James Cleary road tests and reviews the Jaguar XE Prestige 20t with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Sometimes success can become your greatest weakness. In the late 1960s, Jaguar stood as a post-WW2 British icon. Founder William Lyons’ instinctively curvaceous eye had influenced an amazing portfolio of all-time classics.

But following Sir William’s retirement in the early ‘70s, Jaguar was left in a quandary, and the question of how far to stray from a winning formula plagued it for close to 40 years.

While German prestige brands were attracting younger buyers with cool compact and mid-size models, Jaguar was stuck in a traditional, leather and walnut rut, producing large cars consistently referring back to its ‘history and heritage.’

The target audience was overwhelmingly men of a certain age, and in the ‘90s when the company finally took a deep breath and expanded its line-up with smaller models like the ‘reborn’ S-Type, and 3 Series-sized X-Type, they retained the old school Jaguar look. Turns out each simply offered a cheaper way into the brand for traditional buyers – old dudes, in little Jags.

You can point to British Leyland’s inept management of the brand in the 1970s and ‘80s, or subsequent owner Ford’s questionable empathy and understanding through the ‘90s and noughties, but it’s only over the last 10 years, under the control of automotive giant Tata, that Jaguar has really bitten the bullet and taken a genuinely fresh approach.

Jaguar’s line-up now ranges from the ground-breaking XF, through a fourth-gen XJ, to the stunning F-Type, compact XE and F-Pace SUV. What a glorious transformation.

And the entry level XE we’re testing here is a perfect representative of that change. Beautiful in a contemporary, ‘Cool Britannia’ kind of way, much closer to gender-neutral in its appeal, and pitched at a price point calculated to give its German competition something to think about.