With the success of the new Range Rover, and Range Rover Sport, Land Rover has set about consolidating the Discovery range. With a new Discovery on the way, the Freelander has been replaced with this; the Discovery Sport. It combines tried-and-tested capability with new, efficient Ingenium engines. This may be the ‘entry level’ Land Rover now, but it promises to be a lot more than entry level. I couldn’t wait to see one up close and personal so, at the earliest opportunity, I got hold of one. It was a HSE Luxury, which means that it is rather high up the range. And then I went for a drive…
Looks – 10/10
The Freelander, by the time it reached its demise, looked two things. Firstly, dated. And second, agricultural. The Discovery Sport, on the other hand, is neither. On the outside it is sleek and curvaceous. The front end is framed by the circular daytime running lights. It creates a rather distinguishable silhouette in a rear-view mirror. The bonnet features an airbag near the windscreen, and this is well-hidden behind a contrasting silver panel. My car was finished in stand-outish Phoenix Orange with a contrasting black roof. I wasn’t a fan of the wheels on my car, and think it would have suited some black ones to match the roof. I do like the side profile though, with the body-coloured C pillar and striking line from the side indicator to the tail light. At the back the tail lights mirror the circular design of the daytime runners, whilst a subtle roof spoiler and twin exhausts provide little sporty touches.
Inside the Discovery Sport is in no way agricultural. Opening the door you are greeted with the glorious scent of new leather. The dashboard and centre console are relatively uncluttered and unsophisticated, but that’s rather refreshing. The dials are a simple black and white, but look great. There are no scratchy plastics knocking about, although you can tell the difference in finish between this and a Range Rover. The silver trim offers a nice contrast to the black leather and plastic, and the seats have a lovely pattern to them. Being the HSE luxury you get a wonderful panoramic roof, which lets in plenty of light to the cabin. I also like the gear selector, which rises when you turn the engine on. Even the rearmost seats are top-quality leather, and it just shows the attention to detail and commitment to quality at Land Rover.
Handling/Performance – 10/10
The Discovery Sport gets the new Ingenium diesel engines, and that’s a good thing. My car came with the 2.0-litre diesel offering 180PS and 430Nm of torque. What’s more, it had the wonderful 9-speed automatic gearbox. That may not sound like the most powerful combination, but you have to appreciate that the Discovery Sport weighs a rather lean 1,800kg, and as a result can get from 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 117mph. Being a 4-cylinder engine, you’d expect some rattles as you climb up the rev band. They are there, but you have to listen hard to hear it thanks to a decent amount of soundproofing. The 9-speed box also means that motorway cruising can be done at little more than tick-over, but provides a responsive kick-down for bursts of acceleration when needed. You can also switch to Command Shift, and operate the gearbox via paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.
Despite being a tall car, the Discovery Sport handles rather well. There is a little bit of lean into faster corners, but not enough that it becomes a nuisance. In everyday driving the car is smooth, comfortable and relaxing. It’s everything you’d want from a family car, because if the ride is not so good then rear seat passengers may become unwell. That being said, the steering feels responsive, and you can certainly pick up speed on even the tightest country roads. If the going gets really tough, then you can use the special programs on the 4WD system, comprising normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand. Whilst the majority of Discovery Sport’s will spend their time in the urban jungle, it’s reassuring to know it could handle itself in a proper jungle too.
This is traditionally an area where ownership of a Land Rover would require a compromise. The outgoing Discovery, with its hefty 2,600kg and big 3.0-litre diesel returns little more than 30mpg. The Discovery Sport, which is lighter and has the new engine, will almost double that. Combined fuel consumption is 53.3mpg, and that is remarkable. With start stop technology, CO2 emissions are 139g/km, putting the car in VED band E. That’s £130 road tax in the first and subsequent years, and that is a deal maker. I’m still not entirely sure how Land Rover have managed to make the Discovery Sport so cheap to run, but credit to them.
Practicality – 10/10
The Discovery Sport does everything you would want it to do, and then some. As a family bus it’s great; having seven seats ensures you will be nominated as the taxi driver for your kids and their mates. Those rearmost seats are best suited to children. I could fit in one, but can’t see it being comfortable on a long drive. Once folded away, there’s a generous boot behind the electric tailgate. There are enough USB ports for everyone to have their gadgets plugged in. The front seats have comprehensive heating/cooling functionality, and the outer middle seats are heated. The dual-view screen means that while the driver is seeing the satellite navigation screen, the passenger is watching TV. It remains one of the coolest features of any car I have tested, and never ceases to impress passengers. The Discovery Sport is also surprising easy to park, and easy to hop in and out of. It really does everything, from the school run to IKEA trips, and it does it very well indeed.
Fun – 8/10
There are quite a few ways in which the Disco Sport will put a smile on your face. Most frequently will be gazing at your fuel gauge when you get near a petrol station, and realising that it’s barely moved and you can keep on driving. The Land Rover is like your happy place. Once you get inside and shut the door, you can lose yourself in your own world. It’s quiet and peaceful. There’s a TV. You can heat or cool your seat as you please. This is not a car for the driver who wants to tear up country B-Roads. It’s a different beast altogether. It is the most fun you can have in a civilised manner. That being said, if Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations wanted to have a go on a Discovery Sport then I’d be more than happy to check out the result.