Land Rover Discovery Sport review – why is it so damn popular?
We put one of the UK's most ubiquitous SUVs to the test
Stand at the side of any main road in the south of England for 10 minutes and you're almost guaranteed to see a Discovery Sport. Since its launch back in 2015, Land Rover's Freelander replacement has clocked up huge sales figures, offering as it does a seven-seat family SUV package without the cost of a full-on Discovery.
So it seemed apt that we grab one for a long-term test. DriveTribe's head of video, Mike Fernie, has been running this Discovery Sport for a few months (we've linked to his reports at the bottom of this article), but I grabbed it for a couple of weeks to film it and run it through our standard car review procedure. Aren't we cool?
What is it?
The car Mike ran for four months was a D240 SE, with a 240hp, 2.0-litre diesel engine powering an all-wheel drive system. Performance from the diesel is reasonably brisk – it feels a bit faster than the official 7.4-second 0-62mph time. That's because the 500Nm of torque is smoothly delivered throughout quite a broad slice of the rev range rather than all in one go. It's one of those cars that picks up speed more quickly than you think – but you can only tell because the numbers on the speedo increase faster than your brain is telling you.
The 2019 facelift gave the Disco Sport a pair of far more modern taillight clusters
The engine's a little coarse, but it's fairly well muted and feels pleasingly far away from the driver's seat.
The Discovery Sport trundles down the road with a pleasingly soft ride, absorbing bumps and crap road surfaces with aplomb – few cars on steel springs ride as gently as this thing. Naturally that means it leans in corners and really doesn't encourage you to hustle it, but the body control is more than good enough to tackle B-roads at whatever speed you want. The light steering doesn't give you much of a sense of what the tyres are doing, but more importantly it makes parallel parking and tight town driving a doddle.
What about the practical bits?
Despite not being as big as a regular Discovery (the Disco Sport is based on the Evoque platform, after all), there's untold acres of room for your back-seat passengers – beer-swilling, rugby-playing adults will find it comfy even for long trips.
The two third-row rear seats that pop up from the boot floor are really only occasional use items, and you'll only be able to fit kids back there anyway. Think of them as being useful in a pinch when you need to bring your children's cake-encrusted friends home from a birthday party.
Yup - a suedecloth steering wheel is a (no-cost) option
As the driver you're treated to a delicate thin steering wheel, which in our car is clad in racey suedecloth – basically Alcantara. It's an odd choice in such a non-sporty car, but it's a no-cost option, so you can always have a leather wheel if you prefer.
You sit in front of a clean digital dashboard that's easy to customise using the sharp backlit steering-wheel-mounted controls, which light up with different functions depending on what screen you're using on the dashboard.
This isn't the latest infotainment system – buy a 2021 MY Disco Sport and you'll get the far sexier Pivi system from the Defender
Mike's car is a 2020 model-year car, so it doesn't get the Pivi infotainment system that you get on the 2021 cars – but still, it's a decent system that's easy to use and looks great. It's worth noting that the Pivi system (as seen in the new Defender) is leagues ahead in terms of processing power and the speed with which you can flick between screens, so try to get a MY21 car if you can.
Sounds good… but can it off-road?
Part of the reason you'll buy a Disco Sport over something like an Audi Q5 is the fact it's a Land Rover, so should be able to go further off-road than any rivals. And to an extent that's true – it comes with wade-depth sensors, a full suite of terrain response modes for the 4x4 system and useful 360-degree cameras to help you position your wheels on rough tracks.
As you can see, ground clearance is the limiting factor for the Disco Sport – the excellent 4x4 system will get you out of most sticky situations on flatter ground though
But given how the Disco Sport sits on steel springs, you can't adjust the ride height, and the ground clearance is the limiting factor to its muddy rutting abilities. It'll monster the filthiest car parks you can find while pumpkin picking in the autumn, but you'll want to steer clear of rocky trails. That said, you'll struggle to find another comfy family SUV for this price that can do anything more extreme. And no, the Jeep Wrangler doesn't count as a comfy SUV.
Should I buy one?
If you want a premium seven-seater for around the £50,000 mark that looks smart, has a huge amount of interior and boot space and is comfy, then absolutely. Those requirements are clearly fairly common seeing as the UK's roads are packed with Disco Sports. Don't come to it expecting to find a sporty drive and you won't be disappointed.