Reviews | 01 June 2018

Jaguar E-Pace vs MINI Cooper S Countryman & Volvo XC40

  • Concrete-Jungle Baby Bash
    1 / 23 Concrete-Jungle Baby Bash

    Only two of the three vehicles we’ve gathered here are actually the entry-level SUV models in their respective lineups: the Jaguar E-Pace and Volvo XC40. The Countryman is the sole SUV in the MINI range.

    However, this doesn’t change the fact that the three contenders are all similar in size, performance and price. So, if you’re considering one, you’re probably thinking about the other two cars as well.

    Sure to give buyers plenty to think about is the Volvo XC40. It may be the brand’s smallest SUV, but it is stylish, has a long list of standard safety features, and packs a rather potent powertrain, too.

    The most athletic-looking SUV in this comparison test is the Jaguar E-Pace, which takes its design cues from its F-Type Coupe/Roadster siblings. But does this Jag have the performance to match its looks?

    The most established SUV in this story is the MINI Countryman, which is already in its second generation. Apart from being roomy and practical, the Countryman promises to be fun, too.

    Which of these baby SUVs will well-to-do suburbanites in Singapore find the most irresistible?

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  • Jaguar E-Pace – Engine
    2 / 23 Jaguar E-Pace – Engine

    Jaguar’s turbocharged 2-litre 4-cylinder with 246hp and 365Nm has the greatest low-end torque, but the heft of the E-Pace makes it feel slower than its 7-second century sprint time.

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  • MINI Cooper S Countryman – Engine
    3 / 23 MINI Cooper S Countryman – Engine

    MINI’s turbocharged 2-litre 4-pot with 192hp and 280Nm has the most urgent power delivery and the lowest fuel consumption.

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  • Volvo XC40 – Engine
    4 / 23 Volvo XC40 – Engine

    Volvo’s turbocharged 2-litre 4-cylinder with 251hp and 350Nm gives this Swede the highest power-to-weight ratio, but its soundtrack is the least enticing.

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  • Jaguar E-Pace – Gearbox
    5 / 23 Jaguar E-Pace – Gearbox

    E-Pace’s automatic 9-speed transmission feels as rapid as the Countryman’s 8-speeder, and the driving mode selector is the easiest to access, so enthusiasts can choose the Dynamic setting in a jiffy.

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  • MINI Cooper S Countryman – Gearbox
    6 / 23 MINI Cooper S Countryman – Gearbox

    Countryman’s 8-speed automatic is the most responsive in this test. Like the E-Pace, the gearshift lever’s –/+ points are in the “correct” orientation, too.

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  • Volvo XC40 – Gearbox
    7 / 23 Volvo XC40 – Gearbox

    XC40’s 8-speed automatic operates the most seamlessly. However, this smoothness comes at the expense of speed – its manual override is the least responsive of the three transmissions.

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  • Jaguar E-Pace – Ride & Handling
    8 / 23 Jaguar E-Pace – Ride & Handling

    E-Pace has the most balanced ride and handling, with the little SUV feeling like a big coupe on the go. However, the Jag’s rearward visibility, which is the poorest, makes parking manoeuvres tricky.

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  • MINI Cooper S Countryman – Ride & Handling
    9 / 23 MINI Cooper S Countryman – Ride & Handling

    Countryman’s ride quality is the firmest, but its lower ride height and front-wheel-drive layout ensure that its handling is the nimblest and most delightful.

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  • Volvo XC40 – Ride & Handling
    10 / 23 Volvo XC40 – Ride & Handling

    XC40’s cabin is the quietest and its ride is the most pliant, making it the most ideal for road trips. However, keener drivers won’t like the fact that it’s the least agile around corners.

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  • Jaguar E-Pace – Cockpit
    11 / 23 Jaguar E-Pace – Cockpit

    Sportiest cockpit of the three has an even better driving position than the Countryman, plus alloy pedals and a panoramic sunroof. The lack of a footrest, however, means it’ll be less comfy on long drives.

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  • MINI Cooper S Countryman – Cockpit
    12 / 23 MINI Cooper S Countryman – Cockpit

    Most stylish and driver-friendly cockpit features matching dashboard, door panels and upholstery. The relatively low ride height makes ingress/egress the easiest, and the Countryman’s infotainment system is the most intuitive.

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  • Volvo XC40 – Cockpit
    13 / 23 Volvo XC40 – Cockpit

    Most advanced and practical, with digital displays that dominate the dashboard, wireless charging for smartphones and huge doorbins that can each hold a pair of 14-inch laptops. Too bad there’s no reversing camera.

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  • Jaguar E-Pace – Meters
    14 / 23 Jaguar E-Pace – Meters

    Jag’s meters look the most pedestrian in this company, but they’re the easiest to read at a glance and display enough info without overwhelming drivers.

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  • MINI Cooper S Countryman – Meters
    15 / 23 MINI Cooper S Countryman – Meters

    Ironically, the biggest MINI to date has the smallest instrument cluster here. The Countryman’s keen acceleration actually makes a larger, perhaps digital, speedometer even more imperative.

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  • Volvo XC40 – Meters
    16 / 23 Volvo XC40 – Meters

    The sole digital panel in this contest is also the prettiest, with four selectable design themes to boot. What a pity there’s no satellite navigation, as the sharp graphics would have enhanced the sat-nav function.

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  • Jaguar E-Pace – Backseat
    17 / 23 Jaguar E-Pace – Backseat

    Most compact backseat is more suited to two adults instead of three. There isn’t much foot space either, but occupants will love the trio of USB charging points, which are a must for today’s gadget-driven lifestyles.

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  • MINI Cooper S Countryman – Backseat
    18 / 23 MINI Cooper S Countryman – Backseat

    Most practical bench has the biggest doorbins, and MINI’s legroom is on a par with the XC40’s. However, the backrests are the shortest in this company, so any countryman taller than 1.75m will need to raise the headrests.

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  • Volvo XC40 – Backseat
    19 / 23 Volvo XC40 – Backseat

    Roomiest backseat has the greatest headroom and the tallest backrests. The Volvo’s air-con vents are the largest, but their barely palpable throughput makes this entire space the warmest.

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  • Jaguar E-Pace – Boot
    20 / 23 Jaguar E-Pace – Boot

    E-Pace’s 484-litre capacity has the highest loading point, so drivers below 1.7m in height will find it easier to stow smaller and lighter items. It’s the most prepared for emergencies, though, thanks to the 12-volt outlet.

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  • MINI Cooper S Countryman – Boot
    21 / 23 MINI Cooper S Countryman – Boot

    Countryman’s 450-litre volume is the most convenient as it has the most tethering points and roomiest underfloor storage. It even has a cushioned flap that can be pulled out to turn the rear bumper into a bench.

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  • Volvo XC40 – Boot
    22 / 23 Volvo XC40 – Boot

    XC40’s 459-litre boot is the least convenient as it doesn’t have any elastic straps or netted partitions. Instead, it relies on the foldable boot floor to act as an organiser of sorts.

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  • 23 / 23

    The Jaguar E-Pace has a lot going for it, especially if you’re a buyer who wants a compact, coupe-like SUV. This Jaguar cub’s steeply raked windscreen, almost non-existent rearward visibility and ensconced driving position make you feel like you’re in a large two-seater.

    We’re also fans of the E-Pace’s well-tuned suspension and adorable windscreen graphic of the jaguar cub following its bigger sibling, which would be the F-Pace. However, we cannot get past the car’s comparatively heftier mass and smaller backseat, which are compromises that only suburbanites with dual incomes and no kids will be willing to accept.

    The XC40 is arguably Volvo’s coolest-looking model to date, with an offbeat exterior that doesn’t resemble its larger XC60 and XC90 siblings.

    We also love the XC40’s interior. Apart from being the most sophisticated and solidly put together, it is also the most practical. Indeed, elements such as those ginormous doorbins are exactly what many buyers expect in an SUV.

    Rather unexpected, however, is the lack of a reversing camera and sat-nav system, items that should be standard at this price point. Still, if you’re looking for a safe and surefooted SUV, you won’t go wrong with this Swedish contender.

    Even more compelling than the XC40 and E-Pace is the MINI Cooper S Countryman. We didn’t anticipate this outcome, but all told, the Countryman is the best all-rounder in this story.

    Its strong points include a punchy and responsive drivetrain, nimble handling and a driver-friendly cockpit with the most intuitive infotainment system. The Countryman’s unique “picnic bench” also makes it more viable for picnicking at scenic spots, perhaps up north.

    The Countryman’s only drawbacks are its smaller boot capacity and the fact that it has the fewest ponies under its bonnet. But if you’re looking for a baby SUV that’s practical, spacious and fun to drive in the concrete jungle, this is the one to consider.

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