The last eight months haven’t been totally plain sailing, but the overall Discovery Sport experience has been pleasingly stress-free
The Discovery Sport is the least expensive Land Rover you can buy these days, but there’s been no shortfall in the flow of praise from all who have driven our one over the last several months.
We’ve borrowed a few very capable SUVs over the last couple of years, including Hyundai’s Tucson and Kia’s Sportage, but none have displayed the same degree of versatility or gathered as much love as the Discovery Sport.
It quickly became the prime choice for any long trip, fully loaded or otherwise. Not only was it roomy for up to seven people, it was brilliant to drive, very comfortable on the long haul, and yet small enough for easy parking and city manoeuvring.
We were hoping that Jaguar Land Rover’s new 2.0-litre diesel engine would represent a big advance over the original Discovery Sport’s 2.2-litre Ford engine in regards to performance, refinement and economy. The claimed numbers of 53.3mpg (average) and CO2 output of 139g/km certainly looked competitive against premium rivals.
In reality, the engine isn’t a star feature. German rivals offer more than its 178bhp, and we’ve only managed a real-world average of 33.2mpg. Still, the performance doesn’t seem lacking, particularly on the motorway, and it’s pretty smooth and refined for a four-cylinder diesel, even if it feels a bit ‘chuggy’ at lower speeds. Sometimes it’s desirable to manually nudge the nine-speed automatic gearbox into a better gear.
The best of the Sport’s many attributes is its incredible comfort. Plentiful space in the cabin helps there, but the seats and driving position are absolutely top notch. The decent ride quality, low noise, big ground clearance and plump tyres equip it very well for British roads.
Often as not, the third-row seats weren’t used, but when they were the praise was unstinting. Six-up on a London to Devon wedding and camping trip, it performed admirably. With all of the back seats folded, the Landie swallowed up a rotten garden shed and eight alloy wheels and tyres – not at the same time, mind.
Almost all of the time the Discovery Sport is very poised, but if you press it for the last 2 per cent of its performance you’ll notice sudden body roll. Quick steering means you have to be on your mettle with mid-corner corrections. The best approach (for your passengers at least) is to stay out of that small zone of extremity.
Some say the cabin doesn’t reflect the quality and materials of a £40k SUV, but the clean, functional design has its own merit and, in conjunction with workmanlike black leather, conjures up a certain ambience that isn’t quite there in the German opposition.
The irritations that blight long-term ownership of any car are few. All the auto automatic functions and driver aids work unobtrusively in the background. We did encounter some faults towards the end of our stewardship – a clonk from the tailgate and a squeak from the suspension – which necessitated a booking-in with local dealer Guy Salmon Thames Ditton. That wasn’t a brilliant experience. Just making the booking seemed difficult enough, and only the tailgate clonk was mended.
Otherwise, living with the Discovery Sport proved to be immensely enjoyable. The engine is a slight let-down, leaving room for such as the new Audi Q5 and Skoda Kodiaq to poke LR’s armour, but that apart it’s a fine blend of comfort, space, useability and driving pleasure.