The new “baby” Land Rover is a worthy successor to the Freelander. In fact, it’s everything you’d expect from a Land Rover and more….
Land Rover is rightly confident about the Sport, billing it as “the world’s most versatile and capable premium compact SUV” – and I wouldn’t argue with that.
Initially only available with the one engine – a 2.2-litre 188bhp diesel – I drove manual and automatic versions of the new “Disco” and my only quibble is over its name. Why call it the Sport?
Yes, it shifts pretty well for a car not far off two tonnes, reaching 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds with a top speed of 117mph, but it doesn’t quite have the looks or performance to compare with its posh big brother, the Range Rover Sport, for instance.
That said, the Discovery Sport is a fine 4×4 and will have the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 quaking in their wellie boots.
It’s not just an attractive car, it’s cleverly designed and engineered too. Minimum overhang front and rear means it’s very capable off-road, while the interior packaging is ground-breaking.
Not only does it ooze space, there’s the commanding driving position you’d expect, while the materials used are a fine balance between practicality and comfort.
The Discovery Sport also has a party trick up its sleeve which sets it apart from the opposition.
It’s a genuine 5 + 2, possessing a third row of seats which are not just for occasional use by children under five, but perfectly useable by adults too.
I’m a fraction under six foot and – once I’d clambered in – I could sit in the seats comfortably, but if you want more legroom, the second row bench seat is on rails and can be pushed forward. Yes, you lose a little of the limo-like space at the rear, but it’s a small price to pay for that versatility now and again.
I tried the Sport on a mixture of roads and a motorway and it drives well. The ride is smooth and not too firm, and good though the six-speed manual is, most buyers will choose the slick nine-speed (yes, nine speed!) automatic.
The launch engine isn’t the most economical or green in its class, but more efficient units are expected later in 2015.
Jaguar Land Rover’s new Ingenium diesel engine will be introduced to the Discovery Sport in September, delivering “class-leading torque and power outputs, combined with excellent refinement, reduced CO2 emissions and lower fuel consumption” with claimed mpg in the mid-50s.
The current diesel will deliver around 44-46mpg, emitting 162g/km of CO2.
The interior has a quality feel and all the kit you’d expect in a premium SUV including a new eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system which controls all the usual suspects including the radio, car data and smartphone connectivity.
There are plenty of storage spaces and with the third row of seats folded down, the boot boasts a healthy 981-litre capacity. Fold the second row flat and the available space rises to a cavernous 1,698 litres.
I also took the Sport off-road at Land Rover’s proving ground in Warwickshire and it coped effortlessly with everything thrown at it, shrugging off steep gradients, mud, rocks and rivers.
The Sport uses a Terrain Response system, leaving the driver to select the right set-up for different conditions such as Snow, Mud and Sand. In addition, there’s Hill Descent Control, Traction Control and Stability Control.
It also features driver aids and safety systems including automatic emergency braking which uses a digital stereo camera mounted next to the rear view mirror to detect objects that could pose a collision threat, delivering warnings and automatically applying the brakes if a collision is imminent.
The emergency braking was one of the factors that helped the Sport gain a maximum five star safety rating from Euro NCAP.
Summary: Competitively priced from £32,395 – £42,995, the versatile new Discovery Sport is a fine addition to the Land Rover range. Well built, safe, beautifully engineered and designed, it’s a pleasure to drive as an everyday car, whilst also being highly capable off-road.