Six months with a new Land Rover Discovery Sport has started in noisy fashion, and I’m not referring to all four of our boys in the back two rows of this small seven-seat SUV. I’m talking about the car alarm. I had a call from my neighbour at work. “Can’t hear you”, I said, “some horrible alarm in the background.” “I know”, he yelled back at me: “it’s your bloody car alarm going off outside my house.” Mea culpa; one of the boys hadn’t quite shut the front passenger door and although the car did lock, it bleeped as it did so, which I unwisely ignored. Lesson learned.
We swapped a full-fat Land Rover Discovery for this Disco Sport. The former is a big car, with plenty of room for seven adults as it has two full-size rear seats in the third row, plus enough boot space with the third row up for two shopping bags. On the other hand, it got very tiresome trying to park it on our over-crowded residential street in London. Could we get away with the smaller seven-seater, the Discovery Sport, which is the much better-looking successor to the Freelander?
First impressions are a mixed bag. The Disco Sport, which is by far and away the biggest-selling model Land Rover currently sells, is a breeze to park, which is a big tick; it really doesn’t feel much more cumbersome to manoeuvre than a Ford Focus. Also, it has the same 2.0-litre diesel engine as the bigger Discovery, so, in the lighter Disco Sport, you get far more bang for your buck from the engine. The acceleration markedly improved, as well as the fuel economy, slightly (we're getting about 35mpg at the moment, which is 3mpg more than than the same engine in the larger Disco). The car also has a lovely thin steering wheel, which adds to the sense that you are driving a lighter, more agile car.
On the other hand, this is almost a five-plus-two seating arrangement rather than a full seven-seater. The third row of seats comprises seat bases nailed to the ground and the backs pull up from the boot floor. What that means is that the children sit far lower down than in the Disco, with a hindered view of the road ahead, unless they’re on thick boosters. Sitting them in car seats also tends to jack their little legs straight out, which means you must slide the individual second row of seats forward to make room for them. Having done that, there’s room for all our boys in the two rows - they are five, seven, eight and 10 years old - but what you sacrifice entirely is a boot. We just about managed to lie their coats along the remaining space. It’s not a major problem, because we are a blended family so only have all four boys perhaps one or two days a week - if we were a full-time six-person household, this car would be too small.
To counteract the loss of boot space, we’ve got a top box from Land Rover which clamps onto the roof rails of the Disco Sport. This is fine, except when entering car parks with low roofs. I suddenly remembered it was on when I went to pick up my boyfriend from Heathrow Airport, so decided to take it off on my own. Mistake number two with this car. I undid the clamps with no problem, but underestimated how heavy it still is when empty, and rather lost control of the box on its departure from the car. It slid noisily off the rails and crashed onto the pavement, but seems unharmed, as is the car, thank goodness. Just my pride, then.
We’ll see over the next month how the electronics in this car’s £2,245 infotainment system (Meridian Digital Surround Sound System with 16 speakers plus subwoofer, Pro Services and Wi-Fi Hotspot Navigation Pro) behave; they badly let us down in the Discovery, and we don't fancy that huge extra expense for the upgraded system, either. On the other hand, we took it camping with all the boys last weekend and were very glad we had the four-wheel-drive when the field turned into a quagmire the following morning.