Compact executive Car of the Year 2015: Jaguar XE

The Jaguar XE is the 2015 Auto Express Compact executive Car of the Year, with the BMW 3 Series and Lexus IS commended

For years Jaguar has been desperate to create a BMW 3 Series rival – and now it’s got one. In fact, the XE is more than a rival. It’s good enough to finally knock the German car off the top spot and take honours in the compact executive class.

Building on Jag’s success with the larger XF saloon and combining this with stunning styling as seen on the F-Type, the XE represents what the brand does best. It’s a mix of cutting-edge tech, with its aluminium chassis and frugal diesel engines, and high-end luxury thanks to the sumptuous leather interior.

With a new family of Ingenium engines under the bonnet, the XE is a top performer, too. The 178bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel matched with Jag’s slick eight-speed auto is the combination of choice, with silky smooth power delivery and excellent refinement making it a great long-distance cruiser.

The key to success in the compact exec sector is balancing attractive looks and strong performance with efficiency and usability. It’s here that the XE excels, with CO2 emissions as low as 99g/km from the lower-powered 161bhp Ingenium diesel.

While it’s a bit tight on the inside, this gives a typically Jaguar feeling of cocooned refinement. Passenger space is still good, though, plus there’s a generous luggage area, too, with a capacity of 455 litres. However, the real bonus inside is that the new car marks the debut of a new multimedia system, replacing the cumbersome low-resolution screen from the XF. It works fantastically well and helps cement victory for the XE.

A landmark moment for Jaguar.

Our choice

XE 2.0D 180 Auto R Sport (£34,775)

The extra styling add-ons for the R Sport model match BMW’s M Sport trim for visual presence, and despite the big wheels this version of the XE still rides smoothly. The R Sport comes generously equipped as standard as well, yet still promisesthe kind of efficiency that’s competitive with the traditional class leaders.

Commended

BMW 3 Series

In no way does this mean the BMW 3 Series is past its best. Last year’s champion has a great chassis and a varied engine line-up. Plus, with a new facelifted version (above) of the famous compact executive saloon on the way soon, we have a feeling that the XE could have a fight on its hands to retain its crown next year.

Lexus IS

Lexus has stuck to its guns resolutely by not offering the IS with a diesel engine. A hybrid won’t suit everybody, but buyers won’t be disappointed with the Lexus’ effortless powertrain in IS 300h form and the low CO2 emissions it brings. Bold styling mixed with a practical, spacious interior means the IS covers many bases.

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