diminished at all with time. The Evoque follows suit.

Several of our testers fell for it completely; its showroom and visual appeal is second to none and its dynamics are able enough to make it the premium compact SUV of choice.

Rivals like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volkswagen Tiguan aren't as appealing, and lack the same sense of occasion that the Range Rover imparts.

The expert’s view

James Holland, service advisor, Keith Gott: “I’m a former Land Rover main dealer technician and, apart from its well-documented problems with door latches, the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler and the Haldex pump, I don’t recall any major, common problems with the Evoque. If you use an independent specialist for servicing, ensure they have the right diagnostic equipment. Also, check the garage is connected to JLR HQ for service records and technical bulletins.”

Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 2011-2018 First drives