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Land Rover Discovery Sport review: 4.0/5

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Land Rover expands the Discovery family. Can it take on the Audi Q5 and BMW X3?

Neil Briscoe

Words: - @neilmbriscoe
Pics: Dave Humphreys - @LordHumphreys

Published on: March 29, 2015

Words: - @neilmbriscoe
Pics: Dave Humphreys - @LordHumphreys

Published on: March 29, 2015

Tech Specs

Model testedLand Rover Discovery Sport SD4 SE
Pricingstarts at €37,100; as tested €51,845
Engine2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmissionnine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body stylemid-size SUV with up to seven seats
CO2 emissions166g/km (Band D, €570 per annum)
Combined economy44.8mpg (6.3 litres/100km)
Top speed188km/h
0-100km/h8.9 seconds
Power190hp at 3,500rpm
Torque420Nm at 1,750rpm
Boot space689- to 1,698 litres
EuroNCAP ratingfive-star; adult 93%; child 83%; pedestrian 69%; safety assist 82%

Good: sharp looking and even sharper to drive, properly practical, very comfy, good performance, refinement

Not so good: gets very expensive very quickly, seven seats should be standard, not an option, low-speed ride too jittery, cabin could do with an extra sheen of quality

Well, that's Range Rover Evoque sales holed below the waterline. I'm sure Land Rover will turn around and say that a Discovery Sport competes in a very different sector and appeals to a totally different buyer to the show-pony Range Rover but c'mon - here's a car that's just as good looking, just as good to drive as the Evoque but it's cheaper to buy (mostly) and more practical.

It's also the first all-new Land Rover for several years. We've had two new big Range Rovers and the Evoque but the Disco Sport is the first completely new model to bear the Land Rover badge since the Freelander 2 was launched in 2006. The fact that Land Rover has been concentrating so hard on making a success of its conversion of the Range Rover from single model into full family speaks volumes as to where the global car market is going these days, but it's refreshing to see Land Rover concentrating on its original, core brand again.

Obviously, the hope here is that what works for Range Rover will also work for Discovery - the idea is to have the Range Rover models working the sporting/luxury end of the market, the Defender (and its eventual replacement) taking care of those who require a tool more than a car and the Discovery, Discovery Sport and a potential third Discovery model taking care of family needs. Mind you, you'll have to be a pretty well-off family to be considering one of these as your daily drive. The price list starts at a reasonable-looking €37k but it's incredibly easy to spec the Disco Sport up well beyond €50k - Land Rover has clearly been taking lessons from its premium German rivals when it comes to options pricing. Even the third row seating that is the Discovery Sport's big advantage over the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 (which can only ever be had as five-seaters) is an option - and a €1,700 one on our test car. Steep, and made worse by the fact that all UK-market Disco Sports get seven seats as standard.

Still, the upshot is a massive boot (689 litres with the rear seats up) and that most reassuring of items, a full-size spare wheel (seven-seaters get a space-saver instead).

And that is where the Discovery Sport does start to work its magic on you. It's a proper workhorse, this car - and while the expensiveness is a debatable point, there's no question that it makes an ideal family car. There's tonnes of legroom in the rear seats, which is nice not just for adults but also when you're loading up small people into space-eating child safety seats. Junior couldn't reach out and kick the back of my seat while I was driving, and this makes me very happy indeed.

I was slightly less happy about the cabin design. It's all very nice in there, and the seats (lifted more or less straight from the Evoque) are superbly comfortable, but there's a bit of a lack of premium look and/or feel. The plastics are solid feeling and everything works well, but it just doesn't feel as good as what you get in an Audi or Beemer. Or a Volvo XC60 for that matter, and while we're on the subject, a Kia Sorento has a noticeably more luxurious cabin.

There are some highlights though. The seats I've already mentioned but there's also the new InControl infotainment touch-screen. This replaces Land Rover's old touchscreen setup, which looked and felt old the day it was launched and the new on is a massive improvement. In fact, it looks and works in a manner very reminiscent of the recent Nokia smartphones and that's actually a compliment. It's simple, easy to use and pleasant to the eye.

Away from such fripperies, the Discovery Sport has some serious dynamic and performance cards to play. It's based on the same steel frontal structure as the Evoque, so while it's not too porky, there is still 1,775kg to haul around. Thankfully, the 2.2-litre SD4 diesel engine has some decent grunt - 190hp is nice but the 420Nm of torque is even better. Plant your foot and the Disco underlines just why it should be called a Sport; it flies along, with plenty of performance in reserve and never, ever feels underpowered. It's not too thirsty either, coming close to a 40mpg average and being pretty refined into the bargain. The new 180hp Ingenium four-cylinder diesel engine is on the way too, and that will bring with it a front-wheel drive model with low emissions. For now, you'll just have to put up with the €570 motor tax bill - still cheaper than an old-shape Mondeo 1.8 petrol...

There's a fly in the dynamic ointment though and it's the ride quality. The Discovery Sport is quite firmly damped, and while this is a good thing in the corners (flat body, super-sharp Jaguar-esque steering feel); it's not so good around town where the car struggles to cope with short-wave ripples. Not a massive problem, but it could be long-term irritant.

I think you'd probably forgive it that though, because the Disco Sport is one of those rare cars that really worms its way into your affections. Initially I have to admit I wasn't keen, put off especially by the lack of nice soft-touch plastics and satin-chrome in the cabin. By the end of my test though, the Sport had really worked some magic on me. It cruises in perfect silence and comfort on long motorway journeys, tackles rough ground and broken surfaces with the ease you'd expect of a Land Rover and remains comfortable and agile throughout. It was a car I handed back very, very reluctantly. It's not perfect, but given its price point, its handsomeness and its varied abilities, I'd go so far as to say it's Land Rover's most rounded, most competent new product for a generation or more.

Game over, Evoque.



Alternatives

Car Reviews | Audi Q5 | CompleteCar.ie
Audi Q5 vs. Land Rover Discovery Sport: handsome, sharp to drive and with a gorgeous interior. Not as practical as the Disco though.
Car Reviews | BMW X3 xDrive30d M Sport | CompleteCar.ie
BMW X3 vs. Land Rover Discovery Sport: superb chassis but suffers from the same low-speed-ride issues as the Discovery. No seven-seat option.
Car Reviews | Kia Sorento | CompleteCar.ie
Kia Sorento vs. Land Rover Discovery Sport: yes, really. Can't match the Disco for image or handling but it's comfy, spacious, affordable (relatively), refined and has a really high-class cabin. Ignore it at your peril.

Tech Specs

Model testedLand Rover Discovery Sport SD4 SE
Pricingstarts at €37,100; as tested €51,845
Engine2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmissionnine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body stylemid-size SUV with up to seven seats
CO2 emissions166g/km (Band D, €570 per annum)
Combined economy44.8mpg (6.3 litres/100km)
Top speed188km/h
0-100km/h8.9 seconds
Power190hp at 3,500rpm
Torque420Nm at 1,750rpm
Boot space689- to 1,698 litres
EuroNCAP ratingfive-star; adult 93%; child 83%; pedestrian 69%; safety assist 82%