The cheapest and most efficient Discovery Sport comes with a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine, badged E-Capability. It’s offered with a choice of two or four-wheel drive, but no automatic gearbox or seven-seat option.
Even if that combination works for you, the E-Capability’s lacklustre performance leaves a lot to be desired. We’d opt for the 178bhp version of the same engine instead. You can have this with a six-speed manual gearbox or, better still, the more fitting nine-speed automatic.
While the auto can prove a bit slow to respond off the line and during kickdown, with nine gears to the manual’s six it makes better use of the engine’s extra low and mid-range power. That makes for usable everyday performance, but it’s not quick and is certainly no match for an Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 or BMW X3 20d in straight-line pace.
To keep up with those, you need to move up to the 237bhp 2.0-litre diesel. This comes with the auto 'box as standard and whisks the Discovery Sport from 0-60mph in just 7.1sec, giving you a nice turn of speed and edging it just ahead of those aforementioned rivals. However, while it is much livelier, after factoring in running costs we’d still stick with the 178bhp diesel, unless that extra oomph really counts for you.
Finally, there are the two 2.0-litre petrols, with either 237bhp or 286bhp, and both are automatic. While they are unlikely to be most people’s first choice, they do offer brisk performance at the expense of pretty hefty fuel economy.
If you tow a caravan or trailer, the 178bhp and 237bhp diesels will pull 2.2 tonnes, while the vast majority of Discovery Sports will pull 2.0 tonnes.
The Discovery Sport deals with speed bumps well and rides smoothly at higher speeds, especially on the motorway. Clever adaptive dampers (called Adaptive Dynamics) are available as an option, but there's really no need to bother spending the extra.
Things can get a touch bumpy around town, though. Expansion joints and worn surfaces unsettle the suspension a little – a problem that is exacerbated by fitting alloys larger than the 18in rims that come as standard with SE and SE Tech trims. The 20in wheels are certainly best avoided.
For the best comfort in this class, we'd suggest looking at the Q5 with optional air suspension fitted or, at the cheaper end of the spectrum, the Peugeot 5008 smooths away bumps pretty well, too.
There is a fair amount of body lean when cornering in the Discovery Sport. As a result, it feels a bit sloppy along twisting, country roads compared with an Q5, X3 or Jaguar F-Pace. Fortunately, though, the Discovery Sport has plenty of grip, so it does actually hold the road well. And with reassuringly precise steering, it gives you plenty of confidence and control.
All four-wheel-drive models come with Terrain Response, a system that allows the driver to select from a variety of drive modes tailored to different surfaces, such as grass, mud and sand. It means the Discovery Sport is better off road than just about anything else in this price bracket.
The 2.0-litre diesel engines are reasonably hushed at speed but far from the class best under acceleration, when you feel some vibration through the controls and hear a degree of diesel clatter. For the slickest motors in the class, try the excellent Q5 2.0 TDI 190 or X3 20d, which isn't far behind the Audi for manners.
Both the Q5 and X3 are considerably quieter than the Discovery Sport in other respects, too. Its door mirrors whip up a lot more wind noise on the motorway and there’s more road noise to contend with as well, although neither issue could be defined as unruly.
Meanwhile, the nine-speed automatic gearbox is so smooth that most shifts go unnoticed. It’s often hesitant when you’re pulling away from a standstill or onto roundabouts, though – something that isn't ideal. The manual gearshift isn't bad, but the auto 'box is much better suited to the Discovery Sport’s laid-back driving character.
The broad driver’s seat is, in the main, extremely comfortable, although it’s worth adding adjustable lumbar support on the cheaper trims – without this, there's a shortage of lower back provision. High-end Discovery Sports come with adjustable lumbar support and electrically adjustable seats as standard.
The cushioned lid of the raised centre cubby doubles as a well-placed armrest and the dashboard is easy to figure out – it’s well marked and has logically placed switches, including the simple main rotary controls for the air-con. However, some settings are altered using the big colour touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard, and that can prove fiddly.
The Discovery Sport’s chunky door mirrors give you a broad rearward view but can obstruct forward visibility at junctions. There’s also a blindspot at the car’s rear three-quarters that is important to be aware of when changing lanes, especially if you haven't chosen to add the optional blindspot monitoring system.
All Discovery Sports come with rear parking sensors and all but entry-level Pure and SE models have front sensors, too. A reversing camera is standard on HSE trim and upwards, and optional on lower trims, while automatic parking systems are optional across the range. All but the Pure trim have a heated front screen, so you’ll be able to clear frost in no time.
All versions of the Discovery Sport come with an 8.0in colour touchscreen as standard, but you can’t get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The straightforward home menu makes it easy to jump between key functions, which include sat-nav on all but entry-level Pure and SE trims, although it's a shame that the screen doesn't respond a little more promptly when you press it.
Beyond the core home menu, some of the other processes – such as finding a radio station or inputting a new destination – are quite convoluted and the necessary icons aren't always obvious. Some of the icons are quite small, too, making them tricky to hit while you’re driving.
More positively, all models get Bluetooth hands-free and audio streaming, a DAB radio, a USB socket and controls on the steering wheel. Even the entry-level models come with a very effective 10-speaker sound system, while HSE trim and upwards get an 11-speaker system with a subwoofer.
An optional 10in InControl Touch Pro infotainment system is optional on HSE trim and above and is much better than the standard 8.0in version. It's very pricey, though, and still not quite as good as the best systems out there, such as those in the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.
The interior of the Discovery Sport is characterised by plenty of plush, dense-feeling materials, well-damped switches and classy touches such as brushed-metal trim and a rising rotary gear selector (on auto models).
It doesn’t feel quite as solidly built or well finished as some of its fellow upmarket SUVs, in particular the Q5 and X3. However, apart from the swish Peugeot 5008, the Discovery Sport feels much better appointed than mainstream seven-seat SUV rivals including the Kia Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq, so it still lives up to its premium billing.
Even very tall drivers will be able to get comfortable in the Discovery Sport. There's plenty of leg room and head room is among the best in the class – provided you don’t add the panoramic glass roof that zaps this slightly.
A deep central cubby houses the USB socket, so is the perfect place to store your phone out of sight. Two cupholders placed behind the gear selector can hold large takeaway mugs securely. The door pockets are sizeable enough to take a 750ml bottle, while the glovebox is big enough to store a few small items, as well as the handbook.
With the middle-row seats slid back as far as possible, anyone sitting on them is treated to masses of leg room. True, if you slide them all the way forward, taller adults will find their knees pressed against the front seatbacks, but you won't need to do this very often.
By contrast, the rearmost row in seven-seat versions is distinctly cramped and best suited for younger teenagers. Leg room is particularly tight and access isn't great, either, because the wheel arch juts into the space you have to squeeze through.
Still, it is the only premium-badged car of this size to offer seven seats. If you’re willing to go non-premium, the Peugeot 5008 and Kia Sorento offer more spacious third rows.
The front passenger has the same seating adjustment as the driver, meaning standard manual movement with no lumbar adjustment. Full electric seat adjustment is optional on lower-priced Pure, SE and SE Tech trims. Otherwise, it’s standard on HSE and all versions above that.
The middle row of seats is split 40/20/40 and you can slide and recline each of the three seats independently. You can also fold each seatback flat into the boot floor for a variety of configurations.
Pull a lever low down on the side of the outer middle-row seats and they spring forward to give access to the third row. However, they don’t return to their original position automatically. Instead, they remain in place to free up leg space behind.
A boot lip that’s flush with the boot floor makes it easy to lug heavy items into the back of the Discovery Sport. With the third row of seats folded down, or in five-seat versions, the boot is larger than that in most of its rivals, with some exceptions including the Sorento and 5008.
The load area is well shaped and big enough that it will cope more than enough luggage for most people’s needs, including large suitcases and buggies. A powered, gesture-controlled tailgate is standard on all but the entry-level Pure and SE models.
On the downside, there’s no underfloor storage and nowhere to stow the tonneau cover if you need to remove it – something you must do to raise the sixth and seventh seats.
The Discovery Sport is priced competitively against five-seat premium rivals such as the BMW X3 and Audi Q5, both of which are less practical. However, the Discovery Sport’s problem comes when you compare it with less premium alternatives, such as the Kia Sorento and Peugeot 5008, where it suddenly looks expensive.
As long as you’re aware that you can get bigger seven-seat SUVs for less money and are willing to pay the premium for the Discovery’s upmarket image, it makes decent financial sense. It will hold its value well and the 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine emits a similar amount of CO2 as an equivalent X3 or Q5. Real-world economy is slightly disappointing, but not horrendously so.
Use our True MPG calculator and see what your car really does to the gallon
The entry-level Pure trim has some niceties, including part-leather upholstery, cruise control, rear parking sensors and an 8.0in colour touchscreen.
However, we’d jump to SE Tech as a minimum. That trim adds sat-nav, automatic lights and wipers, front parking sensors and a powered tailgate – all for a modest increase in price. But the most recommendable trim is HSE; this gets you electrically operated front seats, leather seats all round, xenon headlights, a reversing camera and a panoramic glass roof.
It’s too big a price jump to higher-spec versions, so we’d say they’re best avoided. If you are happy to spend more money, consider adding the improved functionality of the optional InControl Touch Pro infotainment system to the HSE trim instead.
Land Rover didn’t do very well in our most recent reliability survey, where it ranked 31st out of the 32 manufacturers examined.
A three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, which also includes UK and European roadside assistance, should provide some peace of mind. This is about par for the class, although the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento come with far five and seven-year warranties respectively.
The Discovery Sport sets the standard for safety in its class and achieved the full five stars in Euro NCAP’s crash tests. An airbag springs up from the top of the bonnet to help reduce head injuries in the case of a pedestrian collision, while interior airbags include one for the driver’s knee, as well as airbags that cover the head, chest and side areas of those up front. There are head and side airbags for passengers in the middle row of seats, too.
Automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning are standard across the range. Traffic sign recognition, which displays the speed limit, is optional on all but entry-level Pure and SE trims, while safety functions you can order include lane assist and blindspot warning.
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