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Should Jaguar make a 3-series rival, or something more radical? Discuss…

Should Jaguar make a conventional 3-series rival, or something more radical?

Unless Jaguar spends a quite phenomenal amount of money on its new 3-series rival, it will most likely fail. So why not make something less predictable instead?

BMW has been making, and therefore perfecting, its version of the ubiquitous 3-series for a very long time now. And in the meantime, Mercedes and Audi, and more recently Lexus, too, have all been honing their own versions of this iconic car at great expense, and have  been fairly successful in the main.

The result is that all four of these major manufacturers now produce small saloons that are achingly good at what they do, but also deeply similar to one another in their design ethos. If and when they move the game on, they do so only in minute steps. The formula is now so well established that to ignore it would be unthinkable in the extreme.

But for Jaguar, it’s different. Jaguar has made but one foray into the 3-series market in the last 20 years – the X-type – and that car was notable only for its mediocrity. So why does Jaguar now think that it can re-enter this heinously competitive market with an all-new car without suffering the same ignominy it did last time?

Two reasons. One, it has a lot more money to spend on the project now than it did then. Two, it no longer has to rely on creating a car from Ford underpinnings, which, let’s face it, is what hampered the X-type from the word go last time round (the X-type was based unashamedly on the Mondeo, remember, and was doomed from the outset as a consequence).

Given the sheer quality of the opposition it will face and the rigid design formulae that any serious 3-series contender must adhere to, why is Jaguar even bothering to take this market on? To make a credible 3-series rival will cost them billions, literally, at the end of which there will be no guarantee of a return. And to make a BETTER car than the 3-series (or C-class or A4) would be virtually impossible – and even if they did, there would STILL be no guarantee of a return, because it will have cost them the earth to do so in the first place.

What Jaguar could – and possibly should – build instead of a conventional 3-series rival is a car that’s smaller and more radical than a conventional three-box saloon; something that’s desirable not for its size but for its style and quality of design. The four-wheeled equivalent of an iPhone, if you like, but with sufficient practicality to appeal to the more adventurous 3-series customer in the process.

I’m not talking about some kind of Aston Martin Cygnet alternative, but something more along the lines of Audi’s brilliant but ahead-of-its-time A2, only a touch bigger, and with an interior that’s a bit like a baby Bentley.

By doing so – effectively creating a new niche market in which to operate – Jaguar could express itself as a true design innovator and avoid having to spend billions trying merely to match what already exists in the form of the established opposition. And in the process it could, potentially, clean up in an area of the market that’s crying out for smaller cars that are less predictable, but more desirable, than a plain old 3-series.

Or it could just toe the line and have yet another crack at building a 3-series rival, and spend zillions trying to produce a car that’s already on sale in every BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Lexus dealer throughout the land.

If you were in charge of Jaguar and had just secured several billion pounds of investment for a new smaller car of the future, what would you be asking your designers to produce?