SINGAPORE (July 2): The world has gone crazy for sport utility vehicles. For many carmakers, SUVs now make up at least a quarter of their sales. That is a phenomenal growth, but all they are doing is meeting the rising demand from motorists.

We obviously want our cars big, to be seated high up and to handle bumpy, unmade roads — all major benefits of SUVs. Recently, we have seen luxury carmakers such as Rolls-Royce and Bentley get in on the act, along with the surprising addition of supercar brands Lamborghini and Aston Martin.

So, it is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see Jaguar making headway in the SUV segment. The British marque already produces family-oriented cars through its roomy and luxury sedans, so an SUV was a more natural progression for it than for other brands.

In fact, it launched its first SUV (the F-Pace) in 2015. Three years on, it felt it was time to add to its SUV options with the smaller, more compact E-Pace. This has proved a popular strategy for Porsche (the bigger Cayenne was followed by the smaller Macan) as well as Audi, BMW and a few others.

The E-Pace has actually been nicknamed “the cub”, signifying its junior status to the F-Pace. You are reminded of this by a cute picture of a cub on the windshield. The E-Pace probably sits in the same target market as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA. As the new kid on the block, Jaguar needed to come up with something a little different to get a foot into this competitive market. The E-Pace First Edition does look pretty distinctive, and is more sporty-looking than most SUVs. This is aided by muscular haunches and chunky 20in tyres.

We must not forget that Jaguar is part of the same family as Land Rover. And the E-Pace is based on the same architecture as the Range Rover Evoque, another stylish and sporty SUV. Like the Evoque, it is very spacious inside, with ample legroom and lots of clever storage holes. It is also worth remembering that Jaguar has won many plaudits for its groundbreaking and über-cool F-Type sports car. That is relevant here, as the E-Pace copies much of the styling of the F-Type, particularly the interior.

Luxury has not been compromised with the E-Pace; there are lots of soft leather and suede-like trims to give you that pampered feeling

Like the F-Type, the cabin has an eye-catching dashboard that slopes away from the driver. Another positive for the E-Pace is a pull-trigger gear shifter (also the same as that in the F-Type) rather than the fiddly rotary gear knob of its big brother, the F-Pace. It feels like Jaguar is on a constant mission to remind you that luxury has not been compromised with its SUVs. This means lots of soft leather and suede-like trims to give you that pampered feeling.

As for the drive, well you are in for a treat. Under the bonnet purrs a two-litre Ingenium engine that delivers a smooth 245bhp of power and 385Nm of torque. The Ingenium is a state-of-the-art engine exclusively designed by Jaguar. The aim was to maximise performance and environmental sustainability. Fuel consumption of 7.7 litres per 100km is pretty decent for an SUV, while it can do the century sprint (0 to 100kph) in seven seconds. This may sound on the slow side, but in reality it feels much faster.

SUVs are getting much speedier nowadays and Jaguar probably felt it needed to build the E-Pace with plenty of power to win over motorists. On that front, it seems to have achieved its aim. The SUV may be bulkier than a sedan, but it drives just as well. The height of the car does not stop its ability to navigate corners and bends at speed, as it stays well planted to the tarmac. It is a heavy car too, which helps keep it grounded. While a two-litre engine is fairly modest for an SUV, there is never a feeling of being underpowered.

Along with the luxury technology that you expect with a high-end brand like Jaguar (electric tailgate, camera and headsup speedometer), the E-Pace is brimming with other accessories. A next-generation touchscreen infotainment system connects the driver and also passengers to apps such as Spotify, so they can listen to their favourite tunes.

There is digital connectivity throughout the cabin, with four 12V charging points and five USB connections. There is also a 4G WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices, making this the most well-connected SUV around. That is just an added bonus. The real attraction of the Jaguar E-Pace is its great looks and comfortable drive — it has the feel of a hatchback with the durability of an SUV. As compact SUVs go, this would be near the top of my wish list.

Jaguar E-Pace 2.0 First Edition
$222,999 including COE
Engine: 1,997cc, in-line 4, turbocharged
Power/torque: 249bhp/365Nm
Fuel consumption: 7.7l/100km
0 to 100kph: Seven seconds
Top speed: 230kph

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast