Land Rover Discovery Sport Review
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is practical, easy to drive, comfortable on the motorway and very capable off-road. However, alternatives have better infotainment and are more fun on a country road.
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The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a rare thing – it’s a family SUV that really can go off-road if you need it to. And even if you don’t, it’s just nice to know you can – like knowing your flash watch could survive the Mariana Trench even if you rarely attend the local swimming pool.
That said, the Discovery Sport still has all the advantages you get from less off-road-capable SUVs – such as a raised driving position and a practical interior. It’s also a smart-looking car and this facelifted model gets a slick new nose, scrolling indicators and a revised rear end to help keep it looking fresh next to alternatives such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC.
Work has also been done on the interior, where you’ll find a new infotainment system but, while its displays are high-res, it’s still not the easiest to use. All is not lost though, because Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard so you can circumvent Land Rover’s menus for your smartphone’s more intuitive set-up.
What you can’t avoid is interior quality that’s not quite up to the mark in a car costing this much. Get up close and the shiny lower centre console reflects like a mirror and has flimsy controls, while the electric window buttons don’t sit neatly flush with the tops of the doors.
Something you can’t complain about is interior space. The Discovery Sport has acres of headroom for four tall adults, even with the optional panoramic sunroof fitted, and you get a large boot.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a family SUV that, shock horror, you can actually take off-road and come back in one piece.
One trick the Discovery Sport has up its sleeve is its third row of seats – none of its posher alternatives offer this, though you can have them in a Skoda Kodiaq. In the Land Rover, they’re tight for adults, but handy if you ever need to carry a couple of extra kids.
Hit the road and you’ll find the Discovery is a comfortable car to travel in. In town, it soaks up bumps well and that raised driving position helps with visibility, while its brilliant nine-speed automatic gearbox and light controls make it an easy car to manoeuvre about. On the motorway it cruises comfortably and quietly.
Something that’s new to this revised model is its 48V power supply and mild-hybrid technology, which means the Discovery Sport can now regenerate electricity under braking.
That said, even with it fitted you’ll struggle to get more than 35mpg out of the 200hp 2.0-litre diesel model and you’ll be faced with less if you go for the smoother 250hp 2.0-litre petrol.
That’s hard to swallow when neither of them feels particularly quick. If performance isn’t an issue, choose the two-wheel-drive 165hp 2.0-litre diesel with a manual gearbox. This should return north of 40mpg if you’re sensible. If you plan to run the car through work, the plug-in hybrid makes the most sense, because you’ll pay far less in company car tax.
That shouldn’t be too much of an issue though, because the Discovery Sport rolls and wallows in corners that a BMW X3 feels completely at home in. But then, unlike the BMW, the Land Rover can handle more than traversing a speed hump and, if you like the sound of that, its smart looks and spacious interior, you’ll likely be happy to put up with its patchy build quality and thirst for fuel.
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The Land Rover Discovery Sport has room for four and a third row suitable for kids. Fold it away and you have a boot that’s as useful as you’ll find in any alternative.
Models such as the Mercedes GLC and BMW X3 are actually larger than the Discovery Sport but you wouldn’t really notice it in terms of interior space.
Upfront, even tall adults have more than enough room to be comfortable. The Discovery Sport has a tall roof, which means there’s plenty of headroom and the wide cabin gives plenty of room between the two seats. The only complaint you might hear won’t come from you, it’ll come from your front passenger because the footwell isn’t long enough to fully extend your legs on a long journey like you can in a Mercedes GLC.
Seating, meanwhile, depends on the model you go for. S cars get 12-way electrically adjustable seats, SE versions are heated, while HSE models are heated with 14-way adjustment.
Even the middle row of seats is adjustable. They slide forwards and backwards and recline, and offer plenty of head and legroom for adults. The flat design of the rear bench also means the Discovery is more comfortable for three adults than SUVs with seats that have been moulded for two people.
And the Discovery holds another advantage because it has a third row hidden away in the boot. Sure, getting into them means squeezing past the middle row and the seats themselves are only suitable for adults on short journeys, but kids will love them and they even get their own ventilation controls.
When you have room to carry seven people, you’ll want as much interior storage as possible, which is exactly what you get.
All four doors have large pockets and there’s a big bin under the front centre armrest with two USB ports and a 12V power socket. In front of it, you’ll find a couple of cupholders and a wireless charging pad sits behind the gearstick with another USB port tacked on above it.
Even the middle row gets a 12V plug, along with a lidded tray and a couple of cup holders hidden in the centre armrest while, in the third row, you’ll find two more cupholders and yet another 12V socket.
In fact, the only thing that you might complain about is the glovebox, which is big but maybe not quite as big as you’d expect to find in a midsize SUV.
The only downside of the Discovery Sport’s seven seats is that, with them occupied, you’ll only have enough luggage space for a couple of soft bags.
Really, though, there’s not much about the Discovery Sport’s boot that you can complain about. With the back row of seats folded away (they split 40:20:40) you get an 897-litre capacity, which sounds incredible but it’s worth noting that Land Rover measures to the roofline when everyone else calculates up to the parcel shelf.
Either way, the Discovery Sport will gobble up a set of suitcases without breaking a sweat. And, with the ClearSight rear-view mirror fitted, you’ll get an unimpeded view even if you stuff your kit up to the roof.
Still need more room? No problem, you can fold the Sport’s middle row of seats using buttons placed conveniently at the mouth of the boot and the seats fold flat into the floor, meaning heavy items can be slid straight into place.
All the Discovery Sport’s engines are now available with mild-hybrid technology, but they’re still not particularly economical on fuel.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is available with a choice of six engines – two diesel, three petrol and one plug-in hybrid. The entry-level diesel model gets a six-speed manual gearbox and two-wheel drive as standard, while the rest of the range gets a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic and four-wheel drive.
The range kicks off with the 163hp 2.0-litre diesel. In the heavy Discovery Sport, it has just enough mid-range punch to not feel overawed on the motorway, although it never feels quick. On the flip side, it’s the best on fuel – it should be good for 40mpg if you use the car for a mixture of town and motorway driving. Specify the optional nine-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive and – despite this also adding Land Rover’s 48V mild-hybrid technology – fuel economy actually drops to around 35mpg in real-world driving.
In fact, if you want four-wheel drive and an auto, you’re as well going for the punchier 204hp diesel model, which will return similar fuel economy and won’t feel so slow.
If you want the best bang for your buck you’ll want to choose either the 200 or 250hp petrol models – the latter gets from 0-60mph in seven seconds. Choose a petrol and you’ll pay for it at the pumps, because you’ll struggle to get 25mpg out of either of them. There’s also a 290hp version of the same engine if you want the fastest petrol.
The 309hp 1.5-litre petrol PHEV is properly rapid too though, with 0-60mph in 6.2 seconds helped by an electric motor. In mixed driving, it’ll do an official average of up to 175mpg, although you’ll charge it up every journey to get near that. However, it can go up to 84mph on electricity alone and up to 43 miles on a charge. That could make your commute much cheaper.
What really sets the Discovery Sport out from alternatives is the fact that it can turn its hand to serious off-roading if you choose a four-wheel-drive model.
Do that and you get Land Rover’s clever Terrain Response 2 system to sweeten the deal. As its name suggests, it can detect the type of terrain you’re tackling and responds by setting up the car’s four-wheel-drive system, throttle, gearbox and (if the active dampers are fitted) suspension to deal with it as best it can.
And it works. Even if you’re an amateur off-roader, the Sport can climb eye-watering angles and lower you back down them again with minimal fuss using its hill-descent control. You don’t even need to have your feet on the pedals.
The ClearSight Ground View is another clever piece of kit that makes off-roading that bit easier. It uses cameras mounted in the front bumper to scan the road ahead and provide an augmented display of the ground underneath the car, so you can guide the front tyres around particularly nasty obstacles.
It’s also pretty handy in the urban jungle, helping you avoid kerbing the front wheels when you’re parking or squeezing through width restrictors. The high seating position – taller than you get in a lot of other SUVs – is also pretty handy. It gives you a great view out the front of the car and, though the thick rear pillars restrict what you can see out the back, the standard rear-view parking camera makes up for this.
What technology can’t solve is the Land Rover’s ungainly drive on faster roads. Even with the optional active dampers fitted, the Discovery’s body pitches and rolls around corners that the BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace take in their stride.
Driven at a normal speed, though, the Discovery is comfortable at faster speeds and only a little wind flutter from the wing mirrors is noticeable at a cruise.
HSE models come with active cruise control and steering assist as standard, so they can accelerate and bake, as well as steer themselves, in lane to take the strain out of longer journeys. The rest of the range can be specified with this at extra cost.
The Discovery Sport’s interior gets padded material or leather trims that make up for some of the cheaper plastics. Similarly, the infotainment has a nice display, but is fiddly to use.