Grace, space, and pace. The lifestyle vehicle has taken over. That's millennial-speak for a single car that can answer the call of the average young urbanite's practical and recreational demands. Whether it's camping, commuting, or going out on the town, these vehicles are expected to do the bidding of their owners without so much as a peep of protest.

The 2020 Jaguar E-Pace sets out to accomplish this by turning to the brand's old tenets of grace, space, and pace. Notice there's nothing in that phrase about value. Apropos, because a base E-Pace costs $40,945, a good $4,000 to 6,000 over its competitors from Volvo, BMW, and Lincoln.

But that money buys upscale driving dynamics, plenty of space, and an elegant look inside and out. For some buyers, that's all the lifestyle they're looking for.

Spacious but low-rent trappings. There's no shortage of space in the E-Pace. It starts with cargo room: there's 24.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats, a number that swells up to 52.7 cubic feet once the split-folding second row is dropped down.

These numbers better the BMW X2, Volvo XC40, and Cadillac XT4. One of the few cars that can out-stow the E-Pace is the Lincoln Corsair, which has 27.6 cubic feet of space behind its rear seats and 57.6 cubes total. The Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class is another cubic-foot champion, offering an incredibly generous 62 total cubic feet of cargo space.

Room for passengers isn't quite as generous as the room for cargo, however. The typical second-row squeeze that taller rear riders can suffer from in cars of this stature rears its head in the E-Pace. The rear legroom of 35 inches trails all of the competition quoted in the prior paragraph. The space those cars give up in the cargo area, it seems, they give back to rear passengers. The E-Pace chooses to prioritize your grocery bags.

Up at the helm, there's ample space, complemented by great sightlines all around. Unfortunately, the cabin is let down by questionable materials that are at their worst in the most apparent of places.

The whole interior isn't rental grade, but there are enough signs of cheapening that the general vibe is one of a product watered down to a price point. The fact the E-Pace costs thousands over any competitor only adds to our disappointment in this regard.

Jaguar E-PACE

Zippy engines. The E-Pace is strictly a four-cylinder affair, with two different states of tune available. Most buyers will opt for the standard 246-horsepower model, but the R-Dynamic trim bestows buyers with an uprated 296-hp version.

We've had seat time with both, and while there's certainly a dollop of extra power with the high-output version, we're more smitten with its standard torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. This advanced traction system can independently alter the percentage of torque being routed to any particular wheel, helping on-road cornering performance and adding to the playful nature of the E-Pace.

Not that the base version of this Jag is any recalcitrant curmudgeon. Stick with the base 246-hp engine, and you get an eager motor that offers strong acceleration: 0-60 mph occurs in just 6.7 seconds, likely helped by the standard AWD system. The nine-speed automatic transmission that comes paired to this engine isn't our favorite, though, as it can easily get confused and will occasionally stumble through gearshifts.

Drive the E-Pace in a more relaxed manner and you're met with a quiet, composed ride that doesn't bristle with pent-up performance or flounder with overly soft rebounds. You can extract from it some sharp moves or let it waft along with easy confidence. In other words, a proper Jaguar.

Lackluster fuel efficiency. Sticking with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder design even for the uprated engine keeps mileage competitive, but the E-Pace ultimately falls just mid-pack when compared to rival crossovers.

Fuel economy for the standard engine is rated at 21 miles per gallon city, 28 mpg highway, and 24 combined, according to the EPA. The more powerful variant is rated at 21/27/23 mpg (city/highway/combined).

That looks good on paper, but, in practice, it's not impressive. The X2 gets 24/32/27 mpg, the XC40 achieves 23/33/27 mpg, the GLB-Class checks in at 23/30/26 mpg, the XT4 gets 24/30/26 mpg, and the Corsair provides 22/29/25 mpg. This leaves the Jaguar looking like one thirsty kitty.

Does the E-Pace beat anything in the gas-mileage arms race? It does – the Audi Q3, for instance, only gets 19/27/22 mpg. The Jag can also tie the Lexus NX for highway mileage, though the Lexus does do a tick better during around-town driving.

Final thoughts. In a crowded field of cutthroat competition, the 2020 Jaguar E-Pace does a lot well, but it doesn't come across as a clear winner the way some vehicles in this class do. What we do like is its attractive and rather low-key styling, it's choice of two decent four-cylinder engines, and some of the best cargo space in its class.

But that's where the accolades stop. An interior showing the scars of cost-cutting as well as underwhelming gas mileage, along with a price that's well above the rest of the class, balance out the scorecard. These drawbacks aren't middling ones; they're egregious enough to make the purchase of an E-Pace difficult to justify for even the most ardent fans of the marque.

What Jaguar is ultimately asking shoppers to do is pay more money for less car. That's a tough pill to swallow when there are so many more well-rounded options in the segment. If it were our money, we'd be shopping around and seeing what other choices are out there – because we know we can find better elsewhere.

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