Every so often, a car comes along that captures the zeitgeist – appealing to fashionistas and forward-thinking petrolheads alike. In 2011, that car was the Range Rover Evoque: a compact 4x4 with space-age styling and an interior designed by Posh Spice. A long waiting list followed its launch, and more than 450,000 have been sold since. But fashion is fickle and the car is overdue a mid-life nip-and-tuck.
Don’t worry if you can’t spot the difference. The cosmetic tweaks are limited to a botoxed front bumper, LED adaptive headlights, a new grille and sparkly taillights. Inside, there are shapely seats, better quality materials and a new touchscreen media system. Up to date, then, but hardly cutting edge.
But don’t dismiss the new Evoque just yet. Under its bonnet is a new 2.0litre Ingenium diesel engine, making it the most efficient Land Rover ever. In 150hp 2WD Coupe guise with a manual gearbox, it returns fuel economy of 68mpg and CO2 emissions of 109g/km (£20 annual car tax). Those kinds of running costs wouldn’t shame a family hatchback.
But this is still a Land Rover, and that means it must climb mountains, clamber over ruts, ford rivers and do all those other things that 99 per cent of Evoque owners will never do. Thus we find ourselves at the Les Comes Land Rover Experience centre near Barcelona. Steep gravel switchbacks, waist-deep water and a rickety bamboo bridge provoked perspiration and occasional profanities from driver and passenger alike. Yet the Evoque hardly broke a sweat.
If you opt for the ninespeed automatic gearbox (as most owners do), you can have All-Terrain Progress Control, a kind of lowspeed cruise control for slow and steady progress over the rough stuff. With the system activated, this baby Range Rover feels almost unstoppable; it hauls itself up hills and over obstacles with studied nonchalance.
Back on Tarmac, the Evoque feels commendably carlike, with agile handling and decent ride comfort. The steering is our only black mark; it offers little feedback when cornering, yet is oversensitive for motorway driving, requiring regular corrections at speed.
The new engine is a huge improvement, though: smooth, punchy and impressively quiet. Even under full acceleration, the noise is more petrol purr than commercial clatter.
The 150hp unit powers the Evoque to 62mph in 11.2 seconds, while the 180hp version trims that to 10 seconds. However, we found that extra 30hp made little perceptible difference on the road.
The Evoque’s cabin is a pleasant and undeniably premium place to be. Standard equipment includes heated front seats with electric adjustment, cruise control, DAB radio and automatic headlights/wipers. Our top-spec Autobiography even had heated rear seats and in-car wifi. The new InControl Touch media system is certainly a step forward, but we’d prefer a separate controller – as offered by Audi, BMW and Mercedes – rather than simply a touchscreen. Interestingly, five-door and three-door Coupe versions of the Evoque are identically priced, giving you a straight choice between function and fashion.
Both sacrifice interior space for the sake of style, however – thank the bulbous wheel-arches and sloping roofline. It’s acceptably roomy in the front, but the rear bench is best suited to children or pets.
And therein lies the Evoque’s biggest problem. It remains a capable and desirable car, but Land Rover’s newer Discovery Sport looks pretty similar, costs about the same and, with the option of seven seats, is vastly more practical. But then since when was being sensible remotely fashionable?