Jaguar F-Type four-cylinderJaguar has an F-Type surprise – a new four-cylinder turbo model that’s claimed to be the sportiest, most purist-pleasing F-Type yet launched. Producing 300hp, it hits 62mph in 5.7 seconds, but is also the greenest F-Type yet, with average fuel economy of 39.2mpg – 16 percent better than the 340hp V6.

Crucially, it brings the entry-level cost of the F-Type down. For the first time, Jaguar’s junior sports car costs less than £50,000 (the current cheapest model is £52,265). It doesn’t replace the existing V6 and V8 models, but sits below them, making the F-Type “more accessible than ever”.

And more dynamic than ever? The 300hp four-cylinder F-Type is 52kg lighter than the V6, and that weight has mainly been taken off the front axle. Jaguar is promising this gives it “even greater steering response, body control and ride comfort”. And a choice of two centre-exit active exhausts means it even sounds good, reckons the firm. What’s not to like from this entry-level alternative to a Porsche 718 Cayman?

Jaguar F-Type four-cylinder engineJaguar F-Type four-cylinder

The new engine is part of the Ingenium family. We’re familiar with the diesels, and now 200hp and 250hp petrol versions are rolling out. This 300hp is the range-topper, and boasts some fancy technology as part of its power boost.

It has a twin-scroll turbo, direct injection and electrohydraulic intake valve actuation with “patented control algorithms”. It also boasts JLR’s first exhaust manifold fully integrated into the cylinder head, plus ceramic ball bearings in the turbo to ensure it responds as quickly as possible.

Reflecting its sportier focus, Jaguar is only offering the engine on rear-wheel-drive F-Types, all fitted with a bespoke-tuned eight-speed automatic gearbox. The firm hasn’t bothered to engineer the manual ’box as offered on the V6s, presumably because of low demand.

We’re expecting a very flexible engine, as peak torque of 295lb ft is produced at a diesel-like 1,500rpm, and held at that level round to 4,500rpm. The 1997cc engine’s peak power comes in at 5,500rpm.Jaguar F-Type four-cylinder

Taking 52kg out of the mass – it now tips the scales at 1,525kg – has moved overall weight distribution one percent rearwards. Because corner weights are lower, Jaguar’s been able to reduce front spring rates by four percent and rear spring rates by 3 percent, for a better ride. Knowledge from developing the SVR has been fed back into the bespoke monotube dampers.

Jaguar has even given the electric power steering a unique calibration – again to make the most of the reduced nose weight. We’re being promised more tactility and feedback, which can’t be a bad thing. JLR driving guru Mike Cross says the four-pot F-Type is even more engaging and rewarding, better balanced, more connected and more comfortable.

“Enthusiasts will want to drive this car; this is a true F-Type, with its own unique character.” Chief product engineer Erol Mustafa was equally positive: “I like to think of it as the feisty younger brother of the V6 and V8 models.”

New Jaguar F-Type model rangeJaguar F-Type four-cylinder

It’s absolutely no coincidence that the F-Type 300hp 2.0-litre turbo slots in at £49,900 in base coupe guise. There’s also an R-Dynamic version, with 19-inch alloys instead of the likely-preferable lightweight 18-inch wheels of the base model.

It doesn’t replace the 340hp 3.0-litre V6, which is offered in rear-wheel-drive guise alongside the 380hp V6 in either rear- or all-wheel drive. As part of the 2018 model updates, you can also get a bespoke-tune 400hp F-Type 400 Sport V6, plus 550hp R and 575hp SVR V8 models. Naturally, there’s also the coupe or convertible.

The intriguing new four-cylinder F-Type goes on sale in spring 2017. We’re already anticipating perhaps the closest challenge Porsche’s 718 Cayman and Boxster have yet faced.