Parkers overall rating: 3.7 out of 5 3.7
  • All motors bar entry-level feature mild-hybrid tech
  • Plug-in hybrid to join the range later
  • Mixture of petrol and diesel; range broadly mirrors Evoque’s

The Land Rover Discovery Sport is offered with a broad range of engines, the vast majority of which feature fuel-saving mild-hybrid technology, but a PHEV version is available to order with deliveries due in the summer of 2020.

>> We rate the best hybrid SUVs for 2020

Diesel engines

Despite an industry-wide pushback against diesel cars, it’s likely that a majority of Discovery Sport owners will opt for the black pump. There’s plenty of choice within the range, though all are 2.0-litre, four-cylinder units.

Kicking things off is the D150. It offers, as the name suggests, 150hp, and as standard is paired with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. That makes it unique, with the rest of the range offering both of those features. It does, however, miss out on the mild-hybrid technology fitted to the rest of the range.

2019 Land Rover Discovery Sport front dynamic

Step up to a D150 automatic or the automatic-only D180 and D240 engines and you’ll gain that all-important four-wheel drive system plus the hybrid tech. In reality, you’re unlikely to notice that these engines are anything but conventional. The hybrid technology is fitted to aid the engine and save fuel rather than drive the car on electricity alone.

We’ve driven a top-of-the-range D240. It didn’t feel quite as rapid as Land Rover claims – 0-60mph takes a reported 7.2 seconds. It’s also quite vocal, especially at higher revs. However, it’s got plenty of mid-range punch making overtaking a breeze, and when cruising it settles down to a refined thrum. It’s likely that the D180 will be the pick of the range, though – we’ll report on this when we can drive it.

Petrol engines

There are just two petrol engines on offer. They’re badged P200 and P250 (with 200hp and 250hp, naturally) and, like the diesels, are both 2.0-litre four-cylinders. Even though they’re far more pleasant to rev, they don’t deal with the car’s bulk quite as well as the diesels and require working hard, which is hardly ideal for fuel economy.

Where the petrols excel is refinement. Both of them are near-silent at a cruise and remain quiet the rest of the time, unless stretching into the upper echelons of the rev range.

The ponderous nine-speed gearbox is still by far the biggest gripe, as it takes a brief pause before responding to throttle inputs. There are steering wheel-mounted paddles for you to change gear manually, but even then, the response time is far too inconsistent. Curiously, you can alter the setting in the trip computer for the paddles to work when the gearbox is only in sportier S mode – rather than both normal D and S mode – but we wouldn’t recommend this as this makes it tricky to prepare for overtaking, or when you try and get up to speed with the traffic.

Plug-in hybrid version

The Discovery Sport is also available with a PHEV system, known as the P300e. With 309hp, low tax and impressive economy promised from its three-cylinder engine and electric motor, this one could work for a lot of buyers looking to move away from diesel. It's avaiable to order now, but deliveries aren't likely until late in the summer of 2020. We've yet to drive this one, but will report back as soon as we have.

Handling

  • Tidy handling and well-weighted steering
  • Quite a lot of body movement in the corners
  • Ride is exceptional even on large wheels

The Land Rover Discovery Sport isn’t intended to be a truly driver-focused SUV in the same way as the Porsche Macan, but it still drives very well. Head into the corners and the car’s steering impresses – it’s well-weighted and natural-feeling, making this SUV very easy to pilot and gives you a lot of confidence that the car’s going to go in the direction you point it.

It grips well, too, but spirited driving displays a lot of body lean and movement which will likely see you adopt a more relaxed style of driving. If you do so, it’s just as well, as the Discovery Sport’s luxurious traits shines through.

Another area where the Discovery Sport outperforms its competition is when you head off the road and onto rough terrain. Land Rover's Terrain Response 2 system is fitted to every model, and allows you to select the kind of terrain you're on whether it be sand, mut and ruts, gravel or rocks - or, for even more peace of mind you can simply select 'auto' and let the car do the work itself.

Hill descent control is standard, and prevents the car from 'running away' down a hill, but also fitted to all cars is Forward Progress Control. This essentially keeps the car moving constantly at a steady pace regardless of whether it's going up or downhill, and is great for novice off-roaders.

This is where Land Rover's heritage shines through, and it's no stretch to say that the Discovery Sport is easily the best vehicle in this class at tackling off-road terrain, as its carefully honed four-wheel drive system is far more capable than that in the Skoda Kodiaq or Hyundai Santa Fe.