From £28,9407
This is our first opportunity for a UK drive in a manual version of the new Discovery Sport. Does swapping cogs yourself make more sense?

What is it?

It's hard to believe it's been more than a quarter of a century since Land Rover launched the Discovery as a halfway model between the bare-bones Defender and deluxe Range Rover.

With the recent launch of the smaller, sportier Discovery Sport, the company again seeks to bridge a gap. The moribund Freelander will soon be gone and the style-focused Range Rover Evoque isn’t practical enough to take up the slack.

There’s no denying the Discovery Sport’s practicality, with its seven seats, huge boot and off-road credentials; its wading depth is actually 100mm more than a Defender's. 

But how is does this manual version rate against rivals like the BMW X3 and does it stack up as a package costing the thick end of £40,000?

What's it like?

It’s been well publicised that this car isn’t quite the finished article. Jaguar Land Rover’s new Ingenium 2.0-litre diesel engine - meant to be quieter and more efficient than the old 2.2-litre diesel - wasn’t available for launch in the Discovery Sport, which will have to wait until mid-2015 for the upgrade.

There’s no hiding the fact that the current engine has fallen behind in terms of emissions. For a start, it’s only Euro 5 compliant and the 162g/km of CO2 from the tailpipes is way off the class best.

Similarly, despite the JLR engineers’ efforts to improve refinement, there’s still a noticeable amount of vibration through the controls at idle and coarseness at higher revs. However, use it where its torque is most abundant - between 2000 and 3000rpm - and things are much more tolerable.

It also feels flat below this rev range, but again, work the engine in that performance window and the Discovery Sport will make relaxed, leisurely progress.

However, it’s a far cry from the automatic version, which feels far more urgent. A quick glance at the spec sheet confirms this. With just six gears, as opposed to the nine the auto ’box can choose from, the manual’s 0-60mph time of 9.8sec is a full 1.4sec slower.


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That doesn’t help to build a case for the manual, and neither does the gearchange or clutch action. The lever has a long throw and a viscous feel, with the occasional graunch through the gate. Meanwhile, the clutch has an imprecision that makes the Discovery Sport more difficult to drive smoothly than it should be. 

Around town, the steering is lethargic, too. Rather than having weight, it would be more accurate to say it has resistance and, when pulling out of side turnings, at times a reluctance to self-centre.

The low-speed ride isn’t perfect, either. The suspension copes well with low-frequency undulations like speed bumps, but high-frequency ripples and sharp ridges thump through the cabin more than expected.

However, these challenges fade once the Discovery Sport is released onto an open road. As the speed builds, the ride settles down,while the engine finds its sweet spot and its note morphs into a background thrum. The steering feels sharper, too, allowing you to float the Disco Sport from apex to apex with ease.

There’s also very little body roll and a surprising amount of grip for what’s basically a tall SUV that weighs just shy of two tonnes. It even has a degree of throttle adjustability, should you choose to exploit it.  

It’s a similar tale of good and not quite so good inside. There's lots of space for occupants and a big load bay, as well as cabin storage for cups and odds and ends.

As the driver, you are aware that you not only have good leg and headroom but also an unusual amount of elbow and shoulder room, too. The driving position is fine and the front seats supportive and well shaped. They’re quite hard, though; they could benefit from slightly softer cushions and possibly a bit more side support.

Anyone sitting in the second row of seats won’t lack space, either. There’s easily enough for two tall adults to sit behind two more, and another could be squeezed in the middle if needed.

Behind this, there’s foldaway seating for a further two passengers, but this space is best suited to kids. With the third-row seats folded away, there's 981 litres of cargo space if you slide the middle bench forward on its runners. However, bear in mind that figure is Land Rover's own assessment and they measure up to the roofline. Most other manufacturers measure up to the tonneau cover, in which case the capacity is around 500 litres. 

The middle-row seatbacks also tilt for better access to the rearmost seats and fold down in a 40/20/40 formation for added flexibility. Drop them all and they create a carrying capacity of up to 1620 litres.

However, the switchgear and plastics seem a little underwhelming for a car that starts at nearly £40k. The cabin does have that Land Rover signature trait of functionality about it, but you can’t escape feeling that the design is quite plain and the materials don’t feel as tactile in places as those in an Audi Q5, BMW X3 or Volvo XC60.

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The Discovery Sport is the first JLR product to get the company’s new multimedia system, and it’s a big improvement over the previous set-up. Again, though, it doesn't have the functionality of Audi’s MMI system or BMW’s iDrive.

Part of this is because both of those use a rotary controller placed conveniently on the centre console. However, the Discovery Sport’s touchscreen affair requires you to lean forward and is more distracting to use on the move.

Should I buy one?

There’s much about the Discovery Sport to recommend. Perhaps most important, it feels like a proper Land Rover; its core DNA links it to the family bloodline, and for many, that alone will be enough.

It has some issues, but hopefully when the new engines come on stream, some of these, such as the poor refinement and emissions, will be addressed. It is hugely practical, though, and it’s one of the better cars in the class to drive, surpassed only by the BMW X3. 

However, the manual gearbox doesn’t match the chassis’s decent dynamics and blunts too much of the engine’s performance. The auto ’box costs £1800 more, but it better suits the Discovery Sport’s character and brings better performance. 

Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.2 SD4 HSE manual

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £37,595; Engine 4 cyls, 2179cc, turbodiesel; Power 187bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 310lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1854kg; Top speed 117mph; 0-60mph 9.8sec; Economy 46.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 162g/km, 28%

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4 March 2015
When it's your own car you as opposed one your driving for an afternoon you learn the touch screen or controller input method. Maybe a rotary is faster or not I've owned both but there isn't much in it. When you've familiarised yourself is takes no time and anyway I use navigation only when I don't know where I am going. Mere seconds in the ownership experience.

4 March 2015
Please tell me the auto doesn't have the same tacky rotary gear selector as the Evoque.

4 March 2015
It does - and I completely agree, it shouldn't! A conventional short stick selector is much better (as the Freelander has) - although I would have to accept that it may be a small criticism when I test drove one. My other criticisms were that only the old engine is available at present (I'll wait for the new one - and given trends now, I'd prefer petrol, though I suspect I'll have to move to Canada to get it!), being forced to have a 7 seats version in the UK, only having touch screen media system - though as said, it's not a big issue, and a slightly more obstructed view over the bonnet than my Freelander (I found the seat seemed just a little low even at full height adjustment). I also fret a little about the reducing height rear - though it's less extreme than the Evoque and I accepted that it probably looks better in the 'flesh' than in photos. It was a nice drive though.

4 March 2015
I would agree that the speed of the multimedia system is not that important of an issue, neither is the use of the rotary gear selector. My current XF has the old generation JLR interface and I have never found a problem using this system or the gear selector. The current 2.2 engine is also remarkably quiet and smooth in this vehicle. However of more significance for any company car buyer will be the Co2 rating for the automatic model when it gets the new Ingenium range of engines, which this vehicle should really have had from launch. The figures released last week for the new Evoque manual with the Ingenium engine was 125g/km. The more important issue for the Discovery Sport is, can they achieve a Co2 of 129g/km or less for the automatic model when it gets this engine

4 March 2015
What is happening to car prices, £40k for a poor 2.2 diesel, the engine is old & out of date - why not buy a proper used range rover 4.2 diesel for less money & enjoy the power and prestige

4 March 2015
Did anyone else take a look at the interior shot and as a first observation think it didn't look as different to the previous Freelander as expected? Fine to be on my own here - was just expecting something a bit different from what they've produced for the price it commands!

5 March 2015
Yes, AddyT, I agree. I've been playing around with the configurator and the dash design doesn't look very similar to the Freelander's. I know LandRovers are now focussing on usability, but I would expect the dash to look a little closer in design to the Range Rover Sport, or at least the Evoque.

5 March 2015
Honestly I think anyone would be bonkers to spend their own money on one of these.
Very mediocre and lacklustre performance, refinement is apparently not good with the current engine
so who do LR expect to buy this car.
One other thing, why do manufacturers all seem to assume we want to carry seven people, having those two extra seats in the rear uses space which could be put to more effective use and as in the larger discovery it really does compromise the luggage area.

5 March 2015
Wildoat, I think you are taking the comments too literally. Refinement and performance with the current engine may not match a BMW X3, but this does not make the vehicle unrefined or slow. I agree most people will wait for the new engine, if only because of the better efficiency and lower Co2 figures. As regards the 7 seats, JLR have increased the luggage space substantially over the Freelander and scooped a marketing advantage over the competition. Wait 6 months and I am sure they will offer the option for deleting the additional seats.

7 March 2015
Harry P wrote:

Wildoat, I think you are taking the comments too literally. Refinement and performance with the current engine may not match a BMW X3, but this does not make the vehicle unrefined or slow. I agree most people will wait for the new engine, if only because of the better efficiency and lower Co2 figures. As regards the 7 seats, JLR have increased the luggage space substantially over the Freelander and scooped a marketing advantage over the competition. Wait 6 months and I am sure they will offer the option for deleting the additional seats.

you may be right re the refinement but the performance figures (which are not a matter of opinion)
suggest to me this vehicle is compromised in some regards.
Of course it's all subjective, I still think it's extremely expensive for what it is.
I'm not out to knock LR I've owned many of their products over the years and the one's I've had have been reliable and extremely capable, though running costs do have to be taken into consideration for most of us!



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