The Land Rover Discovery Sport is the replacement for the much-lamented and hugely popular Freelander.
It’s just been given the Discovery’s name – oh, and it’s based on the Evoque’s chassis and platform. So you can be forgiven for being a bit confused.
It is, essentially, a seven-seat alternative to the Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X3 for those who value off-road ability more than on-road agility (for the latter please see Volvo XC90) and don’t need the full-fat Discovery’s staggering off-road indomitability - or its staggering on-road fuel consumption.
Does that help clear things up?
Far nicer than you might remember
The interior is generic modern Land Rover, which means that it is probably far nicer than you remember and genuinely luxurious in places.
I’m not sure what ‘Windsor Leather’ is but it felt spectacular to this discerning motoring journalist’s bottom.
The HSE Luxury specification of my test car left me wanting for nothing, but I might give the £1,000 electrically deployable tow-bar a skip in favour of something just as useful but far cheaper, even if the expenditure of a grand does tidy up the rear-end nicely.
As much legroom as you’ll ever need
The rear seats have as much legroom as you’ll ever need and even the boot-mounted ‘dickie’ seats are big enough for small adults.
The boot is generous with the latter folded down but obviously suffers when they’re in use, making the Discovery Sport a 5+2 rather than a proper seven-seater.
While I’m moaning, the touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard is very unintuitive to use and startlingly at odds with the rest of the vehicle. The sat-nav is hard to use and less accurate than that of almost anything I’ve driven in the past year or so too.
A decently powerful engine
The two-litre, four-cylinder ‘Ingenium’ engine comes in just the two-flavours: the entry-level model with 148bhp and 276 lb ft of torque, and the one I had for a week that has 178bhp and 317 lb ft.
It is, in the more powerful guise at least, decently powerful even when hampered by the car’s weight, which is a hefty 1,884kgs.
The combination does tend to flummox the nine-speed automatic gearbox though, leaving it hunting around the ratios to find the one you want – and then, when it has finally found one that gives you the power you are asking of it, changes up too early to save fuel.
Overly sharp steering
If you drive it hard then you can extract a reasonable level of performance from it, after which you’ll have the steering to contend with, which is overly sharp either side of the straight ahead position, something that the bodyroll tends to accentuate.
This initial sharpness is, I assume, dialled in to give an illusion of great agility. If so, it’s a shame because the chassis is as agile as it needs to be anyway as it changes direction with alacrity.
I spent a very satisfying hour or so storming along deserted Welsh roads that had perfect visibility, allowing me to place the Discovery Sport for the very best cornering line rather than to avoid alarming oncoming drivers.
Ideal in haste or at leisure
Treated with a firm hand, the Disco responds very well, its size and weight shrinking around you. It’s also quiet and refined at speed, riding smoothly and gripping strongly.
It also potters very well. Few cars ride as well as the Discovery Sport and ambling along country lanes, city streets and deserted beaches showed that it is a very well rounded car indeed. I didn’t test it off-road, but my memories of the launch route a couple of years ago were of a competence far in excess of anything you would subject your £50,000 car to.
Which leads me to the elephant in the room. The price is just way too high for what is the baby in the range. Fifty grand buys an awful lot of very nice cars and discounts will be scarce, if not non-existent, so you’ve got to really want a Discovery Sport to turn down a Volvo XC90 in favour of buying one.
Power – 178bhp
Torque – 317lb ft
0-62mph – 8.4 seconds
Top speed – 117mph
Kerb weight – 1,884kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 53.3mpg
Honest John real world fuel consumption – 34.1mpg
CO2 emissions –139 g/km
VED class – Band E
Towing capacity (braked) – 2,200kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 750kgs
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Price – £43,000
Price as tested - £47,475
The Volvo XC90 is a towering demonstration of a seven-seat SUV that cossets and rewards the driver and its occupants under almost any circumstances. Its interior is fresh and new and nothing you can buy will give you a greater degree of safety equipment and protection for your family. OK, you’ll only be able to afford a basic model for Disco Sport money, but that’s still where the smart money would go. (Or on an XC60 if you only need five seats.)
The best of the rest
If you want to drive a Land Rover then my advice is to either go for the original Land Rover Discovery 4 and enjoy what is probably still the best multi-role car in the world (especially if you regularly tow heavy weights or have a need to explore the Third World) or buy a Range Rover Evoque and enjoy a superior chassis.
If you don’t need seven seats the Suzuki Vitara S is much better to drive and ridiculously cheap, even if it doesn’t pamper you like a Land Rover.