Land Rover Discovery Sport Review
"Town and country rather than track and field"
Land Rover Discovery Sport review - front view, red, on rocks, 2020

Land Rover Discovery Sport review: a truly capable SUV

  • Published 1 May 2020
  • 6 minute read
  • By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith


There’s nothing remotely sporty about the Land Rover Discovery Sport. It is to sport what Ed Balls is to dancing. It’s also the Land Rover you may have forgotten about.

The smaller Evoque grabs the fashion headlines, while the larger Discovery is the Land Rover for serious off-roaders (if you’ve given up waiting for the new Defender). Which leaves the Discovery Sport to occupy the middle ground.

Yes, that is as steep as it looksLand Rover Discovery Sport review - front view, red, descending a steep slope off road, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

Still, being stuck between a rock and a hard place is never an issue in a Land Rover. The fact is, if you want a family SUV with genuine off-road ability – and not one wearing fancy dress – the Discovery Sport is almost without peer.

Not that you have to carry the weight of a four-wheel-drive system. If your idea of the rough stuff is tackling the speed bumps on the way into the gym car park, a front-wheel-drive Discovery Sport is cheaper to buy and offers lower running costs. Whether it’s fit to wear the Land Rover badge is up for debate.

Whatever, with a strong image and the option of seven seats, the Discovery Sport might be the best family SUV you hadn’t considered. Allow me to jog your memory.

Looks, tech and design

The current Discovery Sport arrived in 2019, and although it looks similar to the old model, the evolutionary styling hides a fundamental overhaul beneath the skin. It lacks the near-perfect proportions of the Evoque, but to my eyes the styling of the Discovery Sport is far more appealing than that of its clumsy and ungainly Discovery big brother.

The clamshell bonnet is a hallmark of modern Land Rovers, while the signature LED headlights are standard across the range. Stick an old model next to the new one and you’ll also notice the new grille and front bumper.

Once inside, you’ll discover some of the more radical changes. Your eyes will be drawn to the Touch Pro infotainment system, which is a vast improvement over the old model. The absence of a twin-screen setup will jar with some buyers, but the 10.0-inch screen is good enough to balance any immediate disappointment.

The sleek interior is packed with techLand Rover Discovery Sport review - interior, 2020 Available to leaseLease Now

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity come as standard, as do cruise control, a rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control, front and rear Isofix points, heated front seats, and front and rear parking sensors.

There are essentially two models: Discovery Sport and Discovery Sport R-Dynamic. Each one is available in four trim levels: standard, S, SE and HSE. The R-Dynamic offers more aggressive styling, including different alloy wheels, restyled bumpers and cosmetic changes, both inside and out.

The vast majority of Discovery Sport models come with seven seats – only the very cheapest, front-wheel-drive versions leave the factory with five. In common with the majority of seven-seat SUVs, space in the third row is compromised, but in fairness to Land Rover, it describes the Discovery as a ‘5+2’ SUV rather than a full seven-seater.

As such, it’s best to view the Discovery Sport as a cavernous five-seater with a pair of occasional chairs at the back. The seats in the second row slide and tilt to provide up to 981 litres of boot space when they’re fully forward. Even with the seats in their rearmost position, boot space is an impressive 829 litres.

Looks good in any settingLand Rover Discovery Sport review - side view, red, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

Quality is generally good – certainly up from the earlier models. Land Rover has made use of more premium materials, adding new seats across each of the three rows. On first impressions, it all seems very upmarket.

However, on closer inspection, you’ll find some cheap plastics on the centre console, while the area that houses the climate control settings feels positively low-rent. It’s passable on a £30,000 Discovery Sport, but less acceptable on a £50,000 version.

I’d recommend spending £500 on the interactive driver display, which is standard on SE and HSE models. It’s far nicer than the standard and slightly awkward mix of analogue dials and a central digital display.

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Here’s some good news: the new Discovery Sport is far more comfortable than the old one. Land Rover has improved the ride quality to such an extent that you can equip your Disco Sport with huge 21-inch alloys without fearing for your spine. That said, 17- and 18-inch wheels will serve to deliver an even more cossetting ride.

All four-wheel-drive models – which is the majority of the range – are fitted with a nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s fine on the open road, where its relaxed manner contributes to the overall feeling of comfort, but it can be a bit hesitant at lower speeds, which can make town driving a little irritating.

Loves comfort more than cornersLand Rover Discovery Sport review - rear view, red, driving on road, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

Push the Discovery Sport too hard and it’ll respond with a fair amount of body lean, although the steering is nicely weighted. You soon learn this is a car that responds well to small inputs – overall I applaud Land Rover’s focus on comfort, rather than trying to chase down performance SUVs.

As for the choice of engine, it depends on what you want your Discovery Sport to do. Personally, I’d prefer the 2.0-litre petrol, which is available with 200hp or 250hp. It’s more refined than the diesels, if a little lacking in torque, but you will have to push it to get the best from it.

The 2.0-litre diesel is available with a choice of three outputs: 150hp, 180hp and 240hp. Of these, the 180hp engine delivers the best blend of performance and economy, not least because the 150hp version lacks the new mild-hybrid technology.

That's as steep as it looks, tooLand Rover Discovery Sport review - side view, red, climbing a steep slope off road, 2020 Available to leaseLease Now

If you do venture off-road – and I encourage you to do so – you’ll discover the Discovery Sport is great at tackling rough ground. The standard-fit Terrain Response 2 system automatically detects the surface and adjusts the power delivery to suit the conditions. You also get hill descent control, hill launch assist and low traction launch control.

Or try: Our Mercedes-Benz C-Class review

Cost and economy

Leasing deals start from around £343 a month for an entry-level Discovery Sport with front-wheel drive. I’d recommend spending an extra £40 a month for a model with four-wheel drive and seven seats.

For what you get, it's great valueLand Rover Discovery Sport review - front view, red, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

‘Diesel’ might be a dirty word, but it’s the fuel of choice if you’re on a budget and intend to cover big miles. The front-wheel-drive D150 (2.0-litre, 150hp) with a manual gearbox claims to return up to 47.8mpg on a combined cycle, emitting just 140g/km CO2.

This figure drops to 40mpg in a D150 with four-wheel drive, but there’s only a small penalty for choosing the D180 or D240. The petrol engines (P200 and P250) claim to return more like 30mpg.

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Cards on the table: I’d choose a Skoda Kodiaq Scout over the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Although the Disco would leave the Kodiaq for dead when the going gets really tough, the 4x4 versions are good enough off-road for the majority of customers. I also think the Skoda offers better value for money, especially when you consider the level of equipment.

But I know the Land Rover badge holds strong appeal. It’s like buying a performance car with a 200mph top speed or a record-breaking lap time to its name – largely irrelevant, but somehow reassuring.

A car that really can do everythingLand Rover Discovery Sport review - rear view, red, sunset, 2020 Available to leaseLease Now

The same is true of the Discovery Sport. You might not need to conquer the Honister Pass or Salisbury Plain, but it’s good to know your SUV can deliver when called into action.

The Discovery Sport is the real deal, not some tarted-up crossover in fancy dress. The Land Rover you forgot about might be the one that’s best suited to your needs.

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