TAKING on the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class is no mean feat, but the Jaguar XE is big enough and brave enough to succeed on all counts.
The XE is a compact executive model and at launch, Jaguar claimed it was the most advanced saloon they had ever developed, and after clocking up almost 700 miles I found it difficult to find fault no matter how hard I looked.
I suppose the rear seat leg room is a little tight for six-footers, but that aside, the XE is the complete package.
It looks fabulous from any approach. The car's design team wanted the vehicle to look fast even when it was standing still and it does just that thanks to smooth elegant streamlining, 19-inch alloys, privacy glass, a full width sliding panoramic sunroof, sweeping light clusters and much more.
Move inside and all the Jaguar luxury is immediately apparent with techno treats and creature comforts galore. Features include an eight-inch colour touchscreen, interior mood lighting, electrically-adjustable seats that can be heated and cooled, a head-up display, heated steering wheel, an excellent sound system, sat nav, Bluetooth and all the capabilities to link up to smartphones.
From the build quality and the attention to detail it's instantly apparent that Jaguar may be billing the XE as a more affordable model, but they have certainly not scrimped in accomplishing the task.
There are some really smart touches such as the air vents with the word ‘Jaguar' across them, mood lighting and a powered tailgate.
Powered by a 2.0-litre 180ps diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, the XE was very comfortable in busy congested town centres where the all-round visibility was good, plus the sensors and reversing camera made light work of any parking issues.
It's out on the faster motorways and country lanes where the car really excels. The acceleration is beautifully smooth with ample power on tap for short rapid bursts of pace when needed and it can comfortably cruise with ease at higher speeds.
The road-holding is assured, the steering is precise and apart from a little road surface noise the cabin is nicely hushed too. I did find the ride a little firm at times but the suspension does iron out most of the bumps and potholes along the way. In fact, the car seems to almost glide along at times.
The driver can select from a range of driving modes called Dynamic, Normal, Eco and Winter which alter the way the car handles.
As far as performance and economy goes, the XE is right up there with a 0-62mph sprint time of 7.8 seconds, maximum speed of 140mph, combined fuel efficiency of 67.3mpg and carbon emissions of 109g/km.
It's these figures that will make fleet managers sit up and take notice.
But unlike some executive saloon cars with impressive economy statistics, the XE doesn't feel like it's lacking in any department. It looks sporty, handles beautifully and has all the bells and whistles you could wish for.