No carmaker wants to miss out on the SUV boat, and filling every crossover size segment is an ongoing mission for most. Over in Coventry, Jaguar has wheeled out a smaller sister to the F-Pace, its first ever SUV and the 2017 World Car of The Year. The all-new Jaguar E-Pace will take on the established BMW X1 and Audi Q3 in the premium compact SUV class.

Said to be inspired by the F-Type sports car in design, the E-Pace is claimed to have “exceptional interior space” for a vehicle in this class. At 4,395 mm, it’s 44 mm shorter than the F48 BMW X1, but the Jag’s 2,681 mm wheelbase is 11 mm longer. Rear legroom is 892 mm while luggage capacity is a decent 480 litres, 25 litres down on the BMW. Folding the rear seats creates 1,234 litres of space.

Gesture Tailgate allows one to move a foot beneath the sensors positioned at each side of the rear bumper to open the hatch, which can be closed with the same gesture. Jaguar’s Activity Key from the F-Pace is a waterproof and shockproof wristband that provides access to the car using a sensor above the rear number plate. The RFID in a strap has been tested to withstand extreme sport conditions, such as scuba diving to a depth of 18m, and in temperatures ranging from -50C to +85C. Runners will find it useful, too.

The E-Pace looks unique, thanks to the fast sweep of the roofline, bold side window graphic, and a fuselage-like profile found in the iconic Jaguar designs of old. The muscular haunches that taper towards the rear draw inspiration from the F-Type, emphasised by sharp creases in the front and rear fenders. Choose between body-coloured, full-length black or a fixed panoramic roof.

Inside, the cabin focal point is a wraparound cockpit with the passenger grab handle forming the boundary of the driver console – once again, a style from the F-Type. The elevated ‘Sports Command’ driving position offers excellent visibility while retaining a cockpit-like feel, Jaguar says. No wood in this Jag, which gets Noble Chrome treatment and a metal finish on the gearshift surround, instrument panel, side vents and door pulls.

The latest version of the firm’s Touch Pro infotainment system with a 10-inch touchscreen is fitted as standard. Customers can add on a 12.3-inch full-colour digital instrument panel with 3D navigation mapping and a new-generation head-up display. There are two audio systems developed with Meridian, including an 825W Surround Sound system with 15 speakers.

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It doesn’t sound very Jaguar to include good stowage solutions, but the 8.42 litre centre console compartment can house four large water bottles as well as configurable cupholders and trays. There’s a 10.07 litre glovebox, while 10.56 litre front and 8.26 litre rear door bins are bigger than most. There are four 12-volt charging points and five USB connections as well as a 4G WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices.

“We worked hard on storage like never before. We’ve embraced it and worked hard on it, as we were not known for it before. Now it’s class-leading. There’s lots of space in the car and it has a stylish exterior. It’s a very usable car,” said Jaguar design chief Ian Callum.

The R-Dynamic trim level adds on a front bumper with deeper outboard air intakes and fog lights. Body-coloured sills and lower rear bumper surfaces with a Gloss Black rear valance, plus satin chrome on the front grille surround and fender vents adds to the sporty feel. Inside, sports-style seats with unique shoulder profiles and deeper bolsters combine with Sportmesh trim, Jet Morzine headlining, brushed stainless steel pedals and R-Dynamic treadplates.

The platform is the one used by the Land Rover Discovery Sport, and the chassis is based on the Integral Link rear suspension concept developed for the F-Pace. The architecture separates lateral and longitudinal forces, providing the combination of responsive steering/handling with comfort and refinement.

The Configurable Dynamics package allows one to select either Normal or Dynamic settings for the throttle response mapping, steering response, transmission shift speed and, where fitted, the Adaptive Dynamics suspension. The latter is a continuously variable damper technology with Normal and Dynamic settings. It comes with 21-inch alloys as standard (the base wheel is 17-inches).

The E-Pace is available in front-wheel drive (base model) or AWD, with the latter coming in Standard Driveline and Active Driveline forms. Standard is an on-demand AWD system that can send almost all engine torque to the rear axle when needed.

Active comes with high powered petrol and diesel variants, and delivers a rear-wheel drive character in normal conditions. At the rear axle, two electronically-controlled wet-plate clutches distribute torque between the wheels, with the capability to direct 100% of that torque to either rear wheel in 100 milliseconds.

On low-friction surfaces, the Active Driveline allows the driver to initiate power-on oversteer and maintain a controlled drift, Jaguar says. During steady state cruising, AWD is disengaged (FWD) to improve fuel efficiency.

JLR’s 2.0 litre Ingenium petrol and diesel engines are offered. The FWD variant gets a unique version of the 150 PS diesel with low-flow injectors to achieve good fuel efficiency (4.7 litres per 100 km). At the other end of the scale, the high-performance 240 PS/500 Nm Ingenium diesel does 0-100 km/h in 7.4 seconds. In between, there’s an 180 PS AWD good for 0-100km/h in 9.3 seconds (auto). The 150 PS and 180 PS diesels can be had with a new six-speed manual.

In the petrol camp, there are 249 PS and 300 PS variants producing 365 Nm and 400 Nm of torque respectively. Both are available with AWD automatic drivetrains only.

The 249 PS E-Pace does the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.0 seconds while the flagship 300 PS SUV does the century sprint in 6.4 seconds. The auto gearbox used here is a latest nine-speed ZF unit for transverse engine applications. The R-Dynamic pack includes steering wheel gearshift paddles.

JLR’s Halewood plant in the UK that makes the Discovery Sport and the Range Rover Evoque is at full capacity, which is why the E-Pace will be contract manufactured by Magna Steyr in Graz. The upcoming all-electric Jaguar I-Pace will also be made in Austria by the specialist contractor in 2018. The E-Pace will hit UK showrooms at the end of this year and it will also be made in China for domestic consumption next year.