Land Rover's baby crossover gets Ingenium power and a mild facelift - and it now emits as little as 109g/km of CO2. Is it still the small SUV of choice?

What is it?

The Range Rover Evoque remains a glorious success for Land Rover, which has shifted almost 450,000 examples of its baby crossover since it was launched back in 2011. One in three Land Rovers sold in 2014 was an Evoque, in fact, and the UK remains the largest single market for the car.

Now it’s time for a facelift - although in truth, the policy with the Evoque appears to be a string of minor improvements instead of isolated giant leaps. We’ve already seen the nine-speed automatic gearbox, for example, and such is the strength of the Evoque’s image that, it will not surprise you to learn, the looks of the 2016 model year car have been tweaked, not overhauled. There’s a slightly more chunky front bumper, new LED headlights and a few fresh alloy wheel designs - and not much else.

Still, there are significant changes under the skin at this juncture, thanks to the replacement of the old 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine with Jaguar Land Rover’s all-aluminium 2.0-litre Ingenium unit - and the reworking of the front and rear suspension to adapt to the resulting improvement in weight distribution.

The engine itself comes in a couple of states of tune - with 148bhp and 178bhp - along with front or four-wheel drive, a six-speed manual and that nine-speed auto. Choose the cleanest of three Evoques to qualify for a blue name badge (the sign of efficiency, apparently) and you’ll get a manual two-wheel-drive 148bhp three-door that’ll emit just 109g/km of CO2.

The same spec with two extra doors (as driven here) emits 113g/km, while all of the four-wheel-drive editions, 148bhp or 177bhp, pump out 125g/km as a manual, regardless of body style, and either 129g/km (coupe) or 134g/km (five-door) as an automatic.

The Ford-derived 237bhp turbocharged petrol (badged Si4) will continue to be offered in selected markets, incidentally. But while it gets the same cosmetic changes, there’s little else to report under the bonnet. And with CO2 emissions of 181g/km, it’s going to look ever more of a niche choice.

The Evoque’s trim choices move into line with those of the other Range Rovers, so entry-level Pure is joined by SE, HSE, HSE Dynamic and full-house Autobiography. An extensive range of personalisation options is available - although you may have to look to the middle of the range before the full gamut of configurability is at your disposal.

What's it like?

There’s no doubt that the Ingenium engine marks a considerable step in refinement for the Evoque. At a motorway cruise it pulls barely 2000rpm and fades nicely into the background, although the calm beyond 60mph is disturbed by wind rush from around the sizeable side mirrors. Should you feel the need to work it hard, it’ll give you an unmistakeable diesel grumble - but it’s a world away from the rasp of the old 2.2. It avoids the pedal vibration that came with that engine, too; you feel it through the gear lever more than anywhere else.

The more modest Ingenium in the eD4 has 280lb ft at 1500pm, and while it can get bogged down occasionally, it has just about enough gumption to maintain a decent lick on twistier roads - helped by a slick gearbox whose ratios and throw feel unusually short and tightly spaced for an SUV.

The Evoque isn’t about to challenge hot hatchbacks for driver involvement on a B-road but it does manage solid body control and accurate turn-in from consistently weighted steering, so those expecting a more dynamic take on a crossover won’t feel especially hard done by. The brake pedal felt more progressive on the eD4 than a four-wheel-drive automatic that we tried, too.

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The cabin has had a mild upgrade, with soft-touch materials on the door skins, a new, cleaner design of instrument panel and a higher-resolution digital display that sits between the speedometer and rev counter. It’s certainly crisp but only serves to highlight how poor the 8in central touchscreen is. Land Rover has rolled more features than before into its infotainment set-up - including the ability to set up a wi-fi hotspot - but while the system is quicker to respond than the old car’s, the display is disappointingly fuzzy in the most part, and next to useless in sunlight (bear this in mind if you're considering the full-length glass roof).

The rest of the interior is basically unchanged, with the same limitations on rear space, rear headroom and boot capacity that have failed to put off those 450,000-odd customers. There’s enough space for four adults for a short journey, look at it that way - but they’ll need to pack reasonably light.

Few Evoques will ever venture off road - and fewer still front-drive examples will get their wheels properly muddy - but Land Rover’s test route included some challenging climbs, deep water and rocky stretches, and the eD4 acquitted itself surprisingly well. For all the scepticism of purists, the Evoque can deliver an experience worthy of the badge - although dedicated off-roaders will still be better served by a four-wheel-drive example featuring the new All-Terrain Progress Control system.

Should I buy one?

It’s hard to say if the Ingenium switch will bring in thousands of new customers to the Evoque, but the much-improved refinement should at least remove one of the key reasons for potential buyers to avoid it. The nip and tuck on the styling front is subtle - almost as if Land Rover was generally afraid to mess with a winning formula - but should look fresh enough to tempt existing owners into upgrades at the very least.

Range Rover Evoque eD4 2WD review (5dr)

Location Barcelona, Spain; On sale Now; Price £30,200; Engine 4 cyls, 1999cc, diesel; Power 147bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 280lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1608kg; 0-62mph 11.2sec; Top speed 113mph; Economy 65.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 113g/km, 20%

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xxxx 8 September 2015

Natural competion....

is the Volvo XC60 with the base version being slightly more expensive but a lot quicker, probably more driveable with more Torque too. Be good to see the 2 compared back to back to see how a small Chinese owned company can complete head to head