A compact front-wheel-drive Jaguar hatchback would have seemed like a farcical idea only a few years ago for the once-stuffy British brand, but the same could have been said for a Jaguar SUV, which is now imminent in the form of the F-Pace. Speaking at the New York Auto Show, Jaguar designer, Ian Callum, expressed his interest in conceiving a small, entry-level Jag that would slot in below the BMW 3 Series-rivaling XE.

"There’s always space to go smaller — the world is changing very quickly," Callum told Australian website Motoring. “I think there’s a huge opportunity in the small car market, but it’s a very difficult business — hugely competitive and hugely price conscious."

The small Jag under consideration would go up against the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, BMW 1 Series and Audi A3, but there are obstacles that need to be addressed before that happens. Jaguar is still a much smaller company than any of their rivals in Germany, and without similar resources, a high-volume, low-cost car would be difficult to justify. For now, Callum says Jaguar is "too small to think about taking on that sense of volume and competitive pricing," but that hasn’t stopped the company from planning ahead.

Why it matters

Another obstacle would be developing new a front-wheel-drive chassis. As advanced as it is, Jaguar’s current aluminum chassis architecture was not designed to accommodate a front-wheel-drive drivetrain nor a transverse-mounted engine. An alternative would be to look outside the company for a platform, similar to the X-Type, which was built on the Ford Contour/Mondeo chassis. That plan didn’t end so well, but this would be a different car for a different era.

Jaguar’s current range of diesel and gasoline four-cylinder engines could be tapped for use, but it’s likely the company will have something better by then. JLR’s global engineering chief Nick Rodgers even floated the idea of a hybrid drivetrain.

Like its German rivals, a small Jaguar could spawn an entire range of body styles. Both Rodgers and Callum seem to lean toward the idea of a hatchback, but five-door, sedan and coupe permutations seem plausible.

A small Jaguar is a tantalizing prospect, but it’s hardly a lock for production. It would enter an increasingly competitive segment, and, even if a business case could be made, would require a sizable investment from parent company Tata, whom, to its credit, has been very amenable to investing in JLR. But, once a company starts building SUVs, you never know what it will do next.

Despite single-handedly (ok, he probably had some help) redefining British luxury car design language during his time at Aston Martin and now Jaguar, Callum says he’s a big fan of small cars. "My personal belief, and I must emphasize that, is that there is space to go smaller for Jaguar. I’m a great lover of small cars, I even own a Mini, a proper Mini that is," he jokingly told Motoring.

Jaguar XE

2017 Jaguar XE High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review here.

Source: Motoring

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