Back in 2001, Jaguar was on a mission. Flush with Ford money, it set out to try and beat BMW and Audi at their own game by putting huge investment into a new factory in Liverpool (actually the old Ford Halewood plant that used to build the Escort – Jag spent millions re-fitting it) and designing a compact, sporty four-door saloon that would take on the 3 Series and A4. Projected to sell more than 200,000 a year, the resulting X-Type fell flat – barely managing to sell a quarter of that number and the resulting financial crisis led to Jaguar being sold off by Ford, thankfully into the waiting arms of Tata, where it has since flourished. Don’t blame the car though – it’s actually quite a good one…
Yes, the X-Type is based on the then-current second generation Ford Mondeo. It was a fact Jag was keen not to talk up, but actually the Mondeo underpinnings were a gift to the X-Type – they made it great to drive and reasonably mechanically robust. Early cars came only with a choice of 2.5-litre or 3.0-litre V6 petrol engines and standard four-wheel drive, to try and put as much clear air between them and the Mondeo as possible. Later, a front-wheel drive model, with a sleeved-down 2.1-litre V6 petrol engine was introduced, and eventually a 2.0-litre and 2.2-litre diesel, also both with front-wheel drive – it’s these ones that are mechanically the closest to being re-bodied Mondeos.
And it’s the diesels you should focus on. The V6 engines are lovely to drive, and creamy-smooth, but they’re thirsty and parts are very expensive. Actually, parts and servicing are very expensive across the board for X-Types, worth factoring into your budget before you buy, and you can’t always cheat by using cheaper Ford parts.
Seen as a disappointment at the time, the X-Type’s styling (essentially a copy of the 1968 XJ saloon in miniature form) have mellowed rather nicely over the years and, especially if you go for one of the later post-facelift examples from 2007 onwards, they can actually still look really sharp. Dark metallic paint and big wheels really help, as do interior options such as carbon fibre for the dashboard finish, rather than the more traditional wood.
There were serious quality problems with early-build cars – including major wheel-hub failures on some examples – but later models, especially post-2003 when the first diesels were introduced, are much, much better and should be at least as reliable as a contemporary Audi or BMW. Watch for whining transmissions, noisy suspension and electrical gremlins, especially with the key and ignition. Steering rattles are common too.
The X-Type estate, never a big seller, is actually a really good buy – it's slinky looking but still practical. Shop around and you should find a 2010-2011 version, with the 2.2 diesel, for around €17-18k with a full service history.
Jaguar X-Type 2.2d Sport
Engine: 2,198cc four-cylinder petrol
Maximum speed: 220km/h
0-100km/h: 9.1 seconds
Fuel consumption: 6.0 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: ****
• Classic Jaguar style
• Great to drive
• Cheaper to buy than a BMW or Audi
• Expensive servicing and parts
• Steep depreciation
• Desirable estate model hard to find
Yes, the X-Type was a failure for Jaguar, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a failure for you. Actually, it’s a good to drive, mostly reliable, mostly handsome sports saloon that is available at a surprisingly good price. Budget for servicing and parts and it’s an ideal starter premium-brand car.