Jaguar’s smallest saloon has a big fight on its hands in a marketplace where rivals include high-quality offerings from BMW, Audi and Mercedes.

In the face of such opposition, even a brilliant car can only expect to be competitive rather than dominant.

So it’s just as well for Jaguar that its XE R-Sport is good-looking, efficient, comfortable, pretty quick and handles well.

What’s more, it does all those things with an understated elegance and refinement you come to associate with driving a Jag.

In terms of looks, this is a car with an aspirational design, with strong styling that makes a statement and give it real presence.

The front end has a superb appearance, with the sleek bonnet combining perfectly with the wide, narrow headlights and the striking upright grille.

Meanwhile, the low roof-line adds to the car’s stylish, coupe-like looks.

The body’s design lends the XE a low-slung appearance, which goes some way to emphasising its sporty pedigree.

The interior is refined and stylish, with the red colouring on the leather sports seats of the R-Sport spec adding a dash of extravagance to the cabin.

The dashboard is nicely designed around the driver and the highly-responsive and user-friendly multimedia system is now a much better offering than that found on previous models. The intuitive menu system on the eight inch touchscreen gives access to features such as the impressive 380W Meridian Stereo, which comes as part of the InControl Touch Pro Navigation Pack option provided on this model for an extra £1,125.

If there had to be one criticism of the interior, it’s that the quality of the materials and overall finish are modest in comparison to some rivals.

In terms of the driving position, there’ s no problem getting into a comfortable spot, with the hugely-supportive sports seats offering lots of adjustment.

When it comes to room, the car’s long bonnet doesn’t compromise interior space as much as you might imagine.

Indeed, the head and legroom available for driver and front seat passenger are more than sufficient, while two adults or three children can fit in the back with ease.

Under the bonnet, the 2.0 litre i4 Turbocharged Diesel engine provides 180PS and impressive fuel economy figures of 67mpg on the combined cycle. The smoothness of the acceleration is remarkable, as you hardly notice the eight-speed automatic gearbox swapping cogs swiftly. At its best, the car is capable of going from a standing start to 60mph in 7.4 seconds, which seems satisfying in most situations.

While it might not go about its business in the same manner as an F-Type, there’s still a pleasing sound through the twin exhaust pipes.

Those looking to extract the maximum dynamic performance may wish to use the paddles mounted behind the steering wheel to switch gear but, for the most part, the auto box has the knack of making the correct selection.

The car’s handling inspires confidence, with the electric power steering being quick and accurate.

There’s also enough feel to the steering to mean the driver is well of what’s going on beneath them, when to comes to levels of grip and how much lock is needed.

Meanwhile, the suspension is quite firm in dynamic mode, but manages to match the powertrain’s grunt with its neutral body control. In normal mode, the ride is firm but forgiving. It all adds up to a rather nice blend of power, performance and handling. Furthermore, the car offers the ideal level of refinement to cruise along in a relaxing manner on long-distance motorway journeys.

All in all, the XE R-Sport ticks many boxes for potential buyers, with front end looks that are arguably best in class, bags of refinement and appealing fuel economy.


XE R-Sport 2.0 i4 180PS RWD

PRICE: £34,775 on the road (£48,152 as tested)

ENGINE: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel

TRANSMISSION: 8-speed auto


ACCELERATION:0-62mph in 7.7sec

ECONOMY: 67.4mpg combined and emissions of 111g/km