The Evoque's Ford-sourced 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is a radical departure for Land Rover, which powers most of its U.S.-bound models with thirsty V-8s. Returning an estimated 19/28 city/highway mpg, the Evoque can also claim the title of most efficient Land Rover ever built, easily besting its V-8 brethren and even the I-6-powered LR2. A substantial reduction in emissions goes with fuel economy, as Land Rover claims a 20-percent reduction in CO2 emissions compared with larger engines with the same power output. The Evoque lands in the heart of its segment with competitive fuel economy that doesn't sacrifice output. At 240 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque, the four-cylinder's output betters that of some six-cylinder competition without guzzling fuel. With full torque available at 1750 rpm, the Evoque experiences almost no turbo lag, and what little is present can be eliminated by rolling into the throttle rather than simply stomping on the pedal.

A pervasive myth suggests that smaller vehicles are less safe. Thanks to modern technology, that isn't the case, as the Evoque demonstrates with a litany of standard safety equipment. The steel monocoque frame is reinforced with high-strength and Boron steel and supplemented by impact beams in all passenger doors. Seven airbags, including full-length curtain airbags and a knee airbag for the driver, while a laundry list of computer programs built into the standard stability and traction control systems help avoid a collision in the first place. Rain-sensing wipers, automatic and adaptive headlights, and an optional five-camera Surround View system increase the driver's visibility while front and rear sensors aid in parking maneuvers.

At first glance, the Evoque's $43,995 sticker price seems steep for a compact, four-cylinder SUV based on the significantly cheaper LR2. Indeed, many of the Evoque's competitors boast lower starting prices. The baby Range Rover's value lies in its content, as well as its intangibles. Most of the Evoque's direct competitors attain their low starting prices by making features such as AWD and navigation expensive options, while they're standard on the Evoque. Further, the Evoque offers a combination of styling, prestige, dynamic capabilities, and off-road abilities that the competition will struggle to match.

Performance Of Intended Function
Land Rover proudly declares the Evoque the smallest, lightest, and most efficient vehicle the company has ever built. From a traditional perspective, all those traits would be the opposite of what's desirable in a Land Rover. For that reason, the Evoque is badged a Range Rover, a sub-brand that has increasingly placed luxury and style over absolute off-road capability. Land Rover doesn't claim the Evoque is as capable off-road as an LR4 because it was never intended to be. Rather, the Evoque takes aim at the largest growth segment in the luxury SUV market: comfortably heeled urbanites who don't really plan to drive off road. It's no secret that few LR4 owners actually conquer the wilderness with their vehicles, and the Evoque openly embraces this fact. The Evoque, then, is meant to appeal to the buyer who ranks style, content, and fuel efficiency above approach and departure angles.

In that regard, the Evoque hits all the marks. It's irresistibly stylish and loaded with standard features including Land Rover's best infotainment system yet. It gets significantly better fuel economy than any other Land Rover product without sacrificing performance; retains an off-road prowess that would embarrass most crossovers; and offers it all in a compact, fun-to-drive, and easy-to-park package. For Land Rover to survive in a future punctuated by tighter CAFE standards, higher fuel prices, increased concern for the environment, and waning consumer interest in traditional SUVs, the Evoque is exactly the product it needs.

The Evoque is the way forward for Land Rover. And it's Motor Trend's 2012 Sport/Utility of the Year.