Update 1: Welcome
Parkers Editor, Keith Adams (above), ran a Discovery Sport for 10,000 miles to see if the diesel version of one of Britain's most popular SUVs stacks up as both a family car and a long-distance business tool. With its punchy 240hp diesel power unit and permanent four-wheel drive – as well as the ability to become a seven-seater (well, five-plus two in Land Rover speak) there's certainly a lot going for it.
The days of the 'entry level' Land Rover being a car for all people have long-since passed. When the original Freelander was launched in 1997, it cost similar money to a mid-range saloon, such as the Rover 600 - today a Disco Sport starts at £30k-plus, and swiftly heads towards £50k when you climb the range and start optioning it. Given the strength and number of viable rivals now in the SUV market, the Disco Sport needs to be good – and good enough to maintain the model's enviable premium image.
Lots of alternatives, but few rivals
As I say, there are a lot of family-sized SUVs competing for your money, but Land Rover would be the first to maintain that cars such as the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC wouldn't see which way the Disco Sport went off-road. And having enjoyed the benefits of Land Rover's amazing off-road ability at first hand in our Range Rover Evoque long-term test, I can see where the company is coming from.
The big question is whether such an off-road focused car can drive as well on-road compared with its more obviously car-based rivals. We shall see. The other thing worth noting is that our Disco Sport arrived mere months before the company unveiled its much-improved facelifted model – so our impressions should be tempered by that – if you want one like this, you're going to have to act fast to buy a run-out model, or plump for one of Land Rover's Approved Used models. Either way, there's room to haggle, and score a good price – first place to check is most definitely our Deal Watch page.
The model we went for was a late 2018 Discovery Sport Sd4 20ps HSE Luxury edition, which places it very near the top of the range. The on-the-road price of this model at the time we acquired it was £49,465, but ours was fitted with a number of options that took it to £58,190.
What do you get in a £58,190 Disco Sport?
Hold your horses there. You say £58,190? With our HSE Luxury, you're getting a very well-equipped car with the most powerful of all the diesel engines available in the range. Whether you'll want to option your car like we did is up to you – I'll go through my thoughts on the merits of the options in a later update.
But before we go into detail there, here's what you get thrown in with all Disco Sports – and the HSE Luxury-specific equipment.
- Terrain Response
- Hill Descent Control (HDC)
- Hill Start Assist
- Traction Control System (TCS) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
- Roll Stability Control (RSC)
- Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)
- Trailer Stability Control
- Trailer Stability Assist
- Heated windscreen
- 60:40 second row seats with slide and recline
- Leather steering wheel
- Ambient interior lighting
- Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
- Pedestrian Protection System
- Airbags (driver and knee airbags, front passenger airbags, curtain airbags and side airbags)
- Cruise Control and Speed Limiter
- Lane Departure Warning
- Keyless Entry
- 8.0-inch Touchscreen
- Two-zone Climate Control
The HSE Luxury pack adds quite a bit to this list, and here are the highlights:
- All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC)
- Fixed panoramic roof
- Xenon headlights with LED signature and power wash
- Auto-dimming, power fold, heated door mirrors with memory and approach lights
- Auto High Beam Assist (AHBA)
- Perforated Windsor leather seats
- Heated and cooled front seats with heated rear seats
- Heated steering wheel
- Cabin Air Quality Sensor
- Cooling vents and one USB in third row
- Configurable Ambient Interior Lighting
- Traffic Sign Recognition
- Rear Camera
- Park Assist
- Meridian Sound System
- Two USB ports in second row with charging
- InControl Apps
So, this Disco Sport has a big ticket on it, but it's well-equipped and fitted with a Meridian sound system that should keep the audiophile gadget fan more than happy. And unlike our last Evoque, comes with Apple CarPlay – a big bonus in my opinion.
Update 2: Performance and handling – what's it like to drive?
With 240hp on tap, it's not too much to expect the Disco Sport to be a quick car. Okay, it might not be the main priority of this car when buying it, but it's good to know that your £58,000 SUV can keep up with the flow, is capable of hauling a full load up the steepest mountain passes, and is capable of towing whatever you throw at it without any effort.
Of course, summing up how a car drives should not be just about its raw performance figures. Not that the Disco is lacking (too much) in that department. It dashes from 0-60mph in 7.2 seonds and tops out at a useful 127mph. A few years ago, that would have been a decent set of numbers for a hot hatch – not any more – let alone a seven-seat SUV. But the way the Disco Sport drives should be classified as effortless and relaxed rather than quick and engaging.
So, it's quick… but does it relax you?
As part of my long-distance life, the Disco Sport goes on regular trips from Parkers Towers in the East Midlands to West Cumbria. It's usually a quick 500-mile return journey, which tests the car in a number of ways – motorway refinement, effectiveness of its cruise control, fuel range and consumption, how good the stereo is, and (for the last few miles at either end) B-road prowess. By the time I've completed a couple of these runs, I know pretty much intimately whatever car I'm driving – and will either love, hate or tolerate it.
In the case of the Disco Sport, it's definitely a case of love. The first big positive are that the seats and driving position are very good indeed. The forward visibility is excellent, thanks to a deep windscreen, high driving position, and relatively low-line dashboard, and the firm seats are well-shaped and supportive. Covering long distances is a cinch, too – wind noise is muted, and the nine-speed transmission leaves the powerful diesel engine pulling a mere 1,800rpm at the motorway cruising speeds.
Those long legs give it a longer reach between fill-ups than the Evoque I ran in 2018. Okay, so it'll do a little more than 300 miles between fill-ups, which isn't that amazing. But it's better than the 250 miles that car was getting in the old car. I appreciate that a lot, as I do like to spend long stints at the wheel. Another consideration is the excellent Meridian stereo, which sounds clean, crisp and powerful – and thankfully, the Touch Pro system in the Disco Sport hooks up to Apple CarPlay, which means I have lots of musical options.
How does it handle those last 50 miles?
After a couple of hundred miles on the motorway, it's good to get on the twisty roads and see what a car is capable of away from the straight and narrow. The good news is that the Disco Sport is really rather good on the dirt tracks that pass as A-roads in Cumbria. I've already touched on the great visibility, which gives you confidence in narrow lanes and allows the driver to accurately place the car in corners.
Although it's a large and heavy car, the suspension is so well set-up for road use that it always feels well controlled and agile with less roll than you'd expect from a high-riding SUV. As well as decent body control and performance, the steering is excellent, with nice weighting and plenty of road feel. In short, you might not buy a Disco Sport to hoon around the lanes, but trust me on this – it does that job very well indeed when you put it into Dynamic drive mode - part of the Adaptive Dynamics pack (an £840 option).
Are there any downsides? The engine sounds unpleasant when you drive it hard, especially in the automatic transmission's Sport mode, and the sometimes the gearbox can be caught napping in the wrong ratio if you want instant acceleration – quite an achievement for a car with nine gears!
Cruise control and speed limiter
I was disappointed by the fact that this near-£60k car doesn't have Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). But the wheel-controlled system works well enough and also comes with an in-built (driver selectable) speed limiter and traffic sign recognition. It is simple enough to activate and adjust on the move – but in the UK's ever-changing traffic conditions, I'm rapidly getting used to enjoying the benefits of ACC.
It's worth noting that the facelifted 2019 Disco Sport is available with an ACC system. If it works as well as it does on the new Evoque and Velar, it will be a very worthwhile addition.
Most importantly: how does it fare as a tow car?
During its time with Parkers, the Assistant Editor of Your Horse magazine, Allison Lowther, spent some time in our Discovery Sport. She owns a Range Rover Evoque, and regularly tows trailers with it. Her thoughts were largely positive. 'I found it good to tow with. It was only an empty horse trailer but it felt stable and secure on country roads.
'For reversing I did have to stop the door mirrors automatically tilting downwards so I could see clearly which direction the trailer was going in. I've never towed with an automatic before but it felt smooth and the engine had enough power to pull off easily – there’s a relatively short, steep hill out of the yard – and it pulled up there easily.
'The trailer (Equi-Trek Night Treka) we had for the photoshoot unladen weight is 1,150kg – both my horses weigh around 640kg, which means with all my kit on board, and a full tank of fuel I can only travel one horse and stay legal. However, there are lighter trailers on the market – such as the Ifor Williams HBX511 – unladen weight 950kg. This would give me a bit more weight to play with.'
In summary, Allison rates the Disco Sport with just one caveat – it could do with more towing capacity: 'If you have smaller horses or ponies the Discovery Sport would be a good option. For me personally because my horses are much bigger I would be happier towing with a car with a little more capacity.'
- Read more: The Parkers guide to towing
Update 3: Interior, behind the wheel and comfort
I touched upon driver comfort in the previous update, with positive marks being given for the car's long-distance restfulness and long-legged demeanour. It's a good opportunity to drill deeper into this aspect of the Disco Sport's personality, as it should be considered a mile-muncher, given its price and buyer demographic. I've driven this car up and down the country through the worst weather the UK could throw at us, and never did it feel anything other than competent and restful.
So, the Disco Sport passes the long-distance test with flying colours, as well it should given its price. The dashboard layout and controls are easy on the eye and simple to use, and the display quality of the widescreen InTouch infotainment system is first rate. I didn't actually use the inbuilt system very much, instead reverting to Apple CarPlay, which works seamlessly in this installation – with the screen pin sharp and perfectly aligned. I've yet to try Android Auto, but will report back when I do.
The driver's seat is well shaped and electrically adjustable in a myriad of ways, but if I were being super-critical, it comes across as being a little too firm for the first few miles. That church pew sensation soon wears off, though, as you meld into the car. Around town and at idle, the diesel engine is a little vocal, but once up to speed, it's quiet, refined and effortless over distances. I like the Climate Air Quality sensor, which gives you a reminder if it's getting a little stuffy in the car – all good for long-distance comfort.
So it never raised a sweat in terms of comfort and refinement on my long trips north, and the longer you spend in the driver's seat the more comfortable it seems to get, Seat heating (and cooling) work well, too, although I'd love to have enjoyed the in-built massaging function that's finding itself into an increasing number of cars these days.
I'm still not conviced that the 240hp version is that much better than the cheaper 180 – that has pretty much all of the economy and mid-range performance of this one, but has a decent price advantage. To be sure, though, I've spent some time in a 180hp Disco Sport by way of comparison for you – I'll feed back my thoughts and findings in a later update.
Update 4: joining forces with Your Horse
Evoque-owning Allison Lowther, our sister title's Assistant Editor, took the wheel of our Discovery Sport for two months and came away impressed. Here are her thoughts.
Spacious, comfortable and easy to drive – the Land Rover Discovery Sport ticks lots of boxes for the horse owner. My daily travels between home, horses and work means driving on busy dual carriageways and country roads – the Discovery Sport seems equally at home on both. It feels solid and holds the road well and is surprisingly nimble too with enough oomph to overtake and pull out at junctions with confidence.
The whole feeling inside the car is light, airy and roomy, the glass roof is a great addition and definitely adds to the feeling of space and light. I’ve found the drive very smooth (I have a video of a cup of coffee to prove how smooth the drive is) and it’s very easy and comfortable to drive on short and long journeys.
I’m very fussy about the driver’s seat and this is a big factor that influences what car I have. I’m long from hip to knee and if the seat doesn’t support my thigh well long journeys are uncomfortable for me. No problems with this car though - I can drive it for hours and remain comfortable.
Plenty of room inside
There’s oodles of space in the back - three adults travelled comfortably with everyone commenting on the room there is in the back and how comfortable they were. The higher ride height is something I really like, it's always nice to see what’s happening ahead of you on busy roads from a safety point of view. The head-up display took a while to get use to - initially I found it a little distracting but after driving the car for a while I got used to it being there and quite like it.
The Disco Sport is a little bigger than my normal car but surprisingly easy to manoeuvre and park. The reversing camera isn’t as clear as the one in my own car but it definitely helps, plus the sensors are a big plus too. Not such as fan of the cameras all round – I’m a bit old fashioned and prefer to use my mirrors instead.
There's generous boot space and that gets a big thumbs up from me. I have no problems at all fitting all my horsey kit in the boot. Also, a month’s worth of horse feed for my two equines fits in easily with room to spare. The resident Labrador at the farm where the horses are kept has also tried the boot out for size and appeared to find it very comfortable as he stretched out for a lengthy snooze in the sun.
This car has lots of gadgets (many I will never use) but there’s also a real feeling of luxury in this high spec – a few Range Rover touches I feel, which is probably one of the reasons I like it so much. There is, however something about the look and shape of this car from the outside I’m not keen on. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is – maybe it’s the colour that doesn’t do it any favours?
Update 5: Comparing with the 180hp Disco Sport
As I said in an earlier update, the 240hp power unit in this car is a good one. It's a shame for Land Rover that the market is moving away from diesel, as its oil-burning Ingenium engine has evolved into a genuinely excellent power unit. It's not the most refined engine available, but it's economical, efficient and powerful. It's also quiet thanks to the very considered way it's been installed.
But is the 240hp version really that much better than the 180hp engine you can get for a lot less money? It's worth saying now that as the Disco Sport has been facelifted, our car isn't available now – so I've compared a 48-month lease deal through ZenAuto for the 180 and the 240, but in straight HSE spec. To get the less powerful model, with a £3,500 initial payment you were looking at £540 per month compared with £555 for the 240 (in August 2019).
That's not a lot of difference even if the base line list price varies by several thousand. After back-to-back testing both cars (and ignoring the spec differences), most of the time, you'd be hard pushed to tell the difference between the 180 and the 240. Mid-range acceleration feels about the same (0-60mph is 8.9 seconds for the 180), but the 240 is less economical overall, and doesn't actually feel quicker on the road. In a quick trip north, the 180 averaged 37.9mpg, while the 240 returned 32.7 on the same trip in similar conditions.
So, for once, I find myself wanting to recommend the less powerful car, and saving yourself some money while you do so. What driving the 180 left me feeling was that the Disco Sport is an excellent all-rounder, but its best engine is also the one that's currently selling the most. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming facelift will affect this situation.
Update 6: Verdict
Our six-month test of the Land Rover Discovery Sport has come to an end all-too soon, and we're sad to see it go. It's fair to say that it's one of those cars that might not instantly wow you, but it certainly gets under your skin over an extended period. That's a good position to be in, and would also explain why so many Land Rover owners go on to buy another when the time comes up. During our time with it, we experienced no problems whatsoever, and came away with the impression that it should be a reliable and dependable car.
It's a diesel, so you'd expect it to be relatively economical over an extended period, but this didn't entirely pan out as we expected. I've already run a Range Rover Evoque with this 240hp engine in it, and although you can't moan about its punchiness, there's some question over its overall fuel consumption.
My average for the period of the test was 33.1mpg. Not brilliant, but not terrible either. And unlike my previous Evoque, which shared this engine, at least the Disco Sport has a decently-sized fuel tank that would allow me to travel more than 300 miles without stopping to fill up.
I actually think the fuel consumption is more than adequate for a car with this level of performance, but I do wonder whether there's enough of an advantage over the 180 (see previous update) to warrant the additional expense.
Although it's not directly attributable to its fuel consumption, it should also be noted that the Disco Sport seemed to have an unhealthy appetite for AdBlue. We filled it up twice in the 10,000 miles we had it – and it took a decent amount to fill the tank. It's also an unpleasant and awkward experience topping up the AdBlue in this car as the filler is under the bonnet, but your Land Rover dealer will top it up for free – and the facelifted car gets its filler moved to under the fuel flap.
This is an area where the Disco Sport with the optional Dynamic pack really is excellent. Stick it in Dynamic mode and it genuinely feels nimble and good fun to drive on twisty roads. Is it a full-on driver's car? No, but it's closer than you'd ever imagine.
And remember, this car will off-road like none of its rivals.
Ride and comfort
Considering it's on such large wheels and is tailored for dynamics, the ride is perfectly acceptable. It's not one that will cosset you, but such is the excellence of the damping that you'll never feel uncomfortable on rougher roads. The seats are supportive and there's plenty of leg- and headroom as well – although the rearmost two are best left to children, and that's probably why Land Rover describes it as a 5+2 seater.
Interior and Equipment
The HSE Luxury is very well equipped as you'd expect with the name and price tag that it has. It is fully equipped with just about every comfort, convenience and safety feature you'd ever need. It comes with a quick-acting, fully-featured infotainment set-up that's a vast improvement on Land Rover's previous efforts, with online services, app support and good integration with your smartphone.
Interior fit and finish is okay, with most of the touchpoints being up-to standard. There are some cheap plastics in the cabin which troubled me slightly, but admittedly, they were in some less accessible places – and a vast improvement on earlier Disco Sports. The seat coverings and the controls all feel good, though, and just about pass the premium test – but it's interesting to see that Land Rover has recognised this as a weakness and made the facelifted car a much higher quality place to sit. Finally, the head-up display is one of the best I've used in terms of clarity and usefulness.
I'll also give a hearty 'yes' to the Meridian hifi that's in this car. It's an expensive extra, but I love the way it sounds, with excellent sound reproduction and a refreshing lack of artificial bass that adds nothing to your favourite music. Would I pay £1,800 for it? Probably not if it were my money – but certainly if it were a company car!
Should you buy a Land Rover Discovery Sport?
As you'll have no doubt already picked up in the full review, Parkers highly regards the Discovery Sport. It's stylish, functional and supremely practical. And now it's been facelifted, all the best bits are still intact, but many of its weaknesses have been sorted, leaving a very impressive car.
Yes, it can have an expensive list price if you option it up, but in its defence, it's now quite easy to strike up a decent deal on PCP or personal leasing, and as long as you're sensible with your spec choices, it won't actually be cripplingly dear. There are also worries about its reliability quality, especially in terms of oil dilution and serious interior rattles and creaks.
In answer to the questions we raised at the beginning of the long-term review – would we recommend the high-powered 240hp diesel over the more popular 180? And in an increasingly petrol- and hybrid-focused era, would we actually stay with diesel at all? Right now, the answer to the first question is no – the 180 doesn't feel much slower, and is usefully more economical.
As for the latter, right now (and before the mild-hybrid and PHEV Disco Sports hit the road), the diesel is still definitely the one to go for. JLR's Ingenium engine is getting better and better, and this one is pretty refined and when mated with the excellent nine-speed gearbox, a delight to drive behind. There's little wrong with the petrol Disco Sport, but the diesel should suit more people more of the time…
It certainly did me.
Let us know if you agree with Keith's experience of 10,000 miles with the Disco Sport. Would you buy one over a Q3, X3 or GLC?