Evoque? It’s Victoria’s secret!

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THERE WERE a good deal of raised eyebrows, not to say smirks of laughter, when Land Rover announced Victoria Beckham would be involved in the creation of a new model.

After, all, what does she know about ABS and DOHC, MPV and AWD? Has she ever changed an oil filter? Or would she have any idea what understeer means?

Surely this arrangement owed more to cynical showbiz topspin.

But the scoffers were wrong. Evoque was - and is - a fantastic success. It has sold more than 500,000 models and is the quickest-selling Land Rover ever.

One in every three Land Rovers sold around the world is an Evoque and strong global demand ensures the production line at Halewood on Merseyside is in operation 24 hours a day, with a new vehicle coming off the line every 80 seconds.

Four years after it was first launched, it is still one of the most dynamic-looking cars on the road and it has spawned a whole host of lookalike rivals.

In fact, it’s amazing Land Rover didn’t launch the Evoque years ago.

It is, essentially, a stylish, female-friendly off-roader designed to fit alongside the comparatively brutish siblings such as Discovery and Range Rover.

With Range Rovers now often costing £80,000 or £90,000, depending on specification, there is a market for a car costing half the price yet still offering chunky good looks and healthy equipment levels.

That was Land Rover’s thinking and, goodness, they were right.

Evoque costs from £30,000 and is 4.3 metres long, about the same size as a Volkswagen Tiguan. The test version, the well-equipped HSE, costs £40,000 and, with extra equipment, the test model is £47,880.

That’s a lot of money in anyone’s book but a lot less than a proper Range Rover and £47,880 brings it within reach of the merely rather successful rather than the super-rich.

It is still lavishly furnished and it still feels like a substantially solid car, but it rides and handles quite nimbly and, importantly, it’s much easier to park.

Tested here is the five-door HSE, one of the better equipped versions. It comes with a long, long list of standard kit.

Much of it you would expect such as rain-sensing wipers, heated mirrors, stop-start engine, 20in alloy wheels, leather trim, 12-way power-adjustable seats and cruise control.

But some of it is top-end luxury such as illuminated scuff plates and puddle-lights in the door mirrors. OK, hardly essential but believe me, they add to a sense of occasion. So does the ‘configurable’ interior lighting, Meridian sound system and high-resolution touch-screen.

The rear parking sensors and camera are welcome, too.

This wouldn’t be a Land Rover without proper off-road ability, even if no-one in their right mind would take such a glossy limousine into a muddy field, so it comes with Terrain Response,Hill Descent Control (HDC) four-wheel drive and Torque Vectoring which will keep you moving through snow, mud and whatever else you tackle.

It also has safety features to warn if you stray out of lane on the motorway, plus automatic emergency braking.

For me, the key feature to this model is the way it rides and handles - more like a coupe than 4x4 or SUV.

You might say it is expensive - try a Kia Sportage for under £18,000 which will do much of what this car does - and you may think the cabin is a little confined compared to a proper Range Rover. You also take issue with the narrow slit of a rear window which hampers rear vision.

But if you are in the market for a well-appointed SUV with lashings of style, Evoque should be top of your list.

With a new convertible version of Evoque on the way, it seems Land Rover’s future is stellar.

Range Rover Evoque HSE Dynamic 2.0D manual

PRICE: £47,880. Test model starts at £40,500

ENGINE: A 2.0 litre turbodiesel engine generating 180bhp via all four wheels

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 124mph and 0 to 60mph in 9.5 seconds

COSTS: Town 51.4mpg; country 65.7mpg; combined 59.4mpg

INSURANCE: Group 36E

EMISSIONS: 125g/km

WARRANTY: Three years’ unlimited mileage warranty

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