Land Rover Discovery Sport 2020 long-term review
While the Defender gets all the plaudits, this model keeps clocking up the most sales. We aim to find out why
*Why we’re running it: *To see if the heavily updated SUV in mild-hybrid diesel form is a worthy contender in this segment
-Month 3 - Month 2 - Month 1 - Specs-
-Life with a Discovery Sport: Month 3-
*Not as roomy as you think - 6 January 2020*
I’ve been enjoying some longer trips of late, but one thing I’m not so sold on is the Discovery Sport’s boot space. Even though I’ve slid the back seats forward, there’s still quite a lot less accessible cargo space here than my old Skoda Superb Estate had. It’s often handy to have the Land Rover’s excellent off-road ability, but even so, let’s say I’m not a total SUV convert. - *Olgun Kordal*
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-Life with a Discovery Sport: Month 2-
*Infotainment cut-off just missed - 2 December 2020*
It’s now clear why Land Rover gave such prominence to the addition of its new Pivi Pro infotainment in the latest update to the Discovery Sport. Our car has the old InControl Touch system, which is glitchy. It’s particularly bad when mirroring my iPhone (the shortcut buttons are evicted off the side of the screen) and there are a lot of crackles and pops when it’s streaming audio.
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*Our London-dwelling Land Rover shows its long-haul credentials on a holiday trip - 25 November 2020*
A holiday? In 2020, you say? So, the Discovery Sport and I ventured prior lockdown to where every fool has ventured this year: Cornwall.
It was my first proper drive in the Disco Sport, other than a handful of miles around suburban London, and seemed perfect to contemplate its practicality and powertrain while racking up the motorway miles.
First up, I filled up the boot – because I could – despite only two of us going away for four days. The charm of the Disco Sport’s boxy design is how easy boot access is for loading and unloading.
Second priority: get Apple CarPlay connected for the playlists penned in to accompany the six-hour journey. Unfortunately, the car wouldn’t recognise my phone, and after many failed attempts, I gave up. At some point early in the journey, I tried again, and it worked. After that, it worked more than it didn’t but wasn’t fail-safe. There’s been a minor model-year update to the Disco Sport since our long-termer rolled off the line and it includes a new infotainment system so hopefully this tech hiccup wouldn’t happen now.
Once on the road (and deeply into podcast Bunga Bunga on the rise of Silvio Berlusconi; can recommend), the most evident notes were of the impressive refinement of the 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine as we trucked along endless motorway and the overall comfort over a long period. It should be luxury for £55k and it is.
Once into the furthest corner of Cornwall – Sennen Cove, a stone’s throw north of Land’s End – there were times when the Disco Sport’s girth took some getting used to. On a single lane, with a bus coming your way, it’s tense – but at least you’ve got 4WD to take to the muddy grass verges if you need to. To be fair, it’s boxy but its width is practically the same as its Volvo XC60 rival’s, so the roads of rural Cornwall could be a challenge for any mid-sized SUV.
The subtle regeneration while decelerating, thanks to the 48V mild hybrid, is oddly satisfying and nicely suits ambling around sleepy Cornish towns sourcing scones. This isn’t a car for fast rural corners – the keener option for that is a BMW X3 – but unless you’re a daredevil, there’s not much fast cornering to be done in Cornwall anyway…
Back on the long road home, the plush seats and easy ingress and egress for numerous service stops felt no less welcoming than they did on the journey there.
*Happy Holidays *Great all-round car for a mini-break
*Not always in sync *Dodgy Apple CarPlay connection.
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*Can’t miss the indicators - 4 November 2020*
I spotted something weird on my first drive of the Discovery Sport: how very loud the indicators and windscreen wipers were. One con, perhaps, of the delightfully refined diesel engine… As ever with such things, I’ve quickly adapted to the Discovery’s ways and no longer notice this quirk, which was so apparent to me at the start.
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-Life with a Discovery Sport: Month 1-
*Welcoming the Discovery Sport to the fleet - 28 October 2020*
Once upon a time, you would get one mid-life model update in a car’s five-to seven-year life, and that would be it. But the race to compete with rivals technologically has changed the landscape so much that frequent, smaller updates can be found on cars most years these days.
That’s why this Discovery Sport variant is no longer available, already surpassed by a ‘model year 2021 update’ announced in August. Fear not: the fundamentals of this Disco Sport remain utterly relevant, introduced in a significant mid-life refresh last year. So significant that it included a totally new platform called Premium Transverse Architecture – the same used by the Range Rover Evoque – to accommodate the inevitable electrified engines plus, of course, new technology and a new infotainment system.
It’s those latter elements that have been further addressed in the MY21 update. The Discovery Sport you can buy today gets the Pivi Pro infotainment system first seen on the new Defender, plus wireless software updates, a 3D surround camera and the option of cabin air filtration.
So what exactly is our Discovery Sport? It’s the D180 AWD, powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder 178bhp turbo diesel with 48V mild-hybrid assistance, promising WLTP fuel economy of 37.2-39.6mpg, CO2 emissions of 187-199g/km and a 0-60mph time of 9.4sec.
It’s the top-spec HSE car, starting from £46,800, although ours has a generous options list adding more than seven grand to that price. More on that later. If you wanted the closest equivalent available today, it would be the D200 AWD HSE, whose starting price is just £15 more. It uses the same mild-hybrid diesel set-up but dialled up to 201bhp and hitting 60mph in 8.1sec.
The new car’s fuel economy is 39.0-42.4mpg and CO2 emissions are 175-190g/km. All of these figures are slightly worse if you opt for the 5+2 seat configuration – a feature that is standard on all Disco Sport variants other than the new plug-in hybrid.
The range-topping diesel D200 sits above the D165, while there are four petrol-powered engines: P200, P250, P290 and P300e. All diesel and petrol units now use a 48V mild-hybrid system, other than the plugin hybrid P300e, which claims an electric-only range of 38 miles, CO2 emissions of 36g/km and 175.5mpg.
Land Rover keeps its cards close to its chest, so we don’t know which engine or trim is most popular, but we do know that the Discovery Sport is the brand’s top priority as its number-one global seller, with 83,574 units sold in 2019. (For comparison, 204,965 examples of the Volvo XC60, its rival SUV, were sold over the same period.)
HSE trim has all the trappings that you would expect. Highlights include heated electric seats, 20in wheels, a powered tailgate, sat-nav and a 4G wi-fi hotspot.
The Namib Orange paint is a £970 option, while the contrasting black roof – a styling necessity to these eyes – is £610. Various roof rail elements come to just under £900 and there’s the occasional superfluous option: two USB ports in row two and one in row three for £100. Just chuck ’em in as standard on HSE, eh, Land Rover?
The priciest option on our Disco Sport is the £2160 Driver Assist Pack, which includes a 360deg camera, adaptive cruise control with steering assistance, a 360deg parking aid and wade sensing, which can collectively be as helpful on the streets of London as during serious off-roading. For those who like the sound of that pack, good news: it’s now standard on HSE trim, according to the configurator.
Step into the Disco Sport for the first time and it no longer feels a world away from its rivals in terms of interior quality – quite the opposite – and that’s before any further MY21 updates. It also has the advantage of being less bland than its German, black-interior-favouring rivals and retains a distinctive Land Rover feel.
Initial impressions are that it’s strikingly better to drive than its predecessor: nicely damped, direct if not super-sharp steering and just all-round effortless performance.
We have the £815 adaptive dynamics option to help its cause, which has the dampers adjust 100 times per second to “optimise the suspension settings and provide the optimum balance between comfort, refinement and agility”. The other key first impression is the incredibly quiet waft of the diesel engine, and the subtle effects of the mild-hybrid technology. Even the most unobservant of drivers will notice the regenerative braking when coming off the accelerator, although it’s not intrusive in any way. It can help fuel economy only so much, though, given that this model is four-wheel-drive. So far, we’re averaging 34.1mpg.
Over the next few months, we will discover how the go-anywhere Disco Sport fits into our daily lives, as a mid-sized, aspirational SUV offering plenty of practicality and comfort – but also one with several excellent rivals.
I know it’s a Land Rover and all, but the Discovery Sport’s market success has never seemed to me to be about some marginally superior level of off-road ability. I think people like it because it’s practical and versatile – one of the few cars in its premium niche with an optional third row of seats – and because it’s an SUV that’s comfy in its own skin. It looks like it, it drives like it and it’s all the more likeable for it, I think.
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-Land Rover Discovery Sport D180 AWD HSE specification-
*Specs: Price New* £46,800 *Price as tested* £54,485 *Options *Namib Orange paint £970, black roof £610, matrix LED headlights £790, bright metal pedals £155, reduced section spare wheel £170, adaptive dynamics £815, Driver Assist Pack (360deg Surround Camera, Clear Exit Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control with Steering Assist, Park Assist, 360deg Parking Aid, Rear Traffic Monitor, Wade Sensing) £2160, Secure tracker £570, two USBs in row two and one USB in row three £100, front foglights £195, load-space rubber mat £171, load-space net side £111, roof rails (black finish, fixed roof) £641, roof rails ditch finishers (black) £227
*Test Data: Engine* 4 cyls in line, 1999cc, turbocharged, diesel *Power* 178bhp at 4000rpm *Torque* 317lb ft 1500-3000rpm *Kerb weight* 1953kg *Top speed* 117mph *0-62mph* 11.8sec *Fuel economy* 34.1mpg *CO2* 187-199g/km *Faults* None *Expenses* None
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