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Land Rover Discovery Sport First Drive

By raccars Published

Land Rover Discovery Sport Factsheet

Price: From £32,395 (model tested: 2.2 SD4 HSE Lux auto, £42,995)

Gearbox: Six-speed manual/nine-speed automatic

0-62mph: 8.9 seconds

Top speed: 118mph

Fuel economy: 44.9mpg

CO2: 166g/km

On sale: Now

Insurance group: 31

Three UK Land Rover Discovery Sport facts

1: The Discovery Sport is the first in a new family of Discovery models from Land Rover

2: Replaces the Land Rover Freelander and aims to repeat the smash hit success of the Range Rover Evoque

3: Prices start from £32,395; the Discovery Sport arrives in dealer showrooms from January 2015

What is it?

Land Rover is booming, and much of this success is down to its massively successful Range Rover line. The real turnaround car was the Evoque, launched in 2011 and the subject of a waiting list in dealers ever since – and that’s despite the British factory operating 24/7!

The Land Rover brand itself has taken a back seat in this revolution, with the Discovery model only mildly tweaked to keep it ticking over. Now, though, Land Rover’s time for brand attention is here.

Enter a new strategy, which will expand the Discovery name from one car into a family of models, all with practicality and family-focused intelligence at their core. Land Rover’s taken the replacement of the Freelander as the opportunity to launch the first of the new Discovery family – the new Discovery Sport.

Now boasting seven seats, the new Discovery Sport is the Land Rover sister car to the Range Rover Evoque. It’s bigger, but not as large as the Discovery SUV itself, and will be priced from around £30,000 as an alternative to the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.

The new Discovery Sport is a very significant car for Land Rover. But what’s it like? RAC Cars flew to Iceland to find out.

Styling and interior

The Discovery Sport is a very good looking machine. There are similarities with the Range Rover Evoque, but this is no bad thing, and the newfound style it brings to the brand contrasts starkly with the boxy and dated old Freelander.

The surfaces are rich and confident, and the reverse rake of the pillar behind the rear doors is a Discovery family cue that’s set to be repeated on other models in the new sub-brand range. This is particularly striking if you choose one of the contrast roof colours – it makes the roof look as if it’s floating.

Inside, it’s not quite as luxurious as the Evoque but there’s no doubting the quality and the clear, neat design is certainly family friendly. The centrepiece is Land Rover’s upgraded infotainment system in the middle of the dash, which can now be equipped with InControl apps for smartphone integration.

It’s the amount of space on offer within the Discovery Sport that’s the real talking point though. Those in the front sit confidently high and legroom in the middle row is limo-like. You can slide the middle seats back and forth but even with them fully back, there’s passable room in the fold-flat third row. Land Rover’s really thought about the ergonomics and overall design inside, and it shows.

Performance

Jaguar Land Rover has built a new engine factory in Wolverhampton to launch a new range of engines called Ingenium. The Discovery Sport, however, hasn’t yet received them: instead, it sticks with the familiar 2.2-litre SD4 engine from the Evoque (and old Freelander).

It’s a little way behind the curve in terms of economy but its 190hp engine delivers smooth and strong performance. It fades into the background at a cruise and is only a little clattery when first started up.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard but many buyers are expected to choose the optional nine-speed automatic (it’s standard on upper variants anyway). It sounds like a lot of gears but it actually works brilliantly, with slick shifts and a really seamless feel.

Handling

Although it’s based on the Range Rover Evoque, Land Rover’s engineered a new space-saving rear suspension system for the Discovery Sport. This is most obviously apparent in the smooth, capable ride it delivers – across all surfaces it remains supple for passengers.

The terrain in Iceland didn’t allow us full opportunity to test the handling but, as the Evoque is so competent here, we have no doubts the Discovery Sport will follow suit.

More reassuringly, it’s brilliant off road. Not a test many owners will put it through, granted, but it’s still good to know just how impressive it is in rough road conditions. The Discovery Sport is simply packed with electronic devices that help even a novice driver tackle terrain that appears impossible and impassable.

One thing that may be useful in the UK is its amazing wading depth of 600mm, just 100m shy of the larger Discovery. This ability to drive through deep water is daunting at first – you’re convinced it’s going to stop in its tracks – but could prove invaluable for when floods strike.

Price and value

At launch, Land Rover is rolling out the higher performing engine for the Discovery Sport range. This means price seem a little higher than the competition – but don’t worry; a lower power eD4 version arrives later in 2015, with better fuel economy and a sub-£30,000 list price.

Given the premium branding and the vehicle’s sheer competence, it’s actually pretty good value. We recommend you choose at least an SE Tech model, priced from £33,895, as this includes sat nav; there’s a bit of a jump to the £39,396 HSE auto variant but Land Rover still expects it to be one of the best sellers.

Fuel economy

As mentioned, other rivals do nudge the Land Rover Discovery Sport for fuel economy. With a manual gearbox, it averages 46.3mpg; choose the automatic and this falls slightly to 44.8mpg. Neither model can dip below the 160g/km CO2 barrier either.

Worry not, though! Land Rover confirms the fuel-saving eD4 will follow in 2015 and is expected to return more than 60mpg. This version should also boast CO2 emissions that dip below the 120g/km barrier, for plentiful tax advantages.

Verdict: Land Rover Discovery Sport

The new Land Rover Discovery Sport is a winner. It looks great, has a superb interior, is extremely practical and has flexibility by the bucketload. It’s good to drive too, and its all-road abilities are seriously impressive.

Has Land Rover got another smash hit on its hands? We feel sure of it…

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