Land Rover Discovery Sport SUV (2019 - ) review

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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0

The Land Rover Discovery Sport has impressive practicality, a posh-feeling interior, exemplary safety credentials, and it’s good to drive. It's easily one of the best SUVs in the class, and well worthy of your consideration.

Pros

  • Practical seven-seat cabin
  • Classy interior and strong image
  • Good balance of ride and handling

Cons

  • Unproven reliability
  • Third row of seats rather cramped
  • Engine a little noisy when worked hard

Interested in buying a Land Rover Discovery Sport?

How good does it look? 4/5

A lot of people buy Land Rovers as much for their rugged style as for their on and off-road ability, and that’s something that’s unlikely to change with the Discovery Sport. The car’s 2019 facelift brought with it some sharper angles and more defined edges (particularly around the redesigned headlamps), and this smartened up the looks while still maintaining the car’s rough-and-tumble image. The looks of the car don’t change an awful lot depending on which of the three main trims (S, SE and HSE) you go for, but if you choose to add the R-Dynamic package to your car, you get some darker exterior accents for a more purposeful look. Buyers can also choose to add the Black Pack, which offers even more menace. The alloy wheels on offer range from 17 to 21-inches in size, and you also choose from 12 paint colours and whether or not to have a contrasting black roof.

What's the interior like? 4/5

This is the area in which the Discovery Sport’s 2019 facelift is perhaps most noticeable. The dashboard now has glossy black touch-sensitive panels rather than physical buttons, and even the steering wheel controls get the same treatment. This immediately gives the cabin a more high-end feel, and with various modes that select different functions for the two rotary controllers, it’s a system that looks fab and works really well. The touchscreen infotainment system has lots of functionality, too, although it might take you a while to get used to how the system is laid out. There’s lots of adjustment for the driving position, although your rear view could be clearer due to a small back window and chunky rear pillars.

How practical is it? 5/5

This is where the Discovery Sport has a big advantage over rivals like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 with which it competes on both size and price, because some versions have seven seats rather than five. True enough, the extra pair of chairs are pretty snug on space, and are only really suitable for children over any great distance. That said, a six-foot adult can fit in emergencies, provided they’re prepared for their hairdo to brush the ceiling and for their knees to press against the seat in front. What’s more, that sliding middle-row seat will need to be set all the way forward to give those in the third row any chance at all. Getting there takes some dexterity, too, as the opening you climb through is small and awkwardly shaped. However, most buyers will normally use the car in five-seat mode, and in that format, it’s as practical as any small SUV. There’s generous cabin space for five lofty adults, and a big, well-shaped boot. If you do decide to fold down both rows of seats though, then they don't lie entirely flat, and you'll need to slide the middle row back to ensure there's no gap.

What's it like to drive? 4/5

Being a Land Rover, the Discovery Sport has permanent four-wheel drive (except on the entry-level car) and a range of off-roading gadgetry that’ll get it further into the countryside than pretty much any of its rivals. We’ve driven the car on reasonably demanding off-road terrain, and in arctic conditions, and it coped with everything thrown at it with barely a hint of objection.

The car also behaves pretty well under less extreme conditions, too. The ride stays smooth and comfortable for the vast majority of the time, and it’s only on particularly bad surfaces where things can start to feel a little bit scruffy. The car also changes direction with reasonable crispness, thanks to strong grip and decent control over body lean, and that gives it an assured feel in the corners. So does the weighty steering, although it remains rather heavy at low speeds, which might not help you out so much with low-speed parking manoeuvres.

Where things have improved most over time is in how quiet the car is. The 2019 facelift introduced some extra sound-deadening measures, which make a marked improvement on isolation of wind- and road noise.

How powerful is it? 4/5

Most buyers will choose one of the 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines available, and there are three, developing outputs of 150, 180 and 240 horsepower (the 150 can be had with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox, while the rest are four-wheel-drive automatics as standard). So far, we’ve only tried the 240, but it’s pretty good, with a nice muscular power delivery and eager performance. It’s not the quietest engine of its type, especially when you need to extend it, and you can feel a few vibrations making their way through to the pedals and seat, but it’s far from being an overly raucous companion.

The two petrols on offer – both 2.0-litre units with either 200-or 250 horsepower – will likely be more popular than they have been in the past, what with the current image of diesel being what it is. We’ve tried the 250, and it’s really good; smooth, quiet and punchy. Like the other engines (excluding the 150 diesel), it also comes with mild hybrid technology to make it a wee bit more efficient.

The nine-speed automatic gearbox is a bit of a mixed bag depending on which engine you pair it with, though. It’s great on the P250 petrol: smooth, quick and really responsive. It’s not nearly as polished with the D240 diesel, though, because whether you’re on your way up the gears, or on your way down, it doesn’t swap cogs as quickly as it should.

How much will it cost me? 4/5

The Disco Sport costs a similar amount to buy as its premium rivals, and resale values should be just as strong as the competition’s. That should help protect your investment if you’re a private buyer, and should also help keep monthly payments down if you’re a finance customer. Curiously, the most efficient versions are the ones without the mild hybrid technology, but this system does help make the more powerful versions a bit easier on the wallet. According to official WLTP figures, the diesels will return around 40- or 50mpg on average, depending which version you pick, while the figure will be more like 30mpg for the petrols.

How reliable is it? 2/5

Land Rover’s reputation for reliability is fairly torrid, and although the company claims that things are steadily improving, we’re not seeing a whole heap of evidence to support that. The brand is still rooted near the bottom of the manufacturer standings in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and the same is true in the JD Power Vehicle Dependability Survey. We hope the new InControl touchscreen system also proves to be sturdier than the crash-prone unit it replaces.

How safe is it? 5/5

This area is one in which the Discovery Sport does very well. You get all the things you expect, like stability control, Isofix child seat fixings and driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags. However, another airbag protects the driver’s knees in a smash, and there’s another that pops out from under the bonnet to protect pedestrians. What’s more, you get a lane-departure warning system and a collision mitigation system that applies the brakes automatically if the driver doesn’t react to the warning of an impending collision. Even more impressively, all these ingenious safety gadgets are standard throughout the Discovery Sport range. If you’re prepared to spend extra, you can add even more safety features, such as adaptive cruise control with steering assistance, a 360-degree camera and all sorts of other clever stuff. The pre-facelift version of the Discovery Sport also managed to score the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

We haven’t yet seen detailed equipment specs for the Discovery Sport range, but we expect them to be broadly similar to those of the previous car. That would mean the entry-level S-trimmed car would come with reasonably generous kit, including part-leather upholstery, climate control, a heated windscreen, cruise control and a 10-speaker stereo with touchscreen interface, DAB radio and Bluetooth. SE trim would add sat-nav, front parking sensors, powered tailgate and automatic lights and wipers, while HSE trim would crank the luxury up a notch with full leather upholstery, a panoramic roof, keyless entry and an even meatier stereo.

Why buy? 4/5

You'll be tempted by the Discovery Sport because you like the style and image of a mid-size SUV, especially one with a Land Rover badge, and you also like the idea of having an extra pair of seats for emergencies. What’s more, you’ll get a high-quality cabin and class-leading safety, along with impressive comfort and control on the road and supreme capability off it.

Interested in buying a Land Rover Discovery Sport?