THERE’S no fiercer battleground among motor manufacturers than the SUV market, and the choice can be quite overwhelming.

In the premium sector, Jaguar’s E-Pace – don’t be confused by the name, it’s not electric-powered – is taking on three big-hitters from Germany (Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA and BMW X1) plus Volvo’s XC40 to be top of the smaller-sized posh crossovers.

That’s a big ask, and Jaguar has not only enhanced the interior and exterior with advanced connectivity, but provided new vehicle architecture and plug-in and mild-hybrid electric powertrains.

Take a look at the top-notch LED headlights, new grille design and other touches on the outside and you get a feel for how much effort Jaguar is putting into the design.

There’s more to admire inside, too. The E-Pace now comes with JLR’s new Pivi Pro infotainment system through an 11.4-inch HD curved touchscreen and a beautifully crafted cabin that exudes luxury.

Wharfedale Observer: Jaguar E-Pace

Pivi Pro is fitted as standard to S, SE and HSE models and is optional on the core E-Pace derivative.

Complementing the central 11.4-inch touchscreen is the latest 12.3-inch HD driver display which can show full screen navigation mapping with turn-by-turn instructions, digital dials, media, contact list or infotainment details.

The E-Pace also features Jaguar’s ClearSight Interior Rear View Mirror technology for the first time. Using a wide angle rear-facing camera, the system feeds images to a high-definition screen within the frameless rear view mirror; unhindered by tall rear passengers, poor light or rain on the rear screen.

Under the bonnet, there’s a new three-cylinder petrol PHEV unit that provides all-electric range of up to 34 miles, combined CO2 emissions from 44g/km, and is capable of a 0-80 per cent charge in as little as 30 minutes.

Wharfedale Observer: Jaguar E-Pace

In addition, there’s a next-generation 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium diesel, new 1.5-litre three-cylinder and latest 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium petrol engines featuring MHEV technology.

Mated to an excellent eight-speed automatic transmissions, Jaguar’s all-wheel drive system ensures you are surefooted too, and the gearing ensures a decent bit of growl if you shoot from standstill and a quietness as you settle back for what is a pleasant ride.

There are three diesel units and five petrol engines to choose from, with E-Pace prices starting from £32,575. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium petrol engine (probably the one to go for) is available in three power outputs, all featuring MHEV technology. The 200PS version will complete 0-60mph in up to 8.0 seconds, while the 249PS powertrain tested here will complete the same 0-60mph benchmark in up to 7.0 seconds.

Heading up the petrol engine range is the 300PS variant. Available exclusively in the 300 Sport, it delivers 0-60mph acceleration in 6.6 seconds.

There’s plenty of choice not only in the engine line-up but also in the trim levels. Apart from selecting S, SE or HSE specification, you can also opt for an R-Dynamic variant.

In R-Dynamic specification, the E-Pace features several design elements for a more performance-focused look, while all models are available with the additional Black Exterior Pack, which delivers an even more dynamic appearance with bespoke elements in black.

The driver focussed interior also provides easier access to the larger stowage area in front of the new Drive Selector that houses a 15W wireless device charger.

Wharfedale Observer: Jaguar E-Pace

The majority of models feature Jaguar’s intelligent all-wheel-drive system and all models have Comfort, Eco, Rain-Ice-Snow (on FWD models) and Dynamic modes, which can be chosen manually by the driver based on the road conditions.

In the final analysis, the E-Pace handles well and has the sporty looks to tempt drivers to step inside. But it probably falls short of some of its rivals.

And its biggest rival might come from the JLR stable itself – the Range Rover Evoque.

The lowdown

Jaguar E-Pace P250 R-Dynamic S Auto AWD

Price: from £42,610

Engine: Two-litre petrol mild hybrid producing 249PS

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic driving all wheels

Performance: 0 to 60mph in 7.0 seconds; top speed 142mph

Economy: 31.8 to 29.2mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 200-218g/km

Star ratings

Performance: ***

Economy: **

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: ***

Equipment: ****

Security/Safety: ****

Value For Money: ***