After a thorough comparison test featuring a field of strong contenders, Motor Trend has officially crowned the Range Rover Evoque its 2012 Sport Utility of the Year. The popular magazine recently made the announcement on its website ahead of a feature article on the entire competition, which is scheduled to appear in its December 2011 issue.

According to the magazine, the Evoque won the coveted award after excelling in each of the contest's objectives, which range from advancement in design and safety to engineering excellence and value. Most importantly, the small Range Rover scored highly in the contest's "performance of intended function" category, with Motor Trend noting the SUV makes no excuses about placing luxury and style over the go-anywhere off-road capability often unnecessarily featured on the brand's other models.

"[The Evoque is] irresistibly stylish and loaded with standard features including Land Rover's best infotainment system yet. It gets significantly better fuel economy than any other Land Rover product without sacrificing performance; retains an off-road prowess that would embarrass most crossovers; and offers it all in a compact, fun-to-drive, and easy-to-park package," wrote Motor Trend, who went on to call the Evoque "exactly the product Land Rover needs."

But the Evoque's triumph wasn't without difficulty. In addition to the all-new Mini Countryman and Saab 9-4X, this year's contest featured a wide range of newly redesigned competitors like the BMW X3, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, Mercedes M-class and Volkswagen Touareg. The magazine especially liked the Mini and Saab, though it criticized the Mini for its small interior and noted the 9-4X is a questionable buy considering the instability of its manufacturer's finances. Also praised was the new M-class, though Motor Trend explained it was missing the "wow" factor possessed by the Evoque.

With the envied SUV of the Year title under its belt, Land Rover will likely find considerable success with the Evoque, which went on sale earlier this month. At just 171.5 inches in length, the SUV is the smallest Range Rover ever - and, thanks to a turbocharged 240-horsepower 4-cylinder engine capable of 28 miles per gallon on the highway, it's also the most efficient.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on

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