Land Rover Discovery Sport: 5+2 still adds up for family-friendly SUV
Land Rover has given its Discovery Sport an overhaul for 2020. William Scholes finds out how the family SUV stacks up
IT is easy to understand why the Discovery Sport has been such a success for Land Rover since it first broke cover in 2014 as a replacement for the Freelander, writes William Scholes.
Neat and inoffensive SUV styling and the assurance of genuine off-road ability - even if few owners will ever even scratch the surface of what a modern Land Rover can do - were obviously part of the appeal, along with the cachet of its nameplate.
But the Disco Sport also had a USP - it was the only posh-but-smallish family SUV with seven seats.
This, over the years, has persuaded many punters to think of the Discovery Sport as a more practical Range Rover Evoque, further confirming its spot at the top of the mummy-wagon league table.
Competition is formidable in the family SUV market, and has grown enormously since the Discovery Sport debuted.
That's why Land Rover has recently updated the car with a series of timely improvements.
From the outside, 'new' Discovery Sport and 'original' Discovery Sport can be told apart by their different headlamps and taillamps. The grille gets a new design too.
The body's design and the vehicle's stance still make it look ever so slightly tall and narrow to my eyes, however.
More substantial changes are found under the same-again skin. A new front structure - basically lifted from the latest Evoque - means the Discovery Sport gains access to Land Rover's latest engines and mild-hybrid tech.
A different sub-frame arrangement helps make the car ride more comfortably - a highly useful attribute for a family-focused car.
The dashboard and infotainment, which was starting to look ye olde worlde, gets an Evoque-esque upgrade too.
It doesn't get the wow factor dual-screen arrangement of the Evoque, instead offering a sort of plastic panel with touch-sensitive buttons.
It's not wonderful, to be honest, but is nonetheless a big improvement on what went before. Plus marks for the multi-purpose heating control knobs, though.
All passengers benefit from a raised seating position, a great view out, lots of natural light thanks to big windows and soft and comfortable seats; these things matter enormously in a family car.
The Discovery Sport is, of course, unusual in optionally offering seats for seven in a compact footprint.
Perhaps in acknowledgement of the fact that the rear-most seats were really only suitable for small children, Land Rover has always dubbed the Discovery Sport's pew arrangement as '5+2'.
The +2 bit of your passenger manifest needs to be not only physically small but nimble enough to negotiate the wheel arch and the narrow entrance to their seats.
In my experience, children often rather enjoy this assault course approach to entering and leaving a car.
The Discovery Sport also had a USP - it was the only posh-but-smallish family SUV with seven seats. This persuaded many punters to think of it as a more practical Range Rover Evoque, confirming its spot at the top of the mummy-wagon league table
Anyone sat in the middle row gets an excellent deal, with seats that can slide fore and aft to stretch legroom, albeit with potentially crippling knock-on effects to anyone sat in the +2 part of the cabin...
You can squeeze three adults into this middle row, providing they are friendly with each other, but probably of more relevance is the fact that even a trio of kids denied Happy Meals will find nothing to complain about.
The middle row of seats can split 40/20/40 and Land Rover reckons there are 24 different seating combinations. That sort of flexibility and versatility extends the car's family wagon appeal.
The boot is obviously tiny (157 litres) when the rear-most seats are erect, but generous when folded (754 litres in five-seat mode). Such are the obvious compromises of the Discovery Sport's interior packaging.
Five-seat cars have larger boots than those fitted with seven seats and in general, Land Rover has given the revised car more interior storage space for bottles and phones and so on.
Whether you want petrol or diesel, your Discovery Sport will have a 2.0-litre engine under the bonnet.
All get four-wheel-drive and a nine-speed automatic gearbox apart from an entry level front-wheel-drive 148bhp diesel version which uses a six-speed manual gearbox.
Despite not getting the mild-hybrid technology of the 4x4 automatic cars, the front-wheel-drive car is the most economical Discovery Sport.
Company users will also be attracted by the fact that it is RDE2 compliant, meaning it avoids the 4 per cent benefit in kind surcharge that is levied on the 4x4 diesels.
The 148bhp diesel can also be had with the auto/4x4 transmission. More powerful 178bhp and 237bhp diesels are also offered. Petrol duties are catered for by 197bhp and 247bhp units.
You don't have to drive too far before you realise that the 'sport' part of the badge is a misnomer.
No Disco Sport feels particularly quick - this is one of those cars that feels slower than its quoted figures.
Nor is it in its element being hustled - it rolls too much, which eventually discourages spirited driving as well as annoying your complement of passengers.
The steering is very pleasant, though, with better weighting and feedback than typically found in cars of this sort.
It isn't actually particularly sporty but the Land Rover does impress on a motorway run or a long drive, where its refinement and comfort make for relaxed progress. Maybe the marketing people didn't think 'Discovery Cruise' had quite the same ring as 'Discovery Sport'...
Where the Land Rover does impress, however, is on a motorway run or a long drive, where its refinement and comfort make for relaxed progress
This feels appropriate for the car's intended family-wagon duties; maybe the Land Rover marketing people didn't think 'Discovery Cruise' had quite the same ring as 'Discovery Sport'...
It ought to go without saying that the Land Rover has peerless off-road ability. It feels a shame that most owners won't experience just how effective their family car is at crawling over steep, rough and slippy ground.
A Discovery Sport is more likely to have to tow a trailer than it is to climb a mountain. Depending on engine power, it can tow a braked trailer of between 1,800kg and 2,500kg.
Land Rover asks you to decide if you want your new Discovery Sport in standard or sporty-looking 'R-Dynamic' guise; once you've made your mind up on that, you climb a traditional trim hierarchy, from standard and S to SE and HSE.
The cheapest Discovery Sport - a 148bhp front-wheel-drive diesel manual in standard trim - is £31,575.
That climbs to £49,675 for a full-house R-Dynamic HSE with the 237bhp diesel, 4x4 and automatic drivetrain.
And, of course, there are numerous opportunities to extend those prices further thanks to Land Rover's extensive options list.
Prices at the top of the range mean the Discovery Sport is rather close to the new Defender 110, which may prove to be a more desirable vehicle.
Similarly-sized seven-seat rivals from other premium manufacturers remain scarce, though Mercedes-Benz's new GLB will change that.
There are other seven-seat family SUVs to consider, too, although they occupy more road space than the Discovery Sport.
The trade off is more interior space, however, especially in the third row of seats and the boot; the Seat Tarraco and Peugeot 5008 are Drive's favourites in this class.
Still, the Land Rover has undeniable appeal and remains a persuasive choice for anyone considering a family SUV.