The Discovery Sport replaced the old Freelander, but it’s a more rounded performer, much higher in tech, can seat as many as seven people and is a fine thing to drive and reasonable value provided you spec it right. Plus it retains just enough proper Land Rover off-road-y-ness to make it worthy of the legendary badge.
|Body Style: SUV||Seats: 7||MRP from £28,355 - £51,070|
Did you know? Recycling some of the old Freelander’s chassis means that the Discovery Sport is actually distantly related to the Ford Mondeo.
The Discovery Sport, neither on paper nor at first glance, looks like it stands much of a chance against the likes of the Audi Q5 or its own in-house rival, the Range Rover Evoque. But give it a chance – with its combination of assured handling, practical cabin, comfort, and subtly handsome looks, this is a car that very quickly works its way into your affections. Just watch the price once you start adding options.
Practicality and versatility
Genuinely good handling and steering
We Don't Like
Lack of refinement
At first, the Discovery Sport appears almost plain. That upswept nose is nice and all, but the rear end, with its forward-raked C-pillar, looks too much like the old Freelander for comfort, and there’s little of the attention-grabbing styling of its glamorous sibling, the Range Rover Evoque.
It is, though, a car that rewards a second glance. And probably a third one too. It also benefits from some bold choices with paint options, and a contrasting roof colours really lifts it up. Dress the Discovery Sport up properly and it starts to look very good, very quickly, although you can spend foolish amounts of money rather too easily.
As far as image is concerned (aside from a lingering whiff of reliability worries) there’s little to beat the Land Rover badge for aspirational qualities. More than a few other car makers would kill for this sort of brand appeal.
In some ways, the Discovery Sport’s cabin is its weak point, mostly because it looks very plain and unadorned. This is an issue that becomes more noticeable the further up the price list you look, where the Disco’s cabin struggles to keep up with the likes of rivals such as the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
The good thing is that the fundamentals are spot-on, from the excellent seats to the fine driving position, good visibility out and decent refinement. Overall quality is good too, although there are occasional panels of too-cheap plastic.
The Discovery Sport, with a couple of caveats, is hugely practical. With the third row of seats folded into the floor, the boot holds a whopping 981 litres. Hang on though – Land Rover takes that measurement as being from floor to roof, not up to the window line (as is more common), where it’s more like 500-odd-litres. Still good, but not as impressive as it sounds at first.
Nonetheless, with all seats folded down and loaded to the roof, you can squeeze as much as 1,698 litres in, which is slightly better than, say, a Volvo V90 estate. Put all seven seats up (there are versions of the Discovery Sport with five seats), and the space shrinks to just about enough for a couple of shopping bags. There are plenty of luggage hooks too, and an optional load-space divider to stop dirty stuff coming in contact with clean stuff.
Ultimately, the seven seat layout of the Discovery Sport sets itself apart from five-seat only rivals like the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and even Land Rover's own Range Rover Velar; with the seats folded the boot is pretty much as practical as that in a Volvo XC60, but then you can pop the extra seats up and squeeze a couple of kids in the back for the school run. What's not to like?
Space and legroom in the middle row is excellent and those seats slide back and forth by 160mm to allow you to choose between legroom and luggage room.
Land Rover has been steadily ramping up its tech and connectivity options in recent years, and the Discovery Sport is now available with the new, and generally very impressive, 10-inch In Control Touch Pro infotainment system. Aside from the handsome touchscreen, you can route-plan from your home computer and have the directions sent to the in-car satnav, there’s a Remote Premium phone (and Apple Watch) app that allows you to monitor your vehicle’s condition from afar, there’s a parking app in the navigation system that helps you to find a space or a car park, a 380-watt Meridian sound system and a connection to the Tile app and stick-on location devices to help ensure that you never forget important items before leaving the house or office. There’s also in-car Wi-Fi and an optional rear-seat entertainment pack.
The Discovery Sport loses stars here because of the older, basic eight-inch In Control Touch system, which isn’t bad, but is a step (or two) behind what is on offer from BMW or Audi.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is fluid and relaxing to drive, although it falls a long way short of the crisp, direct, high-riding sports-hatch feel of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. There's too much body movement and too much willingness to understeer for that.
However, it does steer with willingness and precision that rivals like the seven-seat Nissan X-Trail and Skoda Kodiaq fall short of, and it's generally really easy and pleasant to drive provided you avoid adding huge wheels, which eat away at refinement as well as ride comfort.
The four-wheel drive models are very good off-road and get Land Rover's Terrain Response system as standard so you can select modes for different terrains.
The Discovery Sport’s only significant failing in terms of how it drives is that its ride quality can occasionally be too firm (especially on the optional 20-inch wheels). You’ll feel that more around town than on the open road, but it can become annoyingly fidgety. Avoid the 'eco' front-wheel drive 'E-Capability' model, as it's manual only and the manual gearbox just doesn't suit the DIscovery Sport and makes it much harder to drive smoothly than the mostly very enjoyable automatic gearbox, which you should consider an essential addition.
In 2016, Land Rover updated the Discovery Sport with the 2.0-litre ‘Ingenium’ four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, replacing the ageing, Ford-sourced 2.2 that it had been using. The Ingenium is a decent unit, although it can be a touch noisy at times. The main version has a healthy 178bhp and 317lb ft of torque. There is a 148bhp version, with 280lb ft of torque that also does without the third row of seats to save weight and therefore a little fuel, but the 180hp version is the one to go for. Land Rover currently doesn’t offer either a petrol version or a hybrid in the UK.
Recommended engine: 2.0 TD4 180hp Auto Ingenium
The Discovery Sport gets a full five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, with a 93 per cent score for adult occupant protection, 83 per cent for child, 69 per cent for pedestrian, and 82 per cent for safety assist.
There is a battery of electronic safety systems too, starting with the usual electronic stability control and rising through autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control (which can take over entirely in heavy traffic), lane-keeping steering, trailer reversing assistant, and a surround-view camera system.
There are also some Land Rover-specific systems, such as All Terrain Progress Control, which can get the car moving safely on slippery or loose surfaces, and a wade-depth sensor that tells you if the flood you’ve just driven into is too deep. It’s unlikely to be, though, as the Discovery Sport can wade through more than half-a-metre of water as standard, which is reassuring when the weather turns nasty.
There’s only one solid paint finish – Fuji White – and the rest are all metallic, including Yulong White, Indus Silver, Corris Grey, Kaikoura Stone, Scotia Grey, Aintree Green, Loire Blue, Santorini Black, Firenze Red, Phoenix Orange, Silicon Silver, Aruba, Waitomo Grey, Carpathian Grey, and Farallon Black. Just bear in mind that the last seven listed colours are all ‘Premium Metallic’, which are significantly more expensive to choose. All colours come with the optional choice of black or dark grey contrast colour roof.
There are three core trim levels – SE, SE Tech and HSE. SE comes with part-leather heated seats, climate control, heated windscreen, 18-inch wheels, heated door mirrors, cruise control, the eight-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, seven seats, and keyless ignition.
SE Tech adds satellite navigation, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights, front parking sensors, front fog lights and a powered tailgate, with an under-bumper sensor.
HSE adds electrically adjustable leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, second row climate control vents, Xenon headlights with LED daytime lights and high-beam assistant, rear view camera, upgraded Meridian sound system, keyless entry, 19-inch wheels, and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
HSE Luxury comes with cooled and heated front seats, upgraded leather, a heated steering wheel, parking assistance, mood lighting, 20-inch wheels, extra USB connections, and In Control App functions.
There are also some styling packs – the Black Pack and Graphite Pack – that variously add dark-hued exterior trim and wheels and which get rid of any chrome finishers, while there’s also the Dynamic Lux pack that comes with a sportier body kit, mesh-finished grilles, gloss black 20-inch wheels and a red Sport badge.
It’s very easy to go nuts on the Discovery Sport options list and end up with a £60-grand car, so we’d advise a little caution. Basically, you can go two ways with the Discovery Sport. Go for a more affordable SE Tech model and spend a little on some safety and practicality extras such as the Cold Climate pack and you’ve got an excellent family car. Alternatively, you could splash out on a HSE Dynamic Lux version and, for quite a bit of outlay, have a car worthy of comparison with a BMW X3 or Audi Q5, but more practical than either.
Just make sure you go for dark-finish alloys and a contrast roof colour to show the Discovery Sport off at its best.
Size and Dimensions
Given the amount of interior space, the Discovery Sport isn’t overly chunky, but it is quite wide, so beware if you have an especially narrow driveway.
Max towing weight
750kg without brake/2000kg with brake
As is the case with a lot of cars, the Discovery Sport does flatter to deceive somewhat with its official fuel consumption figures. The core TD4 180 engine, with four-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox, returns 53mpg overall, a figure that is identical on paper for the nine-speed automatic version. An emissions rating of 139g/km makes it a touch pricey for annual road tax, but not the worst in its class by a long shot.
The 150hp model can officially stretch that to 57mpg, and brings emissions down to a more tax-friendly 129g/km, but to be honest, both figures are fiction. In reality, in day-to-day driving, you’re going to find yourself hovering around the 40mpg mark, with frequent dips down to 35mpg and below. Not terrible, perhaps, but equally not as good as you’d hope.
Reliability and servicing
The Discovery Sport has been already been recalled four times for loose glass panels, possible fuel leaks, electrical short circuits, and faulty seatbelt pre-tensioners. Land Rover does not have a wonderful reputation for quality and reliability, but the old Freelander II was a solid enough car, and the Discovery Sport both shares much with that car and is built in the same factory so there’s reason for optimism.
|Service interval||21,000 miles or two years|
|Inclusive service pack||Covers first five years for a fixed price|
Pricing: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)
It’s not the cheapest car in its class by a long shot, but how you feel about the Discovery’s prices might depend on whom you see as its closest competitors.
The cheapest front-wheel drive, eD4 150 model starts at under £30,000, but you'd be wise to avoid it. More realistic is an automatic, four-wheel drive TD4 180 model in SE Tech, which gets good standard equipment and comes in at around £36k - not bad by any standard, even if you could get a fully loaded Skoda Kodiaq 4x4 2.0 TDI 190 DSG with some change for that. If you want some attention-grabbing looks and an even more upmarket feel, go for HSE Luxury, but be warned that you're looking at £40k by that point and you'll still want to add options to the tune of another £2k or more. You can get seriously carried away with options on the Disco Sport, so avoid spending silly money as it'll lose value much faster than a more reasonably specced, cheaper variant of the Disco Sport.
Ultimately, the Discovery Sport is more of a BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz rival and the prices start to look a lot more sensible, particularly given the seven-seat capacity that those premium rivals don't offer.
All versions – lots of space, seven seats, great view out.
HSE Luxury – lots of tech as standard and the optional 10-inch screen is great.
All models – smart styling and aspirational badge makes the Discovery Sport a good car to be seen in.
New model is slick to drive, and beautifully made, but lacks a seven-seat option.
Significantly more affordable, and with much roomier third row.
Masses of space. Not premium, but a serious rival if practicality is your priority.
Lovely, minimalist styling inside and out, proper premium desirability, but no seven seat option.
Great to look at and great to drive, but, again, can’t be had with seven seats.