Last year, around one in three registrations in the UK and Europe were SUVs. It's a segment that has been growing steadily for years but has only now started to pick up real pace, prompting manufacturers to build entire ranges of high-riders.
These are just below average on the size chart but are the most popular, with the segment home to several brands' bestselling SUVs. Customers expect Tardis-like space and premium-brand quality on the inside and a commanding driving position, combined with the compactness of an average family car to keep palms unsweaty in town and on narrow lanes.
Land Rover has seized the critical lead of what’s undoubtedly the most important market segment in which it now plays with the second-generation Range Rover Evoque. Based on an all-new, mixed-material model platform, the car has adopted mild-hybrid engines and sits on a longer wheelbase than its predecessor for improved interior space without having grown significantly in any outward dimension.
The car has taken big leaps forward on mechanical refinement, cabin space, luxury ambience and technological allure. While it isn’t the most practical car of its kind, it’s very competitive on that score, with plenty of room for adults in the second row – albeit behind a fairly high shoulder line which restricts visibility a bit.
The car’s mid-range D180 diesel engine is the pick of the range, providing strong drivability and better refinement than we’re used to from Land Rover’s four-cylinder diesels. Performance isn’t as strong as in some smaller, lighter rivals, but there’s more than enough to make progress feel effortless enough.
Having rather come of age as a Range Rover, the Evoque now represents as luxurious-feeling a car as it’s possible to buy in this class – and that’ll help justify what’s a fairly high price to a great many buyers.