The Land Rover Discovery Sport has always made a strong case for
itself, thanks to a blend of comfort, best-in-class off-road ability and
because it’s unique in offering an optional seven-seat layout in such a compact
footprint. Now the reason to buy Land Rover’s worldwide best-seller just got
stronger thanks to a mid-life facelift that includes mild-hybrid technology to
boost fuel economy.
A range of four-cylinder turbocharged diesel and petrol engines are available. We’re testing the Discovery Sport in P250 trim – the most powerful of the petrol variants, with 248bhp.
Tell me more about the facelift…
It’s unusually comprehensive. Most mid-life facelifts involve a new set of bumpers, a tweak to the lights, and perhaps a power increase and a few tempting new trims and colours here and there. The Discovery Sport gets all that. The unusual bit comes with what’s under the skin, because the Discovery Sport ditches most of the old car’s platform for the same one you’ll find under the latest Evoque – the two cars are the same until just ahead of the rear wheels, which helps the longer Discovery Sport to squeeze in the extra third row of seating. It partly explains why around 70 per cent of components are new versus the original 2015 Discovery Sport, even if the two look much the same.
How does the Discovery Sport drive?
It’s impressive, if more for its comfort and refinement than any true sportiness. Even on our car’s 20-inch alloys (you can choose from 18s to 21s), the suspension is extremely supple, and both wind- and road noise at 70mph is impressively well suppressed.
The four-cylinder engine is generally smooth and unobtrusive, something partly helped by the mild-hybrid system – it allows the stop-start system to activate under braking at speeds below 11mph and offers a little torque boost to compensate for turbo lag when you pull away.
Land Rover says the hybrid tech boosts fuel efficiency by around six per cent, but don’t expect miracle mpg, because this remains a near two-tonne SUV – under the new stricter WLTP rules, the P250 delivers around 30mpg.
The engine does feel quite undernourished and the chassis pretty soft if you drive the Discovery Sport more aggressively, so best ease off the throttle a little and enjoy the refinement and comfort instead.
Or try to get your head round the Discovery Sport’s stunning off-road capability – we tested it at Land Rover’s Les Comes off-road facility in Spain and marvelled as it crawled up and down steep, dusty, rocky inclines that we’d struggle to navigate on foot. Most buyers will never, ever come close to this Land Rover’s abilities, even if they do cross challenging terrain
What’s it like inside?
The comprehensive facelift extends to a thorough interior revamp too. The instrument panel, door cards and carpets are new, and Land Rover has extended the soft-touch plastics right down to levels you don’t normally even touch where the old model made too with harder, cheaper-feeling alternatives. It’s clean and simple to the point of looking a little austere, but quality has certainly improved.
Choose leather if you like, but the new Luxtex mircrofibre upholstery is very appealing, both for its modern appearance and the way it feels so comfortable and grips you so securely.
There are tech updates too, including a new 10.25-inch touchscreen, 4G wi-fi hot spot and wireless smartphone charging.
Also new is the ClearSight rear-view mirror, as first seen in the latest Evoque. It can operate just like a normal mirror, but press a button and the mirror switches to a screen that’s fed images by a camera mounted on the roof – it’s really useful if the rear screen is blocked with passengers or luggage.
Is there really enough space for seven people?
At a squeeze, yes. There’s extremely generous space in the second row of seats, but the (optional) third row is much tighter both in the way you squeeze back there, and the actual space available once seated. Kids should be fine, adults will be cramped, but for those short trips where you need to get extra kids or grandparents or friends aboard, the Discovery Sport will prove invaluable.
In a nutshell
Despite its name, the Discovery Sport is not particularly sporty to drive, but as a comfortable, versatile and attractive family SUV with more off-road capability than you’ll ever require, there’s much to recommend this unusually comprehensive facelift.