Wednesday 13 December 2017

Motoring: Why the Jaguar XE is near perfect

FIRST DRIVE: Baby Jag goes from copy cat to cool cat with new XE

Jaguar XE S (2016)
Jaguar XE S (2016)
Jaguar XE S (2016) - Interior

Talk about being in the last chance saloon – compact executive saloon, to be exact.

Yes, Jaguar’s last foray into this segment was, shall we say, less than satisfactory.

That was back in 2001 with the X-type which was a decent enough looking motor, but one that harboured a deep, dark secret.

You see, underneath all that wood veneer and soft leather lay a charlatan – an imposter.

Stripped back, this baby Jag was nothing more than a bog-standard Mondeo in an expensive suit.

The only thing executive was the price tag and ultimately customers felt a little cheated.

Jaguar XE S (2016) - Interior

Jaguar XE S (2016) - Interior

It’s been six years since the X-type went out of production, and JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) are back with a new offering, the stunning XE.

First impressions tell you it’s been well worth the wait. The styling alone (a heady mix of the sumptuous XJ, XF and in-your-face F-type) is a sure-fire winner.

Pictures do this car no justice as it’s far more imposing in the flesh. It’s a lot bigger and chunkier than you’d expect and could easily compete in a segment above.

Paler shades dumb down the aggressive styling so choice of colour is paramount (Italian Red and Bluefire are best).

From the front it’s unmistakably a Jaguar, with a deep honeycomb grille complemented by J-Blade Bi-Xenon headlights. 

Our test car was the snazzier R-Sport which came with side skirts and boot spoiler and awesome chrome vents in the front wings emblazoned with the green racing logo.

Step inside and as you sink into the leather sports seats (which automatically adjust in 10 different directions) and wrap your hands around the thick, three-spoke leather steering wheel, one could be forgiven for thinking it was indeed the savage F-type.

The wraparound dash gives the cockpit a sporty feel, as do the sunken clocks peeping out from beneath the steering which boasts F1 flappy paddles.

Standard kit on the entry-level SE includes 17-inch alloys, climate control, Bluetooth, keyless entry, lane departure warning, cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring and electric windows.

The Prestige adds leather seats, rear arm rest, leather steering wheel and interior mood lighting.

Opt for the R-Sport and you’ll get lowered, flared sports bumpers, side sills and boot spoiler, sports seats with mesh inlays, black headliner and aluminium inlays. Top of the range Portfolio comes with Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights and electric seats.

Engine-wise, there’s a choice of three petrols and two diesels.

Ironically, the 2.0-litre petrol comes from the Focus ST, but the blistering 3.0-litre V6 (340bhp)is straight out of the F-Type.

The diesels will be the most popular here in 163 and 180bhp with emissions of 99 and 106g/kms and returning 68mpg. We drove the meatier version twinned to a sublime eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The drive and handling are nothing short of flawless, especially in Sport mode where the throttle, steering and suspension become more responsive the harder you push it.

The new XE is better than all of its rivals and, in some cases, a couple of grand cheaper.

BMW, Audi and Mercedes be afraid. Be very afraid. The Jaguar XE costs from €37,995.


New Mazda CX-3 is streets ahead of rivals when it comes to refinement and luxury

Mazda CX-3

After the unprecedented success of the CX-5, it was a no-brainer for Mazda not to cash in further.

Meet Mini Me, and like the Austin Powers villain, the CX-3 may be small but it certainly packs a punch.

Almost identical in design, the Juke-sized rival sits on the same chassis as the new 2 and gets the a major dollop of the marque’s Kodo styling.

From the front it gets the same snout as its big brother, with deep grille and slim headlamps that wrap around on to the wings and, of course, the distinctively angled foglights.

At the rear that sportiness continues with equally snazzy light clusters, rear spoiler, blacked out C-pillar and privacy glass, giving it a real coupish look.

Inside, though, is where the magic begins to unfold with what is undoubtedly the best cabin in its class.

Build-quality is outstanding and a real first for Japanese cars.

Soft-touch plastics twinned with leather surrounded the cockpit of our test car while smatterings of brushed aluminium gave a premium feel to the little crossover.

Mazda CX-3 (2016) - Interior

The interior of the Mazda CX-3

The simple, easy to navigate dash was refreshing with everything at your fingertips, and unlike many models today you don’t need a crash course in IT to change the radio  station. That said, there’s no shortage of technology which is all packaged into the MZD Connect system.

The colour touchscreen above the centre console is home to Bluetooth, music streaming, sat nav, vehicle stats and more. It also has two USB ports to charge or play two phones or devices.

Our car also featured Head Up Display (only on GT spec), a little luxury rarely seen outside executive super saloons.

Standard kit is decent enough too, with the entry level SE coming with air con, keyless entry,  multi-function steering wheel, twin exhausts and rear spoiler. Opt for the Executive and you’ll get 16-inch alloys, cruise control, seven-inch colour touchscreen and electric folding mirrors.

Executive SE adds parking sensors, lane departure warning system, rear privacy glass and front LED fog lights (the first car in the class to come with LED headlights) and heated front seats.

Available in both petrol and diesel, the favourite here will be the punchy 1.5 litre oil-burner generating 105bhp. With emissions of 105g/km, road tax is only €190.

Drive-wise, the front wheel drive (it’s also available in AWD) is nippy around town with oceans of poke and torque, while on the motorway  it cruises effortlessly. It’s mega frugal too, returning 70mpg (4.0l/100km)

Thanks to the use of lightweight components, the CX-3 is remarkably agile with well-weighted steering and pin-point precision, making it fantastically fun to drive.

The only real downer is the cramped space in the back which will prove a tad uncomfortable for adults, especially the one unlucky enough to be sitting behind the driver.

Still, I successfully got four suitcases, a stressed-out wife and moody 12-year-old to our holiday destination with a smile on their faces.

The Mazda CX-3 starts at €20,695.



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