Jaguar’s new compact car is a sleek English cat bred to scare German pigeons. When the XE arrives in Australia in September it deserves to claw sales from the C-class, 3 Series and A4.

Jaguar Land Rover Australia promises the XE price list will open close to $60,000, exactly the same neighborhood as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. With a high level of driving pleasure to go with its fine looking exterior and up-to-date technology, the Jaguar has everything needed for success in the premium compact sedan category.

Explore the 2015 Jaguar XE Range

Last time Jaguar tried something like this, it failed. The 2001 to 2009 X-Type was a bright idea born in Detroit, designed and developed while the brand was Ford owned. Basically a contemporary Mondeo wrapped in a vaguely retro Jaguar-look body, it didn’t fool smarter customers and only ever achieved half its 100,000 a year worldwide sales target. When Jaguar, along with Land Rover, was sold to Indian company Tata in 2008, one of the first things the new managers did was to shut down X-Type production.

The new Jaguar has everything needed for success in the premium compact sedan category.

The new XE is no X-Type. Its mostly aluminium body is a clean-sheet design that’s all Jaguar’s own work. The XE a rear-drive car, like the C-Class and 3 Series, with a wind-cheating shape and classy engineering throughout. It also introduces the first member of Jaguar Land Rover’s new Ingenium engine family. This 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel four-cylinder, which is manufactured in a brand-new billion-dollar factory, will be soon joined by a same-size petrol-burning version. Variants with more cylinders are also planned.

For the Australian market the XE will arrive with a choice of turbocharged petrol or diesel fours, or, at the top of the range, a powerful supercharged petrol V6. All will drive through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The most affordable version of the XE will have a Ford four. This is basically the same engine used by Ford Australia in its Falcon Ecoboost models. In the Jaguar, the 2.0-litre turbo will come with 147kW and 177kW power outputs. Sometime in the next one to two years, these will be replaced by Ingenium fours.

Maximum output of the Ingenium turbo diesel four is 132kW. Jaguar has announced it is planning a high-output version, which will have two turbochargers instead of one.

Naturally enough, the turbo diesel is the XE efficiency champ. It scores a 4.2L/100km rating in the European consumption test. Australia’s ADR 81 rating is based on the same driving cycles, so this model’s rating in  our market should be very close to this number.

Four-cylinder XE models will be offered in Prestige and R-Sport equipment grades, with an additional luxury Portfolio level reserved for the high output Ecoboost engine. The entry-level cloth-seat Pure (or SE in the UK) grade XE won’t come to Australia. Nor will the high-efficiency version of the Ingenium turbo diesel with less power.

Standing alone at the top of the range is the XE S, likely to be priced around $100,000 and powered by the same supercharged 250kW 3.0-litre V6 Jaguar uses in the fast and loud F-Type sports cars, as well as the big XF and XJ sedans. This one’s the performance king, though the price to be paid for a snappy 0-100km/h time of 5.1 seconds is a consumption rating above 8.0-L/100km.

Jaguar set out to make the XE the best driver’s car in its class. So we could sample the surging supercharged speed of the S in safety, the company hired the Navarra circuit in Spain for the XE’s presentation to the world’s media. It’s a challenging track, fast and technical. Quick laps showed the S corners like a cat on carpet. As well as bags of grip, the quickest XE also has superb electric-assisted steering and great natural agility.

Jaguar set out to make the XE the best driver’s car in its class.

Less-powerful models are also excellent, even though they lack the variable shock absorber system of the S model. The Jaguar’s suspension design is a cut above class average, and it feels this way behind the wheel. Hundreds of kilometres on winding Spanish roads in four-cylinder petrol and diesel XEs highlighted their exceptional blend of comfort and controllability. 

Other impressive aspects included Jaguar’s new InControl infotainment system, which allows the owner to make use of their smartphone’s smarts inside and outside the car, and the XE’s nothing-left-out list of safety-boosting driver aids. This is a truly competitive effort from the Brit brand.