Exceptionally stable, but not as economical as some, despite mild hybrid technology.
Strong, stable ride
Third row of seats is cramped
It may look almost identical, but there are some big changes to the latest Land Rover Discovery Sport. There’s a new platform, and mild hybrid technology (a 48V starter-generator assists the diesel engine). We’re driving the 178bhp diesel automatic SE.
What are we looking for?
How well does the mild hybrid tech work, and does it offer real-world improvement in economy? Is the Discovery Sport still one of the most stable SUVs?
Despite having space for seven, the Discovery Sport is a surprisingly short car, which makes it very easy to park
Although it’s considerably smaller than the full-fat Land Rover Discovery, the Sport is no lightweight: Land Rover quotes a portly kerbweight of 2028kg.
That might not help in its quest to make the Sport more competitive in terms of fuel economy and emissions, but it’s a plus for matching ratios. Our test car has an 85% match figure of 1724kg, well within the 2200kg legal towing limit.
We hitched the car up to a Swift Fairway Platinum 850 with a MiRO of 1679kg and set off for an extensive journey, towing on all types of roads.
Although the 2.0-litre diesel’s 178bhp is relatively modest, torque counts for a lot more than power when towing. The D180 has 317lb ft, and the nine-speed automatic makes the most of the engine’s brawn.
Despite having so much weight to haul around, the Discovery Sport confidently pulled the big Swift up to speed.
The combination of an automatic ’box, four-wheel drive and plenty of torque makes for easy hill starts. The electronic parking brake held car and caravan still on the 1-in-10 slope, and despite a wet surface, the Sport pulled away without difficulty.
Heading out onto the motorway, the car continued to impress. That kerbweight and well-judged suspension lend a sense of solidity at 60mph. It feels like something quite significant would have to occur to push it off course. Over a day of towing we once felt a little movement travelling downhill, but otherwise the Land Rover hardly twitched.
When we arrived at our campsite, the Discovery Sport was easy to manoeuvre. The excellent 360° surround-view camera really helped (it adds £575 to the price).
The towing gear drops down and retracts at the push of a button, and the 13-pin electrics are mounted on the side of the towbar. It’s easy to hitch up and attach the electrics, with plenty of clearance.
As a tow car, the only black mark is that you can’t specify a seven-seat Discovery Sport with a towball and a space-saver spare wheel; you can have one or the other. Instead, a tyre repair kit is supplied.
The previous-generation Discovery Sport had a firm low-speed ride. Today’s car feels more supple, and more comfortable than a BMW X3 around town. That said, it’s still firmer than its big brother, the Discovery. It handles well for such a large car. An X3 is more agile, but the Discovery Sport corners neatly and keeps body lean reasonable.
Drive briskly, and you do notice that the engine runs out of puff at high revs. Those who want a more punchy drive can opt for the D240 engine, which has considerably more power and torque.
There’s some diesel clatter accelerating, but no more than a distant hum from the engine once cruising.
There’s a little wind and road noise at speed – an Audi Q5 is quieter – but the cabin is hushed enough to hold a conversation without raised voices at the legal limit.
Despite having space for seven, the Discovery Sport is a surprisingly short car compared with other seven-seat SUVs. Together with the optional surround-view camera fitted to our car, it makes the Land Rover easy to park.
As a five-seater, the Discovery Sport is exceptionally roomy. The middle row really stands out as offering much more space than you’d find in most rivals.
However, the third row is cramped. The middle row can slide forward to make more space, but even so it’s not very comfortable. With the third row stowed away, there’s lots of luggage space. Fold the middle row too and there’s a huge space for bags and all of your touring kit.
As part of the recent update, Land Rover has improved the standard of finish and the infotainment system. The cabin looks and feels more upmarket, and the touchscreen display is large and clear. However, we found accessing some of its features could be a little fiddly.
The driving position is commanding and comfortable, and the seats are supportive for long days behind the wheel.
The D180 AWD SE is the wrong side of £40,000, but What Car? research suggests you can shave around £2500 from that. What’s more, the Discovery Sport should hold its value, retaining 50% of its original price after three years and 36,000 miles.
The SE sits between the S and HSE in the middle of the range, and comes very well equipped, including Trailer Stability Assist.
We’d rate it more highly if it were more economical. We achieved 25.4mpg towing, and the official combined figure suggests owners should expect less than 40mpg in everyday driving.
|85% KW||1724 kg|
|Towball Limit||145 kg|
|Maximum Towing Limit||2200 kg|
|Torque||317 lb ft|
|Offical MPG||37.2-39.6 mpg|
|Towing MPG||25.4 mpg|