In this crucial part of the market, buyers are led as much by crunching numbers as they are by their eyes and hearts. So before we get behind the wheel of an XE prototype, we’ve brought together the two contenders in an exclusive studio shoot to prod, measure and analyse every inch (with full specs, below), and help you make a fully informed decision between the two.
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It’s worth reiterating just how important the XE is for Jaguar. Its Indian owner, Tata, has invested £2bn in brand new technology and facilities to make JLR a truly modern car company.
A new plant in Wolverhampton has been constructed to build a range of efficient new Ingenium engines which will power the XE and a range of other JLR cars, and its Solihull manufacturing plant now houses an all-new facility to build the small Jag. More than 3,000 jobs in the UK have been created off the back of the XE – so failure is not an option.
Fortunately, there are plenty of potential customers out there. Globally, the small premium market accounts for 1.3 million sales annually, and that’s expected to continue growing well into the end of the decade. In the UK in 2013, BMW sold just under 44,000 3 Series, Mercedes shifted 31,000 examples of the C-Class and Audi sold 21,000 A4s.
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A Jaguar executive told Auto Express the company is not looking to topple the German big three and chase volume at the cost of residual values. The XE has the task of doubling Jag’s 16,000 sales a year in the UK currently, and is seen
by company execs as a ‘fourth’ way for the nation’s fleet and private buyers, with the car trading on good looks, fine handling and being more of an ‘exclusive’ choice.
“I don’t think we need to flood the market with XE,” explained Jaguar UK product planning manager Damian Lawton. “We’re not trying to be BMW, but I think there is room for a new challenger. We are not aiming to beat the 3 Series in the sales charts.”
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Climb inside and the XE has the edge. The steering wheel and instrument binnacle are pinched from the F-Type sports car, while the cabin can be bathed in a variety of colours. There’s a new, slicker touchscreen infotainment system and the cabin is well screwed together, although the Jag trails on interior and boot space – it has 455 litres to the 320d’s 480.
Park the cars side-by-side, and the XE is more distinctive. The BMW is no frump, but looks a bit dour in fleet-focused ED Business trim. The Jag’s nose appears wide (the XE is nearly 40mm wider than the 3 Series) and leads along flatter sides to a sleeker rear end. In fact, from the rear three-quarter there’s a shade of Audi A5 to the newcomer.
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Our XE was a mid-spec Prestige. This sits between SE and R-Sport versions, and is predicted to be the best-selling trim. It also featured the new Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel, with 161bhp and 380Nm of torque. It claims 75mpg economy, meets Euro VI emissions regulations and emits just 99g/km of CO2.
Meanwhile, the 320d ED Business gets an extra 2bhp from its older Euro V 2.0-litre engine, but also packs 380Nm of torque. It still promises a respectable 68.9mpg and 109g/km emissions, but is four-tenths quicker from 0-62mph than the Jag. We’re expecting a facelifted BMW in the middle of the year that’ll boast better stats, including a 99g/km version.
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There’s a vast number of 3 Series trims to choose from, with the range kicking off at £25,575 for the 316d ES with a 2.0-litre diesel. XE prices start at £26,995 for the 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol SE, and across the range Jaguar charges a few hundred pounds more than for the equivalent BMW, although the British car does have more modern engines and should hold its value better.
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For example, the XE pictured here is predicted to retain 47 per cent of its new price after three years and 30,000 miles, compared to the 320d ED Business’s 40 per cent. This is one of the reasons Jag thinks the XE will perform strongly in the fleet sector. It sees the car as key to plans to grow global fleet and business sales from 17 per cent currently to around 25 per cent by 2020.
And on first impressions, the XE looks like it has all the credentials to topple the 3 Series. We’ll find out for sure when we drive the cars back-to-back in the spring.
|Jaguar XE Prestige 2.0 163 man (auto)||BMW 320d ED Business man (auto)|
|Price:||£30,775 (£32,525)||£30,175 (£31,725)|
|Monthly lease cost:||£301 (£312)||£338 (£355)|
|Residual value:||47% (46%)||41% (40%)|
|Annual tax liability:||15% (16%)||17% (17%)|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles):||£883/£1,471 (£961/£1,602)||£961/£1,602 (£961/£1,602)|
|Annual road tax:||£0 (£20)||£20 (£20)|
|Fuel consumption avg:||75mpg (68.9mpg)||68.9mpg (68.9mpg)|
|CO2 emissions:||99g/km (106g/km)||109g/km (109g/km)|
|Engine:||2.0-litre 4cyl diesel||2.0-litre 4cyl diesel|
|0-62/top spd:||8.4s/132mph (8.2s/132mph)||8.0s/143mph (7.9s/140mph)|
|Transmission:||6-spd manual (8-spd auto)||6-spd manual (8-spd auto)|
|Fuel tank/range:||47 litres/773 miles (710)||57 litres/861 miles (861)|
|Boot capacity/length/width/depth:||455 litres/1,005mm/1,250mm/653mm||480 litres/1,007mm/1,397mm/667mm|
|Rear leg/shoulder room:||889mm/1,389mm||892mm/1,400mm|
Do you think the Jaguar XE can oust the BMW 3 Series from compact executive top spot? Let us know in the comments section below...