A number of criticisms have been levelled at the new format of the show, including jokes made by Evans at Clarkson's expense which prompted backlash from fans.
The live episode also failed to reach the heights achieved when Clarkson was at the helm. Evans' first foray in charge drew 4.4 million viewers, with a peak of 4.7 million, while the last series finished with 5.8 million.
According to audience data seen by the Daily Telegraph the first episode gained an underwhelming appreciation index score of just 60. Other programmes on BBC2 averaged a score of 82, making Top Gear the worst rated programme of the week.
A Top Gear spokesman brushed aside the claims of “awkward silences" during filming which the the Sun had reported, instead accusing the newspaper of clearly having an agenda against the show.
“It’s well known that Top Gear isn’t a live programme and that the show is edited after filming, but last week’s episode was edited in exactly the same way as previous series.”
The BBC spokesman added that the programme was “a new era for Top Gear, which Chris and Matt kicked off in style and viewing figures have been growing steadily since broadcast”.
Evans was also quick to jump to the defence of first episode and took to Twitter to highlight a number of facts.
The new Top Gear is a hit. OFFICIALLY. 23 % audience share. 12% MORE than the opening episode of the last series. These are the FACTS.
— Chris Evans (@achrisevans) May 30, 2016
Top Gear audience grew throughout the hour. FACT. Won its slot. FACT. Still number one on i Player. FACT. These are THE FACTS folks. — Chris Evans (@achrisevans) May 30, 2016
Other criticisms centred on accusations of canned laughter to hide the studio audiences’ less than enthusiastic responses, however the BBC denied the claims and maintained that all laughter is taken from the studio audience and no artificial laughter is used.
Viewing figures could take a hit when Clarkson and co launch their new Amazon show, The Grand Tour, which has been backed by an extensive marketing campaign.