The unconventional Evoque Convertible, has finally be given the once over on the UK roads. It's unorthodoxy is of course contained within its name: this is a three-door Evoque open to the sky, not to mention the slings and arrows of public opinion.
To Land Rover, the formula still makes unquestionable business sense. People like the Evoque; people (particularly Brits) like convertibles – et voilà. Achieving the end result has, unsurprisingly, required a fair degree of compromise and some considerable engineering.
The model is consequently heavier than the standard Evoque, and significantly more expensive, too. We're driving here the Convertible in its most affordable HSE Dynamic trim (with the 177bhp 2.0-litre diesel Ingenium engine), which costs from £47,500 – about the same money that would buy you a decently optioned Porsche Boxster.
A 237bhp, four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol completes the engine line-up. As for trim levels there are two to choose from the entry-level HSE Dynamic trim as fitted to our test car. It equips the Evoque Convertible with parking sensors, xenon headlights, electrically adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, cruise control, lane departure warning, and Land Rover’s 10.2in infotainment system complete with Bluetooth, USB connectivity, sat nav and a rear view camera.
Upgrade to the range-topping HSE Dynamic Lux and you’ll find luxuries such as parking assist, towing assist, a 360-degree camera, keyless entry, traffic sign recognition and blind spot monitoring as standard.
Is the Evoque Convertible a fad or something more?
Naturally, part of Land Rover’s hefty point is that this is obviously not a Boxster. Instead, it's an easy to get in, take anywhere, fashionable to be seen in compact SUV. To some extent, adopting that viewpoint helps mitigate the convertible’s core weakness – that it isn’t as good to drive as a standard Evoque.
This is unsurprising. Making high-sided, high-ground clearance cars feel responsive, agile and well-mannered is already witchcraft, and no-one wields a bigger broom than Gaydon. That the convertible generally toddles about adequately is creditworthy; that it doesn’t ride with particular aplomb nor go round a corner with the regular Evoque's savvy is understandable.
It is also, if you’re locked into the idea of the car’s other charms, broadly acceptable. Put the Z-fold roof down, and the novelty of being up high is normally enough to distract you from the mild scuttle shake and the two-tonne strain being placed on the tyres.
Take it off-road, and the Evoque-effect upshifts into genuine charm. Green laning, it’s fair to say, achieves a whole new dimension when you’re ducking under branches and cheerily chatting with passers-by.
The novelty of finding a convertible in the woods generally means the goodwill flows both ways – unusual in the relationship between walkers and byway-drivers – and the lidless car draws a similar amount of bemused attention when parked in town.
That’s fine and dandy, and continues the Evoque’s extrovert streak, adding credence to the idea that Land Rover’s recent 'gut feelings' have generally paid off.
That the Evoque Convertible works off-road (four-wheel drive is standard, as is the model’s healthy ground clearance), is not slow (thank 317lb ft of Ingenium torque for that) and manages to be peaceably refined with the roof back on, only enhances its standing.
Nevertheless, it remains decidedly niche. As with the three-door Evoque, the Convertible’s practicality is limited by the lack of space in the rear and – owing to the roof’s stowage – is seriously impeded by the matchbox proportions of the boot, which ought to have a fold-down tailgate, but instead gets the nuisance of a lift-up one.
The Evoque Convertible will also be expensive to run. We experienced nothing like the 49.6mpg claimed fuel economy – a combined economy that is already inferior to, say, a BMW 430d cabriolet, which has considerably more power, torque, pace, cubic capacity and even a lower CO2 emissions figure.
Can the Evoque Convertible find its niche?
If the thought or sight of owning an Evoque Convertible makes you particularly happy, and you’re well prepared for the compromise in terms of usability and cost, then there’s nothing that the Evoque Convertible does which ought to dissuade you.
It's less comfy and dynamically well-rounded as the standard car – but so is practically every other convertible cut from a tin-top.
Had Land Rover managed to make the car lighter – and therefore less thirsty and more fun to drive – not to mention cheaper, it might have succeeded in making it more appealing beyond a narrow band of diehard Range Rover exhibitionists. But that’s what the open-top Defender will be for, right?