Motoring: Breakthrough Discovery
12:17 01 September 2015
Prestige badge, renowned name – Land Rover’s new Discovery Sport has everything going for it, including seven-seat versatility, says motoring editor Andy Russell
There’s no disputing the strength of the Land Rover brand, nor the positioning of its Discovery – a model instantly recognisable and associated with the British manufacturer’s achievements.
The strength of the Discovery brand has now been expanded to the smaller Discovery Sport, which replaces the Freelander. Front on, it’s hard to tell it apart from the Range Rover Evoque, although the word Discovery writ large on the bonnet and tailgate helps, but move towards the rounded rear and the similarity ends. The new member of the expanding Discovery family of leisure vehicles brings seven-seat versatility to the compact premium SUV market. Cabin accommodation
The Discovery Sport’s long wheelbase, interior packaging, practicality and versatility is incredible in order to get seven seats into an SUV with a more compact footprint than some five-seat models. While billed as a 5+2, suggesting the third row of seats are for children, my wife and a friend were surprised by the space offered. The low rear-most seats lack under-thigh support but they were quite happy for the hour-long journey. It helps that the 60/40-split second row of seats slide back and forth through 160mm, which also helps to get to and from the two individual rear seats which pull up from the boot floor. Slide the middle ones right back and it’s almost as accommodating as a Range Rover and, even right forward, average-sized adults will cope with the legroom provided those in front aren’t greedy.
Most owners will use the Discovery Sport in five-seat mode most of the time, which gives an ample, if high-floored, boot with 829 to 981 litres of space loaded to the roof. With all seven seats in use, you’ve got 195 litres. Lay all the seats flat and cargo capacity grows to 1,698 litres.
Ride and handling
What also impresses about the Discovery Sport is how well it drives and the refined ride, particularly as it’s equally capable off-road with all-wheel drive and Terrain Response system with four settings. The ride can feel firm travelling slowly on roadwork-scarred surfaces but smoothes out as speed builds for comfortable motorway cruising, whether travelling light or laden. Well-weighted power steering makes it easy to place the Discovery Sport accurately on twisty roads and, while there is some lean through corners due to the tall body and high ground clearance, it never feels roly-poly even when pressing on.
At the wheel
It may be the entry-level Land Rover but the Discovery Sport has a premium feel. The fascia looks good and works well, with user-friendly controls and the bulk of functions operate via the large touchscreen with intuitive menus. The interior is all very clean, efficient and beautifully finished with rows of twin stitching on the dense, soft-touch trim.
Whether you’re tall or short, the driving position has all the adjustment you need and visibility is brilliant compared to the Range Rover Evoque. Go for the panoramic glass roof and it floods the cabin with light, heightening the sense of space.
Under the bonnet
Launched with the 190PS 2.2-litre turbo diesel – showing its age when it comes to refinement, economy and emissions – this unit makes way for the new 2-litre advanced Ingenium TD4 turbo diesel in 150 and 180PS outputs, designed for class-leading torque and power, with up to 57mpg and CO2 as low as 129g/km.
Like the 2.2-litre SD4, it will be mated to a six-speed manual and superbly smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic.
The engine pulls willingly, even with a full load, but expect about 35mpg in everyday driving, nudging 40 with a light foot on a run.
Smart, spacious and boasting a strong image, this new Discovery Sport is going to be highly desirable, bringing new customers to Land Rover. It strengthens, rather than dilutes, the Discovery brand, just as the smaller Evoque has been a huge hit for Range Rover. >>>
Price: Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE 2.2 SD4 190PS £39,395 (range £30,695 to £43,000)
Performance: 0-62mph 8.9 seconds; top speed 117mph
MPG: 44.8 combined
Insurance group: 31
Length: 4,599mm; width 2,173mm; height 1,724mm