"Is it the one that looks squashed?" asks my autophilic neighbour (is that a word? I don't mean that he has sex with cars – he just likes them a lot). He's right, it is, but that's not the most striking thing about the Evoque. What really hits you about the latest Range Rover is that all the things that make a car a Range Rover – the epic scale, the biblical thirst, the colossal weight – have been stripped away to leave a car that is not some snivelling shadow of its former self, but a vehicle that is still indisputably a Range Rover.
It was officially presented at the Geneva Motor Show a year ago, after months of burlesque-inspired teasers and press leaks. As the anticipation grew, so did the sense of impending doom. Another Range Rover? Really? We're a nation of fuel addicts with an unhealthy dependence on carbon, yet for the past few years we've been on a medically controlled diet of petrol-sipping hybrids, and now we're being tempted by a full-blooded Rangey?
But we needn't have worried. The Evoque is an SUV with a difference. It's the smallest, lightest and most fuel-efficient vehicle Range Rover has ever produced. And it's had quite a year. Last month it won the coveted (in certain circles anyway) 4x4 Magazine 4x4 of the Year title – that's the big one for off-roaders. The award took the Evoque's total to 53. More than one a week since its reveal. The tally includes notables such as Car of the Year from AutoExpress; Scottish Car of the Year; US Motor Trend's SUV of the Year; Top Gear's Car of the Year and the Stunning Car of the Year from China's bestselling Orient Car. It's going to be sold in 160 countries, and 40,000 orders have already been placed. Range Rover is particularly thrilled that nine out of 10 of the orders come from buyers new to the brand. By which it means increasingly young, urban and female. It's out with the labradors and in with the lattes.
So what does the Evoque evoke? It's smaller than you'd think yet it has enormous road swagger. This is due in part to its huge face and a grille modelled on Desperate Dan's chin. The big head tapers away to a nimble and athletic rear end. It reminds me of an ad I once saw in Loot for a litter of bulldogs: "Five pups, brown, small, but all with massive heads."
There is something pugnacious about the Evoque, which makes me think the name is all wrong. Evoque sounds graceful, elegant and lithe. But this is a pumped-up bully boy. The Range Rover Tyson might have been better, or Rangey Haye. Step inside, though, and there's nothing bellicose about the Evoque. At heart it is just a big softie with a twin-stitched leather and rubbery centre. The instrument cluster has a twinkle in its eye, and there are enough switches and toggles to exhaust a fiddly five-year-old. It's clever, too. You can switch between the standard four-wheel-drive system and an austerity setting for better fuel economy, though I'd have thought that should be the standard setting. It's not as if we often say: "Whoa, hold tight. Flat road ahead!"
As in every new relationship there's a clincher. Here it's the "puddle lamp". As you approach, a pool of light is beamed from the side mirrors on to the pavement – and in the tiny circle of light floats a line silhouette of the car. An image of the Evoque basking in the limelight.
What are Britain's best-value new cars
These are frugal times – and the car we choose to drive can make a large hole in our wallets. So what are the cars that will save you money further down the road? What Car? experts have chosen some of the best models on sale today, and then crunched three years' data to come up with best-value car in each category. This does not mean that they are the cheapest, as Chas Hallett, What Car?'s editor in chief, says: "A cheap buying price does not equal cheap motoring. When buying a new car, consumers need to take into account three years' running costs, including servicing, insurance, road tax, fuel and depreciation, alongside their vehicle requirements." So here, by sector, are the frugal-driver's 10 best buys:
City car Hyundai i10 1.2 Classic £6,995
Supermini Ford Fiesta 1.25i Edge 3dr £9,354
Small family car Skoda Octavia 1.4 S £11,222
Family car VW Passat 1.6 TDI 105 S £18,506
Executive car BMW 5 Series 520d SE £27,954
Estate car VW Golf Estate 1.6 TDI 90 S £17,324
MPV Renault Grand Scénic £16,646
SUV BMW X3 2.0d SE £30,917
Coupé VW Scirocco 1.4 TSI £18,740
Convertible Mini One Convertible 1.6 £15,062
From: The guardian