Land Rover Discovery Sport long-term test review: final report
The cheapest Land Rover has been no stick-in-the-mud during its time with us.
Despite a few hiccups, the Discovery Sport has proven to be a fine tonic for stress over the 8 months we’ve had it
The cheapest Land Rover has been no stick-in-the-mud during its time with us. In fact, it has impressed all who drove it.
During the past couple of years, we’ve run a number of practical, useful SUVs that have dealt admirably with the stuff that everyday life has thrown at them. The Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage spring to mind. But I feel confident in saying that none of them has been as versatile, or as universally adored, as the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Now-departed production editor Mel Falconer summed up the car’s value best when, having borrowed it for a trip to France, she likened it to a star quarterback that the rest of the team turns to when they want a long-distance play. The Discovery Sport swiftly gained a reputation as the go-to vehicle for any journey, with or without family and friends in tow, not only because it was spacious and could seat seven but also because it was really, really good to drive and an exceptionally comfortable long-haul tourer.
At 4.6m long, the Discovery Sport is a ‘Goldilocks’ size: not too big and not too small. It’s compact enough to be easy to park and manoeuvre anywhere, aided by quick steering that makes it feel agile, yet it also manages to provide seven very usable seats and a terrific amount of flexible space for occupants and cargo. It’s a clever bit of packaging.
One of the main points of interest from the outset was how much of a difference Jaguar Land Rover’s new 2.0-litre diesel engine, developed in-house, would make in terms of performance, refinement and fuel economy compared with the old 2.2-litre Ford engine with which the Discovery Sport was launched. Certainly, a claimed average of 53.3mpg and CO2 output of 139g/km made it look reasonably competitive on paper against premium rivals.
As it turns out, the engine is one of the less impressive things about the Discovery Sport. With 178bhp, it’s a little down on power next to its German rivals and economy has proved disappointing in our hands, with an average of 33.2mpg. Having said that, I’ve always found its performance to be more than strong enough, especially at motorway cruising speeds, and it’s reasonably free-revving and refined for a four-cylinder diesel. It does tend to labour at low speeds, though, sometimes requiring a manual downshift to get the nine-speed automatic ’box into a more appropriate gear.
Of all the Discovery Sport’s attributes, the one I’ve come to value most is how fantastically comfortable it is. The spaciousness of the cabin helps a lot, but the seats and driving position are also among the best I’ve encountered, making it very easy to feel at home behind the wheel. With a fairly relaxed ride, low noise levels, excellent ground clearance and fat-sidewalled tyres, the Discovery Sport also deals with bumpy British roads exceptionally well, for the most part.
Most of the time, the third-row seats remained tucked away in the floor of the deep, capacious boot, but we were grateful for their presence at times – and not just for carrying children. On one occasion, picture editor Ben Summerell-Youde drove from London to Devon and back with five other adults and a weekend’s worth of wedding and camping gear aboard, and their feedback afterwards was entirely positive. With all of the rear seats folded flat, the Discovery Sport was also able to cart the rotting remains of a wooden garden shed to a recycling centre and then lug eight alloy wheels and tyres for a McLaren to Anglesey circuit during our Handling Day.
With thoughts of being smacked in the back of the head by a runaway wheel, I don’t think I’ve ever driven so carefully in my life.
Given how composed the Discovery Sport feels for 98% of the time, it’s a surprise to find that it isn’t all that comfortable with being driven hard. The rather abrupt onset of body roll, exacerbated by the quick steering, requires the driver to work relatively hard to keep the car balanced in corners. So when negotiating roundabouts on a dual carriageway, a very measured approach is required to avoid throwing the car’s occupants around uncomfortably.
Some people have argued that the cabin is a little plain and the quality of the materials isn’t quite what you’d expect of a £40k SUV, but I don’t have a problem with its clean, functional design. In any case, even with the practical black leather of our car, the Discovery Sport’s cabin has a certain robust character and warmth of personality that are somewhat lacking in its German rivals.
The Discovery Sport’s suitability as a long-term ownership prospect is cemented, for me, by how few things irritate me about it: pointless beeps and messages, stuff like that. In fact, all of its automatic functions and driver aids – from the engine stop-start system to the parking sensors and self-operating parking brake – worked as effectively and unobtrusively as you could hope for.
Although reliability was first rate, a couple of faults developed towards the end of the car’s time with us that brought us into slightly frustrating contact with local dealer Guy Salmon Thames Ditton. Even getting the car booked in was more difficult than expected, and the service department fixed only one of the issues – a clonk from the tailgate – while failing to do anything about a suspension creak that was the main reason for going to them in the first place. We ran out of time for a return visit, and it didn’t affect my opinion of the car itself, but I’d have hoped for better service from a prominent Land Rover dealership.
Living with a Discovery Sport, then, has been hugely satisfying. It’s a shame that its much-hyped new diesel engine hasn’t proved convincing enough to really set the seal on the Discovery Sport’s class leadership, giving buyers a reason to look at strong rivals such as the new Audi Q5 and Skoda Kodiaq, but as a package, it’s still highly compelling. That combination of comfort, space, sensible size, desirability and driving pleasure makes the Discovery Sport one of the most complete, versatile and likeable cars you’re ever likely to meet.
Everything about it seems right, from seat comfort and height to space, ergonomics and visibility.
Seven seats, loads of head and legroom and a big load bay in a relatively compact footprint.
Sophisticated four-wheel drive system puts power down cleanly and efficiently, on and off the road.
Big door bins and a raft of useful cubbyholes can hold a lot of stuff — including a two-litre bottle of water.
Modest economy and a smallish 54-litre tank meant we rarely got better than 350 miles between fills.
List price new £39,400 List price now £39,800 Price as tested £42,222 Dealer value now £31,400 Private value now £27,650 Trade value now £26,900
InControl Connect £650, Scotia Grey metallic paint £600, Santorini Black contrast roof £500, privacy glass £350, reduced-section spare wheel £287, traffic sign recognition £250, heated steering wheel £185
Fuel Consumption and Range:
Fuel tank 54 litres Test average 33.2mpg Test best 38.6mpg Test worst 25.1mpg Real-world range 394 miles Economy 53.3mpg (combined)
0-62mph 8.9sec Top speed 117mph Engine 4 cyls, 1999cc, diesel Power 178bhp at 4000rpm Torque 317lb ft at 1750rpm Gearbox 9-spd automatic Boot 98 litres Wheels 479-16 8.0J x 19in Tyres 235/55 R19 Kerb weight 1884kg
Service and running costs:
Contract high rate £468 per month CO2 139g/km Service cost None Other costs 14.5 litres of AdBlue £44 Fuel costs £2141 Running costs inc fuel £2185 Cost per mile 17 pence Depreciation £12,500 Cost per mile inc dep’n £1.14 Faults Suspension creak, clonk from tailgate
Our Discovery Sport is always a welcome sight at the end of a stressful day at work.
More so than in most cars, slipping into the driver’s seat immediately makes me begin to unwind — a trait the compact SUV shares with its bigger, more luxurious siblings, I’m pleased to discover.
Even before I’ve buckled up and pressed the engine start button, I can feel myself relaxing and looking forward to a soothing drive home.
I attribute this ability to make occupants feel at ease to the car’s excellent driving position, the spaciousness of the cabin and the simple functionality of the controls.
The seats are supremely comfortable, and I like the fact that while they are mounted high enough to give a great view out, they aren’t so lofty that I have to climb up to get in, as is the case in the full-size Land Rovers; they’re the ideal height for me to slide in or out with the minimum of effort.
Unlike our now-departed Range Rover Sport, the Discovery Sport isn’t intimidating to park or manoeuvre up and down narrow ramps in multi-storey car parks, either, thanks in large part to its surprisingly quick steering.
Visibility is aided in no small way on frosty mornings by the standard heated windscreen.
Despite the fact that my eyes occasionally want to focus on the heating element’s fine wires and that sunlight tends to glint off them, there’s no doubt that the heated screen is fast and effective, getting the car safely mobile within a minute of firing up the engine without having to use a scraper.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine is a respectable performer and is getting gutsier as the miles pass, but I’m disappointed at the vibration it sends through the steering wheel at idle and surprised at how readily it labours at low speeds.
Let the speed bleed off from, say, 30mph to 20mph and vibrations and a droning noise usually set in, the optional nine-speed automatic gearbox proving unwilling to downshift from a high gear (usually at least fifth) of its own accord.
To reduce the frequency of the grumbling and improve response, I’ve already gotten into the habit of putting the gearbox into Sport mode, using the paddles and preventing it from going beyond fourth in town — presumably to the detriment of fuel economy, which is averaging only 31.0mpg at this stage.
Being a Land Rover, the Discovery Sport promises to be a capable off-roader, and I’m looking forward to putting that to the test properly.
The Discovery Sport’s version of Terrain Response features a general mode for road use and three off-road programs.
On a run down to West Sussex recently, I dipped my toe into the off-road waters by venturing up every muddy track I could find, none of which challenged the car even in the general mode.
I know the Discovery Sport will be more capable off road than I’ll ever need, but it would be rude not to find out for sure.
Diesel cars usually have a generous range — 500 miles or more.
But the Disco Sport’s relatively small 54-litre tank and 31.0mpg average so far mean that the ‘distance to empty’ figure after a fill is never more than 350 miles — not much of an improvement on that of my previous Volkswagen Golf R.
List price £39,400 Price as tested £42,222 Economy 31.0mpg Faults None Expenses None Mileage 4550
Source: Autocar Online