The Land Rover Discovery Sport has been extensively updated for 2019, borrowing tech from the latest EvoqueVerdict4You’d be forgiven for thinking the latest Discovery Sport is little more than a mid-life facelift. Yet Land Rover’s design and engineering teams have been back to the drawing board to improve their big seller in near enough every way. It’s quieter, more efficient and comes loaded with tech. The competition is strong, but the fact it’s as spacious as ever and remains peerless off-road, keeps it very near the front of the pack.
This is no ordinary mid-life facelift. Instead of sticking to the usual visual enhancements, Land Rover has gone back to the drawing board and given its five-year-old Discovery Sport a completely new platform, new engines and new fuel saving tech.
Underneath it shares many parts with the latest Range Rover Evoque, including that model’s mild-hybrid running gear. The Premium Transverse Architecture (PTA) was designed with electrification in mind from the outset, in fact, with a plug-in hybrid Discovery Sport due in the not too distant future.
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For now, though, buyers get a choice of four-cylinder petrol or diesel engines – all (apart from the most basic D150) with mild-hybrid assistance. We tried the two top units: the D240 diesel and P250 petrol, both of which get a nine-speed auto box as standard.
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Of course, Land Rover’s designers didn’t pass up the opportunity to tweak the Disco Sport’s styling, issuing a comprehensive yet evolutionary look to set it apart from its predecessor. The result is an Evoque and Velar-inspired front end and a cleaner rear, too. There are new colours and alloy wheel designs, too.
In normal driving you’d never know this new Discovery Sport has been electrified. The hybrid assistance really is mild, and only really noticeable when the car comes to a halt – whereby the engine shuts down sooner (at speeds of less than 11mph) than before. There’s no tangible benefit to acceleration, though in top-spec diesel form the Sport demonstrates suitable shove for a car of this type.
It handles well, if not quite living up to its ‘Sport’ billing. That’s to say it’s neat and controllable, if a little short on engagement. Much of this class has been revised or updated since the Disco first went on sale in 2014, with cars like the latest BMW X3 surpassing it dynamically from the off. A Volvo XC60 is slightly more comfortable, too.
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But the Land Rover is still impressively refined and even on larger wheels shows a decent level of compliance. The petrol model we tried was remarkably hushed, with no notable engine noise – even at speeds of 70mph or more. It’s a shame this version won’t match the diesel’s fuel economy, because it’s a more accomplished long-distance cruiser.
Of course, being a Land Rover means the Disco Sport remains peerless when the going gets tough. We took on a dusty, rocky off-road route and both versions refused to falter – even over some pretty torrid ground. From higher-speed gravel tracks to slower and more precarious downhill sections, the revised 4×4 took it all in its stride.
When you’re not tackling mountains or fording streams, a power transfer unit disconnects the rear axle, theoretically improving fuel consumption. Regardless, it should be just fine on the average UK school run.
Speaking of fuel consumption, it’s quite tricky to pinpoint exactly how much more efficient this new model is given the fact that every Discovery Sport is now assessed under the tougher WLTP test regime. However, a rough calculation on this D240 model suggests CO2 emissions have dropped by around 14 per cent – though our car still sits in the upper echelons for Benefit in Kind company car tax.
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Inside, the Disco Sport has been given a light refresh to bring it up to date with its contemporary rivals. Changes include a revised 10-inch infotainment system, which features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the first time – thus allowing you to bypass JLR’s occasionally questionable menu layouts. The screen itself is much more responsive and easier to operate, too.
The 12-inch TFT dials and full-colour heads-up display work in tandem, the former showing speed, trip and navigation information – freeing up the central screen for media or smartphone functions.
Another new feature is the digital rear-view mirror, first seen on the new Evoque. Using a camera situated on the roof, it projects a pin-sharp image onto the interior mirror. It takes some getting used to; we found positioning it directly rearwards – rather than towards the driver as you might normally – made it easier to calibrate to your senses. Of course, it reverts to a conventional mirror at the flick of a switch.
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Elsewhere, the rotary climate controls remain easy to operate, clicking to reveal the heated and ventilated seat functions. These dials also give access to the Discovery’s drive mode selector, their function altering seamlessly when you prod the Terrain Response II button. It actually works really well and ensures the dash doesn’t feel too cluttered with countless buttons and switches.
The Discovery Sport remains one of the few cars in this class available with seven seats. While they’re better reserved for children or very occasional use, they’re good to have and boast 24 different seating combinations. Land Rover has now fitted the car with USB and 12-volt charge points in every row, as well as heating and ventilation controls front to back.
The boot is cavernous when you fold the middle and rearmost seats flat, revealing a huge 1,794-litre load bay. Land Rover claims a total of 48 litres of stowage in and around the cabin, too, which depending on how you look at it – or how forgetful your children are – could be a blessing or a curse.
- Model: Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0 D240 R-Dynamic S
- Price: £43,975
- Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel MHEV
- Power/torque: 237bhp/500Nm
- Transmission: Nine-speed auto, four-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
- Top speed: 136mph
- Economy/CO2: 39.6mpg/163g/km
- On sale: Now
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