He Jaguar F-Pace is a radical departure for its maker, but not one we hadn’t seen coming. Every manufacturer is trying to cash in on the fevered SUV market at the moment; the F-Pace is Jaguar's effort.
Jaguar has put the driving experience front-centre here, and it’ll try to tell you that this is a sports car that just happens to take five people and go off-road, rather than an SUV.
But it isn’t the only one trying to steal this territory. Porsche’s Macan is more expensive, but has already made this market its own, while BMW’s X4 isn’t as pretty, but great fun to drive.
And that’s before you throw in the more practical, less sporty options in the forms of the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. In short, then, the F-Pace’s task is no small one. It's impressive, therefore, that it was good enough to be named Best Premium SUV in the 2016 Telegraph Cars Awards.
Normally, sporty-looking 4x4s like this end up with a small boot as a result of their sloping rooflines. Not so with the F-Pace, though, whose boot is larger than any of its rivals’, whether the seats are up or down.
In the rear seat, too, there’s plenty of space for two adults to sit comfortably. There’s admittedly more space on offer in the BMW X3, but what’s available in the F-Pace is ample. The only slight downer here is that the door apertures themselves are a touch on the small side, which might make access trickier for less able-bodied occupants
No such problems in the front, though, where there’s loads of room for both occupants and some really neat storage cubbies in each side of the central console. These are joined by well-sized door bins, a big cubby between the seats, and a decent glovebox, all of which make stowing your odds and ends easy.
One thing worth noting is that there’s no seven-seat option, which means the F-Pace loses out to the Land Rover Discovery Sport in terms of ultimate flexibility.
How comfortable the F-Pace is depends largely on which model you choose and the options you add. The standard car has rather firm suspension which can joggle you around on lumpier roads; this is exacerbated if you choose the larger wheel options.
Stick with standard wheels and a lower trim level, though, and the F-Pace rides decently enough; add the optional adaptive suspension, and it becomes a very comfortable thing.
If you leave the car in ‘Eco’ mode, you’ll find the gearbox changes early and the engine stays quiet. However, use any other mode, and the 2.0-litre diesel gets vocal, the gearbox holding on to the gears and causing the engine to rev higher.
Otherwise, the F-Pace is a quiet and collected cruiser, its tyre and wind noise kept to a respectable minimum.
The F-Pace’s interior is tactile and attractive. It looks and feels classy, in a way that only Jaguars can, and it’s far more special to sit in than a BMW X4 or Porsche Macan. What’s more, it’s easy to use – for the most part.
The touchscreen system is intuitive and reasonably responsive, and it looks great, too. And while the heating controls look a little same-y at first, it isn’t long before they become second-nature.
The only slightly odd decision is the location of the window switches, which are awkwardly high up on the door where you wouldn’t expect to find them. As a result, you often find yourself going for the button which locks and unlocks the doors instead, which is located where the window controls would normally be in most cars.
Easy and Fun to drive:
Seeing out of the F-Pace can be a bit of a pain at times. The slim rear windows, chunky metalwork around the windscreen and big, square mirrors all contribute to block out certain portions of your view.
You do at least get parking sensors front and rear, which help to mitigate when you’re manoeuvring at slow speeds, but the F-Pace has quite a large turning circle, which means you have to take quite a wide approach to parking spaces.
Versions with the automatic gearbox can suffer from slightly jerky changes at times, as well as a fractionally delayed throttle response, which can make the F-Pace a little tricky to drive smoothly.
And if you want the version with the automatic gearbox, you’ll have to have four-wheel drive, too, which will sap some of your fuel consumption. That said, none of the F-Pace’s rivals are available with two-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, so this is par for the course.
For the F-Pace to be enjoyable to drive, you have to choose the adaptive suspension. Without this options box ticked, it’s not bad, but it feels a little top-heavy and bouncy, which means it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to control when you’re driving in a spirited fashion.
However, add the adaptive suspension and the car’s character changes markedly, its nose feeling more responsive and its body staying flatter through tighter corners.
Either way, you get loads of grip and crisp steering that’s very nicely weighted. And in petrol-powered S versions, you also get a delightful engine note that’d be more at home in the F-type sports car.
On paper, at least, you can’t fault the F-Pace’s fuel consumption. Its figures are as good as its rivals in most instances, if not better than; indeed, the 2.0-litre diesel is more economical than any of its direct competitors.
Out in the real world, you shouldn’t expect to get anywhere near the F-Pace’s official fuel consumption figures, though in our experience of town driving, it wasn’t too far off.
Priced well, though lease deals will likely be expensive
The F-Pace is priced very competitively, coming in at just a little more than the BMW X4 when compared like-for-like, and considerably cheaper than the equivalent Porsche Macan.
What’s more, the entry-level model, with its manual gearbox, has no equivalent in many rivals’ ranges, meaning you can get your hands on an F-Pace for far less, as long as you’re prepared to make a few sacrifices.
It won’t cost you the earth to tax, either; indeed, thanks to the lower P11D values, it’ll be cheaper to run as a company car than the Porsche Macan.
The only problem is that Jaguars’ lease prices are historically higher than those of their German rivals, so you might end up paying a little more to lease an F-Pace.
The F-Pace hasn’t yet been tested by EuroNCAP, the benchmark European crash testing organisation.
However, there’s every reason to suspect it’d do well. The list of standard safety equipment is admirable, and includes all the airbags you can shake a stick at, as well as a glut of driver assistance technology, including systems which help prevent skids in straight lines and in corners.
The F-Pace also comes as standard with a system which detects impending head-on crashes and prevents them. This type of system is proven to reduce accidents, and is an optional extra on some rivals – a big box ticked for the Jaguar, then.
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