Talk about critical success: the Range Rover Evoque has been praised for its concept-car styling, luxurious cabin, superb powertrains and sporty driving experience. Some of that praise has even come from me.
Despite that, deep inside me there have been nagging doubts about the Evoque. An undefined sense of impending disappointment.
It took a trip from Auckland to Ohakune for the problem to be completely revealed. So here it is: if you own an Evoque, at some stage you will be in an inescapably beautiful place, full of potential for adventure. You may have to park beside something like a Range Rover Sport, as I did. And you will feel really silly.
It's true the Evoque is deliberately designed as a new kind of urban Range Rover. That it's incredibly talented on-road and surprisingly good off it (although that's not core business). You can be a car enthusiast, informed consumer and own an Evoque.
But, if you park your pint-size, fashion-forward Evoque next to what I call a proper Range Rover in the midst of majestic scenery, you will feel silly. At least, I did.
A shame, because things had been going so well. The test Evoque was not the default diesel, but the Si4 2.0-litre turbo-petrol. It doesn't match the torque of the oil-burning Evoques yet, with 176kW/340Nm it offers highly technical zing that really injects enjoyment into the baby Rangie's agile handling. The Si4 is also the fastest Evoque in the range, to 100km/h in 7.6 seconds, compared with the turbo diesel SD4's 8.5 seconds.
You pay for that performance, but not in the purchase price: our Evoque Dynamic five-door vehicle costs the same $104,990 with either engine. But the petrol does consume an extra two litres of fuel per 100km (combined figure 8.7l).
The Evoque served me incredibly well that weekend: part sports car, part luxury express. I drove through the night, cosseted in high-quality leather and wood, listening to a high-quality sound system. I ascended a mountain (on tarmac, mind) and soaked in the view. Even picnicked in the back of the thing, which worked pretty well - even though the Evoque has a conventional hatchback-style single-piece tailgate, not a split design with a lower half you can sit on, like larger Range Rovers.
It's expensive, the Evoque. The price of our Dynamic-specification test car means you don't have to restrict yourself to compact crossovers if you're looking for alternatives. These days, you can get into a Mercedes-Benz ML for less than $100k.
But a high price doesn't diminish the Evoque's desirability. Perhaps costing so much makes it worthier to some. It is a Range Rover, after all. It's just that it looks small when you park it next to a mountain.