You soon learn to drive around it, but it’s still a disappointment. The consolation is that gearshifts are otherwise prompt and quick, even when commanded manually via the paddles, and the engine pulls heartily enough through its rev range. Braking power is excellent, too, and easily judged.
Read the full Hyundai Santa Fe review
Once up to cruising speed, the Discovery Sport’s firm ride doesn’t translate into discomfort. It lopes along with ease, in a settled fashion, and the quiet cabin makes longer trips easy to endure. There’s a vast amount of space, too.
The quality of the cabin is acceptable, but there are some easily marked plastics in places. It’s functional and logical, rather than elegant and inspirational. There are issues, though, such as a panoramic roof that doesn’t extend forward far enough to make much difference to front-seat occupants.
Unlike the terrain-following Land Rover, the BMW has much more compliant suspension that allows for a moderate amount of body movement. It feels softer, which, in conjunction with lighter steering, delivers a more cosseting feel. Our car was fitted with £650 worth of variable damper control, which allows for stiffer suspension when desired but still not to the extent of that found in the Discovery Sport.
Regardless, many may find the X3 easier to get along with because of its less sharp nature. This is evident in some of the specifications alone; the BMW’s steering is 3.0 turns from lock to lock, whereas the Land Rover’s is a more hyperactive 2.4. In Sport mode, the X3 will tighten up and corner faster than the Discovery Sport, but not in quite such a rewarding fashion.
The BMW may not be as exciting to drive as the Land Rover, but it does feature a much more competent powertrain. Its 2.0-litre diesel puts out 188bhp and 295lb ft, and although on paper that doesn’t match the Land Rover on torque, it feels more eager at lower revs.
This snappy response is bolstered further by the eight-speed automatic ’box, which rifles through its ratios in a suitably prompt fashion. It doesn’t downshift as unnecessarily often as the Land Rover, but it does intermittently hang on to the gears for a little too long at lower speeds and labour the engine. The BMW’s diesel isn’t a particularly refined one, either, but it is a little less boomy than the Discovery Sport’s powerplant.
Inside the BMW, there’s masses of space, too, although it’s purely a five-seater. The interior isn’t as cohesive as the Land Rover’s – it looks like a scaled-up 3 Series and doesn’t quite fit the car correctly – but the quality of the materials is generally very good. Its switchgear, particularly, feels delightfully well damped and securely fixed.
Read the full Volvo XC60 review
The XC60 outdoes both on the comfort and refinement front. It also has the most aurally gratifying diesel of the lot. The 178bhp, 295lb ft 2.0-litre motor delivers prompt, lively-feeling performance, too, unburdened by the frictional and weight penalties incurred by a four-wheel drive system.
However, the Volvo falls down in two places. Firstly, although the cabin is easily the most visually appealing of the cars here and front space is excellent, the rear is quite cramped. Secondly, there’s not much to reward the driver.
Although it damps out the bumps well and tolerates the curves adequately enough, there’s little in the way of feedback – and the harder you push, the more notably the flaws in its chassis become apparent. Unsettlingly, there’s sometimes pronounced steering kickback in long, sweeping high-speed turns.