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I headed to mainland Greece to drive Land Rover’s latest SUV offering. Find out what I think of it in my Range Rover Evoque (2019) review.

Despite having the image of being ‘the wife’s car’ in some circles, nearly 800,000 Range Rover Evoques have sold since arriving seven years ago – 20 per cent in the UK alone.

That would suggest what we all know anyway, that the fairer sex usually wins when it comes to major purchase decisions. See BMW Mini sales for further proof. And any half-decent piece of spending research.

I attended the European launch in Athens, Greece, and with the press embargo now been and gone, I can now tell you why the new Evoque deserves to be taken seriously.

So really it matters little what I say about the new Range Rover Evoque because I’ll be overruled anyway. But then it’s my job to inform and educate (well, try to) so I’m going to anyway.

Range Rover Evoque (2019) review: What’s new?

Range Rover Evoque (2019) review going through a stream

Except for one panel and some door hinges, the new Range Rover Evoque is said to be all new. Jaguar Land Rover calls its compact off-roader an ‘evolution, not a revolution’, which is code for saying it wanted to avoid changing a winning recipe too much.

In reality, though, it’s radically different. Not to look at, although I think it’s got a more mature look. Or in terms of size, given that it’s a mere 1mm longer. It’s what’s under the skin that has changed drastically, which starts with the use of Land Rover’s new Premium Transverse Architecture.

The mixed-metal construction is designed to accommodate a ‘mild’ (JLR’s words, not mine) hybrid system, which is available from day one and has made it possible for a less mild plug-in hybrid in 12 months time. Thanks to this, up to 50mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 149g/km have been promised.

Another benefit is that it’s 13 per cent stiffer, which should improve handling, while a combination of the shorter front and rear overhangs and a 20mm longer wheelbase has increased interior leg room and made the boot 591 litres in size – an increase of 10 per cent.

The downside is that the rear window, hardly the largest opening in the older model, is now comparable with a postbox. To rectify this, JLR has added a rear camera connected to a rear-view mirror that acts as a display.

Jaguar Land Rover has also fettled with the ZF nine-speed automatic and swapped the old suspension for a more sophisticated system comprised MacPherson struts up front and integral multi-link at the rear.

Also new for the new Evoque is the Active Driveline, which ensures torque goes to the front or back wheels, depending on where it’s needed most to maintain traction.

Driveline Disconnect, meanwhile, can disconnect the rear axle to reduce mechanical drag and improve fuel and emission efficiency. Because there’s no need to power the rear wheels when cruising along in normal conditions.

As for the mild hybrid system, a small battery and electric motor combination is used to claw back energy otherwise lost when coming to a halt. A full-on plug-in hybrid is coming in 12 months, which will have a much larger battery.

Range Rover Evoque (2019) review: Is it good to drive?

Range Rover Evoque (2019) review: Cruising along in mainland Greece

Apart from the fact the new Range Rover Evoque rolls about a lot and can be unsettled by bumps mid-corner, it’s a pleasing car to drive over long distances. Greece’s roads ranged from ice smooth to capable of killing your average car, but I never felt anything but comfortable.

Let’s be honest, though. No one ever bought the Evoque because it was a driver’s car and that is still the case. But the new Evoque is noticeably more refined to the point it feels like a baby Velar. You sort of waft along, feeling pleasingly superior to anyone sitting lower than you.

Even with slightly numb steering, I found myself blitzing along unusually pretty Greek B-roads quickly and easily. Slightly unpredictable understeer is never far away, which is par for the course in SUV land, but the new Evoque is better than most. It’s the gearbox’s unwillingness to shift aggressively that lets it down.

Drive an SUV as intended (slowly so you don’t make the kids vomit in the back) and you get a quiet, civilised ride, with road noise at motorway speeds being the most prominent sound to leak into the cabin, followed by the Ingenium petrol and diesel engines if you are heavy-footed. Not that you need to be, such is the level of torque.

The MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension setup is good at keeping things smooth, while the clear navigation instructions (viewable in multiple screens, if you so desire) stop you from taking the wrong turn and getting frustrated.

Range Rover Evoque (2019) review: What about the bad stuff?

Range Rover Evoque (2019) review: Side view dynamic image

The 2019 Range Rover Evoque starts from not that much more than a high-level hatchback, which is why a bit of cost-saving is hardly surprising. At certain speeds, for instance, the cheap vent plastics can rattle although thankfully it’s a rare occurrence.

I also was hoping the petrol Ingenium would be better, but even with higher levels of horsepower it makes quite the din while feeling much less effortless than the diesels. Given the small price difference, improved fuel economy and greater torque, going diesel makes sense (and I hate to admit that).

The new mirror screen, meanwhile, is a great idea as it means you can see behind you at all times. Even with a completely full boot loaded to the rafters. But it does take longer to focus on than a normal mirror, which you notice on a motorway when wanting to change lanes quickly.

A lack of visibility over your shoulders is similarly annoying, as more often than not overtaking traffic seems to appear out of nowhere. You really do need to ensure you have properly checked your blindspots, unless you like side impacts.

I should also point out that the Evoque’s image is one of the worst among petrolheads and the addition of a convertible version did little to help that.

Range Rover Evoque (2019) review: Price, trim and specs?

Range Rover Evoque (2019) review: Interior design with steering wheel and infotainment displays

You can have the new Evoque in one of four flavours, the most wallet-friendly being the entry-level Evoque. Prices start from £31,600 and standard equipment includes LED headlights, heated windscreen, ambient lighting, 17-inch alloys, DAB digital radio, heated door mirrors, automatic wipers and a tailgate spoiler.

Up one rung on the Evoque ladder is the Evoque S (+£3,150), which has 18-inch alloys, Navigation Pro services, perforated leather seats, 10-way electric front seats and auto-dimming and power fold door mirrors.

Above that is SE (+£3,500), where the likes of 14-way electric heated memory seats, the Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, keyless entry, Meridian 380-watt sound system and powered tailgate come into play.

HSE (+£3,000), meanwhile, gets ambient lighting you can customise, dark aluminium trim, perforated leather steering wheel, extended leather upgrade, heated steering wheel and 20-inch gloss dark grey allows.

The all-singing and all-dancing First Edition model costs another £5,500, if you fancy Matrix LED headlights, front fog lights, headlight powerwash black contrast fixed panoramic roof, 20-inch dark grey allows and privacy glass.

For those who want to make their Evoque more personalised, you can opt for the R-Dynamic upgrades available at all trim levels. This ranges from larger and fancier alloys to different interior trim styles.

Range Rover Evoque (2019) review: Worth buying, then?

Range Rover Evoque (2019) review dynamic rear three-quarter photo

The biggest stumbling block of the Evoque is that it had a bit of an image problem. Has Jaguar Land Rover done enough to attract petrolheads in swathes? Perhaps not. But it feels like a considerably more refined vehicle, a baby Velar for those who want a mix of practicality, off-roading and luxury for less.

The shift in personality comes at the expense of the old Evoque’s slightly more eager handling and the option of a prettier three-door, but then the pluses of the new car far outweigh the cons. Even the most basic model is well-specced, nice to look at and cheaper to run than before.

Let’s put it like this, you’ll be secretly pleased when one enters your life. Even if you never had a say.

Range Rover Evoque (2019) review: A baby Velar?
The new Range Rover Evoque has matured into the baby luxury SUV it craved to be, even if the Ingenium petrol is less suited to its wafty style of motoring.
Performance
Handling
Enjoyability
Cool-factor
Usability
The Good
  • Refined
  • Well-equipped
  • Bags of clever tech
The Bad
  • Some cheap rattly plastics
  • The petrol is inferior
  • Vague steering
4.0The Score