From £31,920
While the Defender gets all the plaudits, this model keeps clocking up the most sales. We aim to find out why
Autocar
24 February 2021

Why we’re running it: To see if the heavily updated SUV in mild-hybrid diesel form is a worthy contender in this segment

Month 3 - Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Discovery Sport: Month 3

Time is up with our premium SUV. So, 6000 miles later, how did it fare? - 24 February 2020

These past 12 months have been strange for us all but perhaps easier for the cars that might otherwise have been transporting us to events, meetings and airports across the UK.

When I took over the running of our long-term Land Rover Discovery Sport from Rachel Burgess late last year, it hadn’t quite done 1000 miles in its first few weeks with us. Rachel did what she could to put some distance under the car’s wheels, taking it pretty much all the way to Land’s End on holiday back when you could, well, holiday. How we lived. My working life, however, has remained pretty itinerant, so I soon redressed the balance. The car is now going back to Gaydon having had just under 6000 miles added to its odometer and a veritable mountain of Costa coffee cups and sausage- sandwich wrappers added to its various storage cubbies (which I cleared out, I promise).

Those miles were for the most part comfortable, cosseting and agreeable, although they weren’t dealt with quite as practically or economically as I might have liked. I will miss the Land Rover in many ways, but it’s the car it might have been that I really long to drive.

The Discovery Sport arrived with us in October, and everyone who ran an eye over it – including me – cooed at the idea of living with such a versatile and luxurious daily operator. It’s funny how luxury quickly becomes normal. For my first week or so with the car, I remember feeling lucky every time I got in it; later, I had to remind myself to look around the interior and appreciate the car’s qualities – and to allow no opportunity to tackle a muddy track or a grassy field to fall by the wayside.

To drive the car on the road was like having a kind of internal conversation with it – one of ups and downs and which never quite resolved itself. Long trips were always enjoyable, provided the infotainment system was getting on okay with my iPhone (it wasn’t always). The driving position was excellent, the seat really comfortable and the ride quiet and plush. Visibility took some beating, too.

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Cabin ambience is something modern Land Rovers do really well, I think, and while the Discovery Sport’s predecessors didn’t always uphold the company’s highest standards, this one certainly does. There’s more variety in the choice of materials than you will find from the premium German brands, yet that broad palette of light and dark trim is well handled. There are one or two areas where a more solid, upmarket finish might have worked better, but you really have to hunt for them.

Rachel thought the diesel engine was surprisingly refined. For me, it was noisier than I would have liked, but of greater disappointment were its low-speed drivability and overall economy. Both Rachel and I are city dwellers, so economy will suffer for that. But because I racked up the miles a bit, I managed to bump up Rachel’s figure of 34mpg to 36mpg. Even so, I reckon any reasonably sized modern car that can’t manage 40mpg on a long trip is missing the mark. Unless you’re very careful, this one would fall short too easily.

The 48V mild-hybrid powertrain helps with efficiency, although it could work better in town. You’re aware of the system harvesting energy as the car slows, but you don’t get enough benefit on step-off. Here the combination of a unresponsive diesel with fairly gentle pedal response in a heavy car makes the Discovery Sport seem sluggish, and that was a persistent annoyance.

When I did get out of town, though, the supple ride and agile, pleasing handling came to the fore. Yes, it rolls when cornering, but that’s a reasonable price to pay for a car that both rides and handles really well.

I won’t write at length about the shortcomings of the infotainment system, because Land Rover’s new Pivi set-up (which you now get with current Discovery Sports) is leagues better and, I’m told, has glitch-free phone mirroring.

I would, however give a note of warning to anyone considering a Discovery Sport for carrying bulky loads on a regular basis. Land Rovers ought to be relatively practical cars, but even with the sliding second- row seats moved forwards, this boot leaves a bit to be desired. The road testers tell me that Land Rover and its German rivals measure boot space in different ways, so the relative claims in litres aren’t comparing like with like. The Discovery Sport’s boot, they say, is both narrower and shallower than that of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 when you take a tape measure to the available space behind the second row and below the loadbay cover.

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Our car certainly struggled to swallow all of my photography gear as easily as I would have liked. That said, with a bag or two on the back seats, the Discovery Sport carried everything I needed it to one way or another.

The Discovery Sport also made a lovely mobile office and weekend workhorse in its time with me – a time that feels, with more snow forecast, like it has ended rather sooner than I would have liked.

Second Opinion


What stands out for me is the vast improvement in every way over its predecessor. It’s a comfy, luxurious companion on a long journey, even if the economy leaves something to be desired. It’s not a clear winner over its rivals, but it would certainly be on my list to consider.

Rachel Burgess

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Love it:

Ride and handling An ideal compromise of suppleness, body control and agility makes it more wieldy than you would think.

Luxurious interior The cabin stands out from German rivals for its rich look and feel.
A really luxurious way to travel.

Off-road ability It dealt with mud, grass and snow very well on its standard Pirelli Scorpion ‘mud and sand’ tyres.

Loathe it:

Cargo bay Smaller than expected and needs careful packing. A split tailgate or opening bootlid window would help.

Diesel engine A 36mpg average is, er, average, and the sluggish feel isn’t good enough from a modern four-pot.

Final mileage: 7087

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Plug-in hybrid version shines an interesting light on our diesel - 27 January 2021

Over a couple of months and what is now 6500 miles, I think I’ve finally isolated what I like most, and least, about our long-term Land Rover. It was a meeting with the latest P300e plug-in hybrid version of the Discovery Sport, while I was photographing a group test recently, that made both of those particular pennies drop.

Now more than ever, I’ve become pretty well resolved that diesel engines just aren’t for me. The last long-term test car I ran was a plug-in hybrid Skoda Superb, whose powertrain I really liked.

So take it with a pinch of salt if you like. I’m also aware that I’m making it sound as though the Land Rover’s diesel is some kind of last straw, which is unfair. It isn’t the worst diesel I’ve come across by a long way and I understand that many people’s perceptions about these engines are actually misapprehensions.

But right or not, there is now something about chugging past a north London school in a diesel-engined SUV that just makes me feel uneasy – socially irresponsible, even. Work has given me plenty of occasion to drive expensive and conspicuous cars in unusual places over the years, but I’m still not used to that.

It’s a feeling that, for me, overlays a more rational indifference towards the car’s 178bhp 2.0-litre Ingenium turbo diesel motor anyway, which, despite its mild hybridisation, seems annoyingly unresponsive around town and doesn’t return the on-the-run fuel economy out of town that would justify its place. The engine seems hesitant when I want to grab a gap while arriving at a roundabout or merging from a junction, for example; and I very rarely see better than 40mpg from it even on longer door-to-door trips.

However, it was talking to road test editor Matt Saunders about the plug-in hybrid version of the car on that group test that made me realise how much I like the Discovery Sport’s surprisingly tidy, agile and precise handling manners and the comfortable ride over long distances.

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You expect comfort from a car like this, I think, but the relative agility manages to surprise me every time a twisty road presents itself in front of this car.

There’s a sense of zip and willingness about the way the car rotates into a tighter corner that seems really clever coming from something so tall, and a comfortable, supple togetherness about the car’s back-road body control that doesn’t punish you for having the cheek to carry just a little bit of speed. SUVs of this size are big, high and heavy whichever brand builds them, of course, and the Discovery Sport feels girthy on narrow lanes, just like they all do. Through corners, though, it really doesn’t.

My struggles with the car’s InControl Touch Pro touchscreen infotainment system continue and the best I can say about it is that it’s a very good job indeed that it’s been replaced by a better system in the latest model. The old Touch Pro set-up looks okay and is pretty navigable in its own right and when doing its own thing. But it just doesn’t integrate at all well with my Apple smartphone and frequently disconnects from it mid-journey when I’ve planned a route, only for that route to need resetting from scratch.

If it does that when you’re somewhere without decent mobile phone reception to work with? Well, good luck getting where you need to be on time. At least I’ve got a ready-made excuse for being late to photoshoots these days.

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Love it:

Ride and handling It’s as comfy and pleasant to drive as any comparable SUV I’ve driven. It handles as sweetly as a saloon of the same price, too.

Loathe it:

Diesel engine It doesn’t deliver the fuel efficiency, performance or around-town drivability that the chassis really deserves.

Mileage: 6487

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Not as roomy as you think - 6 January 2020

I’ve been enjoying some longer trips of late, but one thing I’m not so sold on is the Discovery Sport’s boot space. Even though I’ve slid the back seats forward, there’s still quite a lot less accessible cargo space here than my old Skoda Superb Estate had. It’s often handy to have the Land Rover’s excellent off-road ability, but even so, let’s say I’m not a total SUV convert. - Olgun Kordal

Mileage: 5863

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Life with a Discovery Sport: Month 2

Infotainment cut-off just missed - 2 December 2020

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It’s now clear why Land Rover gave such prominence to the addition of its new Pivi Pro infotainment in the latest update to the Discovery Sport. Our car has the old InControl Touch system, which is glitchy. It’s particularly bad when mirroring my iPhone (the shortcut buttons are evicted off the side of the screen) and there are a lot of crackles and pops when it’s streaming audio.

Mileage: 2497

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Our London-dwelling Land Rover shows its long-haul credentials on a holiday trip - 25 November 2020

A holiday? In 2020, you say? So, the Discovery Sport and I ventured prior lockdown to where every fool has ventured this year: Cornwall.

It was my first proper drive in the Disco Sport, other than a handful of miles around suburban London, and seemed perfect to contemplate its practicality and powertrain while racking up the motorway miles.

First up, I filled up the boot – because I could – despite only two of us going away for four days. The charm of the Disco Sport’s boxy design is how easy boot access is for loading and unloading.

Second priority: get Apple CarPlay connected for the playlists penned in to accompany the six-hour journey. Unfortunately, the car wouldn’t recognise my phone, and after many failed attempts, I gave up. At some point early in the journey, I tried again, and it worked. After that, it worked more than it didn’t but wasn’t fail-safe. There’s been a minor model-year update to the Disco Sport since our long-termer rolled off the line and it includes a new infotainment system so hopefully this tech hiccup wouldn’t happen now.

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Once on the road (and deeply into podcast Bunga Bunga on the rise of Silvio Berlusconi; can recommend), the most evident notes were of the impressive refinement of the 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine as we trucked along endless motorway and the overall comfort over a long period. It should be luxury for £55k and it is.

Once into the furthest corner of Cornwall – Sennen Cove, a stone’s throw north of Land’s End – there were times when the Disco Sport’s girth took some getting used to. On a single lane, with a bus coming your way, it’s tense – but at least you’ve got 4WD to take to the muddy grass verges if you need to. To be fair, it’s boxy but its width is practically the same as its Volvo XC60 rival’s, so the roads of rural Cornwall could be a challenge for any mid-sized SUV.

The subtle regeneration while decelerating, thanks to the 48V mild hybrid, is oddly satisfying and nicely suits ambling around sleepy Cornish towns sourcing scones. This isn’t a car for fast rural corners – the keener option for that is a BMW X3 – but unless you’re a daredevil, there’s not much fast cornering to be done in Cornwall anyway…

Back on the long road home, the plush seats and easy ingress and egress for numerous service stops felt no less welcoming than they did on the journey there.

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Love it:

Happy Holidays Great all-round car for a mini-break

Loathe it:

Not always in sync Dodgy Apple CarPlay connection.


Mileage: 1892

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Can’t miss the indicators - 4 November 2020

I spotted something weird on my first drive of the Discovery Sport: how very loud the indicators and windscreen wipers were. One con, perhaps, of the delightfully refined diesel engine… As ever with such things, I’ve quickly adapted to the Discovery’s ways and no longer notice this quirk, which was so apparent to me at the start.

Mileage: 1626

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Life with a Discovery Sport: Month 1

Welcoming the Discovery Sport to the fleet - 28 October 2020

Once upon a time, you would get one mid-life model update in a car’s five-to seven-year life, and that would be it. But the race to compete with rivals technologically has changed the landscape so much that frequent, smaller updates can be found on cars most years these days.

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That’s why this Discovery Sport variant is no longer available, already surpassed by a ‘model year 2021 update’ announced in August. Fear not: the fundamentals of this Disco Sport remain utterly relevant, introduced in a significant mid-life refresh last year. So significant that it included a totally new platform called Premium Transverse Architecture – the same used by the Range Rover Evoque – to accommodate the inevitable electrified engines plus, of course, new technology and a new infotainment system.

It’s those latter elements that have been further addressed in the MY21 update. The Discovery Sport you can buy today gets the Pivi Pro infotainment system first seen on the new Defender, plus wireless software updates, a 3D surround camera and the option of cabin air filtration.

So what exactly is our Discovery Sport? It’s the D180 AWD, powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder 178bhp turbo diesel with 48V mild-hybrid assistance, promising WLTP fuel economy of 37.2-39.6mpg, CO2 emissions of 187-199g/km and a 0-60mph time of 9.4sec.

It’s the top-spec HSE car, starting from £46,800, although ours has a generous options list adding more than seven grand to that price. More on that later. If you wanted the closest equivalent available today, it would be the D200 AWD HSE, whose starting price is just £15 more. It uses the same mild-hybrid diesel set-up but dialled up to 201bhp and hitting 60mph in 8.1sec.

The new car’s fuel economy is 39.0-42.4mpg and CO2 emissions are 175-190g/km. All of these figures are slightly worse if you opt for the 5+2 seat configuration – a feature that is standard on all Disco Sport variants other than the new plug-in hybrid.

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The range-topping diesel D200 sits above the D165, while there are four petrol-powered engines: P200, P250, P290 and P300e. All diesel and petrol units now use a 48V mild-hybrid system, other than the plugin hybrid P300e, which claims an electric-only range of 38 miles, CO2 emissions of 36g/km and 175.5mpg.

Land Rover keeps its cards close to its chest, so we don’t know which engine or trim is most popular, but we do know that the Discovery Sport is the brand’s top priority as its number-one global seller, with 83,574 units sold in 2019. (For comparison, 204,965 examples of the Volvo XC60, its rival SUV, were sold over the same period.)

HSE trim has all the trappings that you would expect. Highlights include heated electric seats, 20in wheels, a powered tailgate, sat-nav and a 4G wi-fi hotspot.

The Namib Orange paint is a £970 option, while the contrasting black roof – a styling necessity to these eyes – is £610. Various roof rail elements come to just under £900 and there’s the occasional superfluous option: two USB ports in row two and one in row three for £100. Just chuck ’em in as standard on HSE, eh, Land Rover?

The priciest option on our Disco Sport is the £2160 Driver Assist Pack, which includes a 360deg camera, adaptive cruise control with steering assistance, a 360deg parking aid and wade sensing, which can collectively be as helpful on the streets of London as during serious off-roading. For those who like the sound of that pack, good news: it’s now standard on HSE trim, according to the configurator.

Step into the Disco Sport for the first time and it no longer feels a world away from its rivals in terms of interior quality – quite the opposite – and that’s before any further MY21 updates. It also has the advantage of being less bland than its German, black-interior-favouring rivals and retains a distinctive Land Rover feel.

Initial impressions are that it’s strikingly better to drive than its predecessor: nicely damped, direct if not super-sharp steering and just all-round effortless performance.

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We have the £815 adaptive dynamics option to help its cause, which has the dampers adjust 100 times per second to “optimise the suspension settings and provide the optimum balance between comfort, refinement and agility”. The other key first impression is the incredibly quiet waft of the diesel engine, and the subtle effects of the mild-hybrid technology. Even the most unobservant of drivers will notice the regenerative braking when coming off the accelerator, although it’s not intrusive in any way. It can help fuel economy only so much, though, given that this model is four-wheel-drive. So far, we’re averaging 34.1mpg.

Over the next few months, we will discover how the go-anywhere Disco Sport fits into our daily lives, as a mid-sized, aspirational SUV offering plenty of practicality and comfort – but also one with several excellent rivals.

Rachel Burgess

Second Opinion

I know it’s a Land Rover and all, but the Discovery Sport’s market success has never seemed to me to be about some marginally superior level of off-road ability. I think people like it because it’s practical and versatile – one of the few cars in its premium niche with an optional third row of seats – and because it’s an SUV that’s comfy in its own skin. It looks like it, it drives like it and it’s all the more likeable for it, I think.

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Matt Saunders

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Land Rover Discovery Sport D180 AWD HSE specification

Prices: List price new £46,800 List price now £46,815 Price as tested £54,485

Options:Driver Assist pack £2160, Namib Orange paint £970, roof rails and finishers £868, adaptive dynamics £815, matrix LED headlights £790, black roof £610, security tracker £570, front foglights £195, loadbay rubber mat £171, spacesaver spare £170, bright metal pedals £155, loadspace net £111, extra USB charging £100

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 39.6mpg Fuel tank 65 litres Test average 35.5mpg Test best 41.1mpg Test worst 31.9mpg Real-world range 508 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 10.1sec Top speed 125mph Engine 4 cyls, 1999cc, turbocharged diesel, plus 48V ISG Max power 177bhp at 4000rpm Max torque 317lb ft at 1500-300rpm Transmission 9-speed automatic Boot capacity 157-754-1651 litres Wheels 8.0Jx20in, alloy Tyres 235/50 R20, Pirelli Scorpion Verde Kerb weight 1953kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £687.58 CO2 187g/km Service costs None Other costs None Fuel costs £759.81 Running costs inc fuel £759.81 Cost per mile 13 pence Faults Intermitted Apple CarPlay interface

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Comments
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TStag 24 February 2021

This or the revised Jaguar F Pace? I want both but have to pick one of them

Gerhard 12 January 2021

Having actually driven a new D180 S version extensively, I can confirm it is a superb SUV and every bit the luxurious mini Range Rover you would expect for the price. The ride & NVH refinement is astounding in comparison to my top-spec CR-V and the LR is positively imperious in icy and snowy conditions. It's quite possibly the best all-round family car.

Justintime 7 January 2021

You say 4x4 is useful for driving on grass verges!

 The only reason the verges are muddy is because 4x4 drivers are too lazy to reverse. You are damaging the edges of roads and damaging wildlife habitats so please learn to reverse, the roads and verges are in a terrible condition.