Land Rover Discovery Sport review

Category: Family SUV

Family SUV is not the best car in its class to drive, but in seven-seat form it's very practical

Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport front cornering
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport front cornering
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior dashboard
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport boot open
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior infotainment
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport right driving
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport front cornering
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport rear cornering
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport left static boot open
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport badge detail
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior front seats
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior back seats
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior climate controls
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior gearstick
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior detail
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior detail
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport front cornering
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior dashboard
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport boot open
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior infotainment
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport right driving
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport front cornering
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport rear cornering
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport left static boot open
  • Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport badge detail
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior front seats
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior back seats
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior climate controls
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior gearstick
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior detail
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport interior detail
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by
Neil Winn
Published26 October 2023

Introduction

What Car? says...

The Land Rover Discovery Sport is one of the exceptions to the rule that a car with Sport in its name must be a high-performance model – or at least have racy go-faster looks.

What this family SUV does do is offer a more compact and affordable alternative to the enormous Land Rover Discovery. There’s plenty of room for five people, and all but the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) P300e models can be had with a third row of seats for seven-seat practicality. 

The Discovery Sport was recently updated with visual tweaks to the exterior, a much plusher interior and a more sophisticated infotainment system. The refresh also introduced mild-hybrid technology to the non-PHEV engines, which should reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

The Land Rover Discovery Sport competes with upmarket five-seat SUVs – including the Audi Q5, the BMW X3 and the Lexus NX – as well as the seven-seat Mercedes GLB. Meanwhile, the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Skoda Kodiaq come as seven-seaters as standard but cost less.

Let's find out whether it's as impressive as those rivals...

Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport rear cornering

Overview

The Land Rover Discovery Sport, especially in seven-seat form, is more practical as a family load-lugger than the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3, but those rivals are better to drive and more fuel-efficient. Meanwhile, the Hyundai Santa Fe offers more space for less money. The D200 diesel engine makes most sense for private buyers, while company car users will find the P300e much cheaper to run.

  • Lots of passenger space
  • Flexible seven-seat capability
  • Lengthy equipment list
  • Terrible reliability
  • So-so performance
  • Poor fuel economy and CO2 emissions
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

The least-powerful engine for the Land Rover Discovery Sport is a 2.0-diesel (badged D200) with 197bhp. It has plenty of low-down grunt, so it feels pleasingly punchy even when you’re travelling with a full car. Because of this relatively effortless performance, plus its impressive towing ability, it's our pick of the engine range.

The (non-PHEV) petrol, the P250, has a mighty 247bhp on tap. However, you have to work the engine hard for it to feel as quick as its 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds suggests. 

The third engine option is the plug-in hybrid P300e. Under the bonnet is a 1.5-litre petrol engine that drives the front wheels while an electric motor drives the rears.

Officially, the P300e can do up to 36 electric-only miles (depending on the trim level), but on our real-world test route, it managed 28.6 miles. That’s similar to what you’ll see from a BMW X3 xDrive30e, but much less than the 57 miles we achieved in a Mercedes GLC 300e.

Suspension and ride comfort

Driving a Discovery Sport with 20-inch wheels on standard suspension can get a touch bumpy around town. Opting for smaller 18in or 19in wheels, or selecting the Comfort setting with the optional Adaptive Dynamics adjustable suspension system does help take the edge off that, but there are still less bumpy family SUVs available, including the Lexus NX.

Land Rover Discovery Sport image
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The Discovery Sport floats and wallows more over undulating roads than the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3, although it never feels so loosely damped that it’ll make your passengers go a verdant shade. The ride improves on motorways, where it's quite a relaxing mile-muncher.

The P300e feels a bit stiffer than the rest of the range. It’s noticeably lumpier and doesn’t control its body movements over dips and crests quite as well. The Lexus NX 450h is softer but more stable more of the time.

Handling

There's noticeable body lean when you corner with pace in the Discovery Sport and, with all-weather tyres fitted, not a vast amount of grip. It's certainly not as keen to scythe through bends as the Q5 or the X3, and never feels as agile along twisting country roads as the Jaguar F-Pace.

The steering is a little too quick given the car's ponderous nature, and it's overly keen to return to its straight-ahead position to feel completely natural at speed, although it is light around town.

All in all, the Discovery Sport feels rather disjointed if you try to drive it briskly and the heavier P300e is even more compromised. What it lacks in on-road handling is more than made up for by its off-road capabilities, though.

It has useful towing abilities, too: the D200 can pull a 2200kg braked trailer while the P250 can manage 2200kg. The P300e can’t tow quite as much – you’re limited to a maximum of 1600kg.

Noise and vibration

The P300e’s refinement is impressive. You’re aware from the background thrum that the engine has three cylinders – one fewer than the other engines in the range – but it doesn't sound coarse or transmit lots of vibration through the steering wheel.

Indeed, it’s better than the Range Rover Evoque P300e in that regard. The switch between power sources is smooth, if sometimes a little slow. It’s certainly much better than the clunky plug-in hybrid Volvo XC40 but the Honda CR-V PHEV is better still.

Of the conventional engines, the P250 sounds like a diesel at idle, but smoothes off with a few more revs. The nine-speed automatic gearbox is pretty abrupt though, and is generally better paired with the additional pulling-power of the D200 because fewer gear changes are required to maintain speed.

The diesel blends into the background hum at motorway speeds, and is impressively smooth under hard acceleration. Road roar is very well contained in all versions, but you’ll hear more wind noise than you would in an Audi Q5 or BMW X3.

“The Discovery Sport has a plush ride at higher speeds, but with the optional 20in wheels fitted to our P300e test car, it's easily upset by bumps and potholes. Opting for smaller 18in or 19in wheels helps to eliminate this.” – Dan Jones, Reviewer

Driving overview

Strengths Well-weighted steering; diesel is grunty; P300e is quiet at a cruise

Weaknesses PHEV has a poor electric range; ride is lumpy on standard suspension and big wheels; lots of body lean in corners

Land Rover Discovery Sport interior dashboard

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

The driver’s seat in the Land Rover Discovery Sport is a little narrow but is reasonably comfortable, and even entry-level S trim comes with 12-way electric adjustment and a memory function. HSE trim has 14-way electric adjustment.

The cushioned lid of the raised centre cubby doubles as a well-placed armrest and the dashboard is easy to figure out.

There are physical dials to adjust the temperature of the climate control and engage the off-road modes, but the controls for the heated windows are touch-sensitive. That makes them fiddlier to use on the move than proper buttons.

All cars come as standard with an 12.3in digital driver's display. It's a crisp digital screen that displays information such as music tracks and sat-nav mapping alongside the usual speed and engine data. The menus are a bit fiddly to use but it does help keep your eyes nearer the road when you're following navigation instructions.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

The Discovery Sport’s chunky door mirrors can obstruct forward visibility at junctions and there’s also a blind-spot as you look over your shoulder. You'll need to bear that in mind when changing lanes, especially if you don't have the optional Driver Assist Pack, which introduces a blind-spot monitoring system (this is standard on HSE models).

All versions come with front and rear parking sensors plus a surround-view camera, although it should be said that the specific towing view isn’t that helpful because it doesn't cover the tow hitch.

If you're planning to use your car for towing, we recommend the optional Technology Pack as it introduces a ClearSight rear-view mirror. That displays an image from the car's rear camera on the interior mirror, enabling you to see what's behind you even when the rear window is blocked by people or luggage

LED headlights are standard across the Discovery Sport range, but if you go for HSE they're upgraded to matrix LED units that you can leave on full beam at all times without dazzling oncoming drivers.

Sat nav and infotainment

The Discovery Sport uses the Pivi Pro infotainment system that also features in the Land Rover Defender and the Range Rover Evoque. Its 11.4in touchscreen is sharp and you get plenty of connectivity features on all trims, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. That means you can use smartphone apps such as Google Maps and Waze through the car’s touchscreen.

All Discovery Sports come with the "connected" version of Pivi Pro, so you benefit from a voice control system, sat-nav and the ability to get ratings and reviews for destinations.

It has straightforward menus and responsive software. And while its operating system is not as intuitive as the one in the BMW X3 (and the BMW iDrive rotary controller interface is much easier to use on the move), it’s still one of the better systems in the family SUV class.

Quality

The interior of the Discovery Sport is characterised by plenty of plush, dense-feeling materials, well-damped rotary heating controls and classy touches, including brushed-metal trim. Lighter interior trim options (such as Oyster white suede/leather) come as standard and lift the ambience further.

It also doesn’t feel quite as solidly built or well finished inside as some of its German rivals, in particular the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3, but it's a lot better screwed together than the flimsier-feeling Mercedes GLC.

The Discovery Sport is plusher inside than many of the mainstream family SUV competition, including the Honda CR-V and the Seat Tarraco. In short, it lives up to its premium billing.

“When it comes to interior quality, the Discovery Sport is very impressive. It has a high-quality feel inside, with an abundance of soft-touch materials and aluminium inserts. The driving position is nice and high, too, which means you have a good, commanding view of the road. ” – Neil Winn, Deputy Reviews Editor

Interior overview

Strengths Decent infotainment system; fantastic driving position; beautifully trimmed interior

Weaknesses Touch-sensitive buttons can be tricky to hit on the move

Grey Land Rover Discovery Sport boot open

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

Even very tall drivers won’t feel cramped in the Land Rover Discovery Sport. There's plenty of leg room, and the head room is among the best in the class. It's still fine even if you add the optional panoramic glass roof, which reduces head room slightly. It's not as wide in the front as the Kia Sorento though.

A deep cubby between the front seats houses the USB sockets and is the ideal place to keep your phone out of sight, while the two cupholders placed behind the gear selector can hold large takeaway cups securely.

The door pockets are massive – large enough to take a 750ml bottle – and the glovebox is big enough to hold items such as a windscreen scraper, a pair of sunnies and the car’s handbook.

Rear space

When the second-row seats are slid back as far as possible, anyone sitting on them is treated to masses of leg room. If you slide the seats all the way forward (enlarging the boot), taller adults will find their knees pressed against the front seatbacks, but you’re unlikely to need to do this very often.

There's also lots of head room in the back, and while it's not as broad in the second row as some of the competition, the three individual second-row seats are very comfortable. 

By contrast, in versions with seven seats, the rearmost row is distinctly cramped and best suited to small children or petite adults (even our most compact 5ft 3in tester felt pinched).

Head room right at the back of the car is tight, and while leg room isn't awful, a shallow footwell forces your knees up around your ears. It's also worth pointing out that access to the third-row seats isn't great because the wheelarch juts into the gap passengers squeeze through to get in.

Still, this is one of the few premium-badged cars of its size available with seven seats, the Mercedes GLB being a notable exception. If you’re willing to go non-premium, have a look at the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento and the Peugeot 5008 – they all have more spacious third rows.

Seat folding and flexibility

The second row of seats is split 40/20/40 and you can slide and recline each of the three seats independently.

When you pull a lever low down on the side of the outer seats of the second row, the outer seats spring forwards giving access to the third row (if fitted). They don't return to their original position automatically, staying further forward to free up leg room behind. 

The third-row seats are easy to use and fold away into the boot floor when not needed, leaving the space free for luggage. There's no seven-seat option available on the P300e model.

Boot space

The boot lip sits flush with the boot floor, making it easy to lug heavy items into the back of the Discovery Sport. An electric tailgate is standard on SE trim and above.

In five-seat versions, or with the third row folded down in seven-seat versions, you get 840 litres of boot capacity – enough space for eight carry-on suitcases. In our tests, the Audi Q5, the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento and the Peugeot 5008 all fitted more carry-on cases. With seven seats in use, you get much less boot space, at 115 litres.

We’d also point out that the P300e PHEV version has a slightly reduced boot capacity, but we still managed to squeeze in eight carry-on suitcases. For comparison, the Lexus NX 450h PHEV took seven cases. 

“Unlike most versions of the Discovery Sport, the P300e PHEV isn't available with seven seats, due to its location of the battery, electric motor and fuel tank. Still, boot space is impressive, allowing us to fit eight carry-on suitcases under the tonneau cover.” – Lawrence Cheung, New Cars Editor

Practicality overview

Strengths Decent rear head and leg room; reasonably sized boot; plenty of storage cubbies

Weaknesses Rear seat flexibility isn’t great on the P300e

Land Rover Discovery Sport interior infotainment

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The Land Rover Discovery Sport is priced competitively against five-seat premium family SUV rivals such as the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3, which are both less versatile in terms of passenger accommodation.

It looks rather expensive when you compare it with mainstream rivals such as the Peugeot 5008 and the Skoda Kodiaq, though.  Still, if you’re willing to pay the premium for the Discovery Sport’s upmarket image, you can rest assured that it should have quite slow depreciation, thanks in part to that premium badge. That also means it’s reasonably cheap on a PCP finance deal.

Even with mild-hybrid engines, the fuel economy is disappointing – the official figure for the D200 diesel is 41.2mpg, while the P250 will return 30.2mpg at best. The less-expensive hybrid Honda CR-V hit over 45mpg.

The P300e plug-in hybrid offers the best official fuel economy, and if you can make use of its electric range for commuting it'll be cheaper to run. It also has the lowest emissions by far, which makes it a tempting choice as a company car. It's worth noting, though, that it sits in a higher benefit-in-kind tax band than the Lexus NX and the Honda CR-V.

Equipment, options and extras

Every Discovery Sport model come with a hefty equipment list that includes dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, ambient interior lighting, heated, electrically adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control and a heated windscreen.

You also get a full roster of off-road systems, including Terrain Response to maximise traction, hill descent control to get you down slopes safely and low traction launch. That's on top of the infotainment, visibility and safety aids. 

However, we would recommend stepping up to Dynamic SE trim, because it comes packed with kit including 19in alloy wheels, a 12-speaker Meridian sound system, a powered tailgate, a panoramic roof and keyless entry. HSE gets goodies such as 20in wheels, heated and cooled front seats and matrix LED headlights, but its price is, shall we say, robust.

Reliability

Reliability really isn’t a Land Rover strength. The Discovery Sport finished one spot from the bottom in its class in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey whereas the Lexus NX – a superb alternative – was the most dependable family SUV on sale.

In the overall brand league table, Lexus ranked first, while Honda was sixth and Land Rover was down in 28th place out of 32 car companies. 

A three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, which also includes UK and European roadside assistance, should help provide some peace of mind. That's about par for the class, although if you’re prepared to forgo a premium badge, the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento come with a five-year and seven-year warranty respectively.

Safety and security

The Discovery Sport, with its updated safety systems, received a five star rating from Euro NCAP in 2022. 

In terms of safety technology, automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance and traffic-sign recognition (which displays the speed limit on the dashboard) are standard across the range. If you want blind-spot assistance and a rear-traffic monitor you’ll either need to step up to HSE or select the optional Driver Assist Pack.

“One of the Discovery Sport's trump cards is its slow depreciation. Over three years, it should hold onto its value better than a Honda HR-V or Lexus NX, which makes it a significantly cheaper ownership proposition.” – Doug Revolta, Head of Video

Costs overview

Strengths Competitive on PCP finance; plenty of standard kit; slow predicted depreciation

Weaknesses PHEV is in a higher BIK bracket than rivals; terrible reliability

FAQs

  • It's available with mild-hybrid (MHEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) engines, but not as an electric car.

  • Our pick of the Discovery Sport range is a version with the D200 diesel engine (or the P300e PHEV if you'll be paying company car tax on it) in Dynamic SE trim.

At a glance
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RRP price range £43,445 - £57,920
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)3
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol parallel phev, diesel
MPG range across all versions 175.2 - 42.7
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £1,102 / £3,955
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £2,204 / £7,910
Available colours