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The pursuit of more fuel-efficient vehicles knows no bounds. The Range Rover, a brand that is not known for low mpg, has entered the competition with the new Evoque, “the smallest, lightest, most fuel-efficient Range Rover ever produced.”

But, in order to compete, Range Rover had to give up its fanatical adherence to right angles and embrace its sleek side. This process began in 2008 when Range Rover unveiled its LRX concept car at the Detroit Auto Show. Those of us who saw the LRX concluded that Range Rover would never actually build anything that slick. We were wrong. As it turns out, the Evoque copies nearly every detail of the three-door LRX. The Evoque also comes as a five-door compact sport utility vehicle.

But is the Evoque really a Range Rover? Is it as carefully crafted and as comfortable inside as the larger Range Rovers? Most importantly, does the Evoque have a chassis that can go just about anywhere, on road or off?

Range Rover attempted to answer these questions last fall when it hosted a day of driving that started in Vancouver, British Columbia, before heading north. Certainly, the Evoque’s trim dimensions are well suited to bumper-to-bumper traffic and tight parking spots, I found before driving out of the city. Not so easily handled were the gawkers: the other motorists who were willing to risk life, limb and fenders to get a better look at the Evoque’s futuristic design.

As we moved farther away from the city and the Canadian roads opened up, the Evoque’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivered near V-8 thrust with very little turbo lag. Working through a six-speed automatic transmission, acceleration was rapid, with a full-throttle run to 60 miles per hour taking just 7.3 seconds. The transmission performed well during these full-throttle bursts, less so during more casual driving. Left in drive, it shifts to the highest gear as soon as possible.

The engine then lugs briefly when the driver wants to accelerate, letting you know that there’s a four-cylinder motor, not a six- or eight-, under the hood. Still, as four-cylinder engines go, this one is very good. But that rapid engagement of the highest gear is what makes the Evoque fuel effective with EPA ratings of 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

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