Think of a Land Rover Discovery and you will no doubt think of the big, bulky off roader with a front as sleek as the White Cliffs of Dover and lines that could only have been inspired by a setsquare. It is quite possibly all the car you could ever need, but now there is a new addition to the family: Discovery Sport. Is it worthy of the name? We find out.
The Discovery Sport replaces the Freelander model but this time Land Rover, with possibly a little help from the Time Lord himself, have managed to create a Tardis like interior that now seats seven whilst maintaining broadly the same external dimensions. See our video test below for an overview of the car.
Priced from £31,095, Discovery Sport offers any engine you want, so long as it is a diesel. Coming in two flavours of either 150 BHP or 180 BHP and a choice of manual or automatic transmission. Fuel economy is up to 57 miles per gallon and CO2 emissions as low as 129 g/km, figures not normally associated with a Land Rover. Being associated with purely gas guzzlers hurt Land Rover, hence the move to smaller, more economical models. In another sweeping change, the Discovery name has become a brand in its own right attaching itself to models that reflect the attributes of practicality and off-road ability. The Range Rover name is reserved for Land Rover’s most luxurious models.
Finally, here is a Discovery that embraces curves to show of its handsome sleek body. It has helped itself to some Range Rover design cues too, most notably around the headlights which now blend into the front wings to reduce perceived bulk. Range Rover’s trademark clamshell bonnet also makes an appearance, except this time the Discovery name bears out loud and proud across the bonnet.
From the side you see further influence from Range Rover’s smaller Evoque model albeit with a less dramatic plunging roof line to give it a practical edge over its more glamourous sibling.
At the back the styling is less successful with bulky taillights that lack the styling finesse of the Range Rover models. A touch of chrome would have been a welcome touch too.
One of the reasons why SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) models like this sell so well is because of the greater perceived practicality they offer. As well as the commanding view they give in which to lord it over other motorists. As you would expect the Discovery Sport nails it on both fronts. It can offer the practicality of a removals van or the ability to transport seven (five adults and two children) in style. This breadth of capability is made possible thanks to flexible rear seating. You can slide the second row seating backwards (whilst the rear most seats are folded flat) to offer the same legroom as you would get in the full sized Range Rover. Or alternatively, you can fold all of the rear seats so that you can not only buy from Ikea but deliver for them too!
Also present is the reassuring step up into the interior so that everyone benefits from that all important view outside. Specify the optional panoramic roof (a recommended £985 option) and you get a huge glass area that enhances the spacious ambience and allows for plane spotting by day and star gazing by night.
In the front there is a stylish cabin with big slabs of aluminium around the centre console and rotary heating/ventilation controls that feel as good as they look. Where Land Rover have been careful not to tread on the toes of the more expensive Range Rover Evoque model is in the choice of plastics, some of which feel decidedly low rent in parts. Thankfully it does not detract from what is still a solid, quality interior.
Jaguar Land Rover are also doggedly sticking to a touchscreen in which to control the car’s entertainment and navigation functions. Thanks to a new software upgrade it works well being responsive and easy to use. Where it falls down is when the driver comes to use whilst on the move, where he/she has to steer whilst reaching, pointing and hoping for the best in making your desired selection. A jog dial (see Mercedes, BMW, Audi) would be more user friendly than this touchscreen setup.
Finally, to the delight of all passengers there are USB charging points for each seat which makes for a quiet family trip or an anti-social one dependent on your view.
The Discovery Sport was originally launched with a diesel engine that was so old that Land Rover were practically digging up its fossilised remains before installing it under the bonnet. Now though Land Rover have blessed it with the engine the car needed from the start, their own in-house developed Ingenium engine. We tested the higher powered version with the automatic gearbox which provides 180 HP, 0-60 MPH in 8.4 seconds, fuel economy of 53 miles per gallon and CO2 emissions of 139 g/km.
Despite being late to the party with this new engine, the Discovery Sport manages to mask its belated entrance with this much quieter, smoother engine. Out on the open road the refinement continues as the engine and nine-speed gearbox quietly work together in perfect harmony to provide big dollops of pulling power. At 70 mph the Discovery Sport is cathedral quiet with a wonderful driving position that offers a widescreen, high-definition view of the road ahead.
The Discovery Sport is also surprisingly fun to pilot, with sharp steering that allows you to place the car exactly where you want on the road. Combined with a chassis setup that walks the line between handling prowess and ride comfort perfectly, the Discovery Sport is good to drive and smooth to ride in.
Of course having the Land Rover badge pinned to its front means that the Discovery Sport has to perform off-road as well as on and it is with regret that the only demands we placed on Land Rover’s acclaimed Terrain Response off-road system was an unexpected dive into ditch after being forced off the road by a Mr Toad of Toad Hall character driving a tractor. A huge disservice to what this car is capable of, given that this is a car that can tow up to 2.2 tonnes, wade through water 60 cm deep and can attack inclines at a 45-degree angle. Enabling the car to do this is as easy as 1-2-3: Look at the road ahead (gravel, sand or muddy track), select the mode via the Terrain Response dial to automatically configure the car and get back on the accelerator. It is as easy as that.
Aside from the plethora of off-road technology in the Discovery Sport, there is also a multitude of interior gadgets to get excited about. The central touchscreen is standard throughout the range, but you can specify the optional £2,590 Entertainment Pack which includes a Meridian Hi-fi system, digital television and importantly Land Rover’s Dual View system, which allows the driver and front passenger to see different images on the same central touchscreen. This voodoo magic works because of the different viewing perspectives that each front passenger has. In practice this means that the driver can see the routing from the satellite navigation and the front passenger can watch the television via the wireless headphones. A very clever bit of kit.
Inside there is plenty of safety kit with autonomous braking in the event of an imminent collision, as well as lane departure warnings that help to keep you on the straight and narrow, but in the case of the Discovery Sport, there is even an external safety device. Anyone unfortunate enough to get run over maybe a touch more fortunate if the offending vehicle happens to be a Discovery Sport, as their impact will be cushioned by a pedestrian airbag that is mounted on the leading edge of the bonnet, literally ready to spring into action when needed.
Land Rover also say that being connected has never been easier thanks to an internal WiFi hotspot, allowing eight mobile devices to be online simultaneously. Don’t expect any lively debates to take place in here!
Day to Day
The Discovery Sport is marketed as a 5 + 2 seater, meaning that it can comfortable transport five adults and two children in the rear most seats. All seats offer what Land Rover call ‘Stadium Seating’ meaning that everyone gets an equal chance to play lookout officer. The flexible seating as mentioned earlier means boot space can be tailored to your needs. Transport five people and you have 981 litres of loadspace, play cargo pilot and you have a whopping 1,698 litres of baggage. This is an incredibly spacious and practical car.
The Discovery Sport range starts at £31,095 for the basic front wheel drive manual diesel (150 hp) option, but it is worth stepping up to the higher powered diesel automatic (180 hp) in SE Tech trim from £36,100; as it offers the in-built satellite navigation as well as the 5 + 2 flexible seating option.
The Discovery Sport is a worthy addition to the now ‘Discovery’ brand, matching the same one car fits all brief that its bigger brother practically invented. Offering all the practicality you could ever need with go anywhere in comfort ability, it really is the all singing, all dancing car of its small SUV sector.
Model tested: Land Rover Discovery Sport (0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds, average of 53 miles per gallon, 139 g/km of CO2 emissions and annual road tax of £130).
Priced from: £31,095 (Model as tested: HSE Luxury 2.0 TD4 (180 hp) Diesel £47,475. Key Options: Entertainment Pack – £2,500, InControl Connect – £650, Adaptive Xenon Headlamps – £375, Electric Towbar – £950).