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 large SUV does do is offer a more compact and affordable alternative to the enormous Land Rover Discovery, and if you peer beneath the surface you’ll see that it has more in common with the Range Rover Evoque. While the Evoque focusses on chiselled, catwalk styling, though, the Discovery Sport’s boxier lines mean it's better at catering for space-hungry families.
There’s plenty of room for five, and all but the front-wheel drive D165 diesel and the plug-in hybrid P300e models can be had with a third row of seats for seven-seat practicality. Yes, you read that correctly: this is a Land Rover you can buy without four-wheel drive (in D165 form only, though – all other engines come with four-wheel drive).
The Discovery Sport has been 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 most of the engines, which should reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
Although it’s much cheaper than the bigger Discovery, the Discovery Sport still competes with upmarket large SUVs including the five-seat Audi Q5 and BMW X3, as well as the seven-seat Mercedes GLB. You might also be considering non-premium seven-seaters, such as the Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq, which offer similar practicality for less money.
Read on for our in-depth review, including which engine and trim combination makes the most sense, whether it feels good to drive and how comfortable your passengers will be. If you're looking for a 4x4 with more of a focus on size or looks, visit our full separate reports on the Land Rover Discovery and Land Rover Evoque.
Don't forget, if you buy a new car of any make and model, it pays to check whether you can save thousands of pounds using the free What Car? New Car Buying service, which can help you find the best prices, including top Land Rover deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
All the regular Land Rover Discovery Sport engines come with mild-hybrid technology, and even the least expensive petrol (badged P200) has 197bhp. That might sound like plenty of poke, but it does take some revving to get up to outside-lane overtaking speeds. When we tested it, it managed 0-60mph in 9.9sec – not great when you consider that a hybrid Honda CR-V beats it by nearly two seconds.
The P250, with 247bhp, feels a fair bit brisker, with a claimed 0-62mph time of 7.3sec. We’ve yet to try the top 286bhp P290 variant, but that's likely to be expensive to run. There's also the entry-level D165 diesel and the more potent D200, which use Land Rover’s impressive mild-hybrid tech. The D200 is our preferred diesel option because it provides decent urge for getting up to speed – even with a full car – beating the D165 by two seconds in the 0-62mph dash. It also has the best towing capacity, up to 2500kg. That said, the Audi Q5 40 TDI is noticeably quicker than the quickest diesel Discovery Sport.
The final 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. A big battery pack allows it to travel up to 34 miles on electricity alone (according to official figures), and it’s rather brisk – the combined output of 305bhp means 0-62mph takes 6.6sec. That makes it the liveliest Discovery Sport, and even in electric-only mode the acceleration is sufficient to get you up to motorway speeds. The P300e can’t tow quite as much as the diesels – you’re limited to a maximum of 1600kg, or the same as a hybrid Ford Kuga.
Suspension and ride comfort
Driving a Discovery Sport with super-sized 20 or 21in wheels on standard suspension can get a touch bumpy around town. Opting for smaller 18 and 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 large SUVs, including the Toyota RAV4.
The Discovery Sport floats and wallows more over undulating roads than the Audi Q5 and 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. A BMW X3 30e is softer but more stable more of the time.
There is noticeable body lean when you corner with pace in the Land Rover Discovery Sport and, with all-weather tyres fitted, not a vast amount of grip. It certainly isn’t as keen to scythe through bends as the Audi Q5 or BMW 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. Any of the four-wheel drive versions will beat their chief rivals easily in that respect. Diesel versions can tow a 2200kg braked trailer and the petrols can manage 2200kg. The P300e can’t tow quite as much – you’re limited to a maximum of 1600kg.
Noise and vibration
The plug-in hybrid 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 Volvo XC40 Recharge plug-in, but the far cheaper Ford Kuga PHEV is better still.
Of the conventional engines, the P200 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 D165 and D200 diesel engines because fewer gear changes are required to maintain speed. The latter 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 the Audi Q5 or BMW X3.
P200, D165, D200 and P330e models have a smooth mild-hybrid stop-start system that cuts and then restarts the engine almost without you noticing. More powerful P250 and P290 models don’t have this technology, and have a lumpier start stop system as a result that some may find irksome in heavy traffic.
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 reasonably comfortable and only entry-level trim requires you to adjust it manually (the posher trims have full electric adjustment, including for lumbar support).
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 conventional buttons that you can locate by feel.
On R-Dynamic trim and above, the analogue instrument dials behind the steering wheel are replaced by an Interactive Driver 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 haven't got the blind-spot monitoring system.
All versions come with front and rear parking sensors plus a surround-view camera as standard, although it should be said that the specific towing view isn’t that helpful because the camera is off to the side slightly and the hitch cannot be seen. A ClearSight rear-view mirror is standard from HSE trim. It 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 R-Dynamic trim or above you’ll get upgraded versions that have distinctive daytime running light signature and 'animated' indicator lights.
Sat nav and infotainment
The Discovery Sport uses the Pivi Pro infotainment system that also features in the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Defender. Its 10.0in touchscreen is sharp and you get plenty of connectivity features on all trims, including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring. That means you can use smartphone apps such as Google Maps and Waze through the car’s touchscreen.
Entry-level Discovery Sport does without the sat-nav and advanced ‘Hey Land Rover’ voice control of the rest of the range but still gets the excellent touchscreen phone-mirroring features that are the main functions you’re likely to rely on.
Regardless of whether you go for that more basic Pivi system or the Pivi Pro version fitted to most Discovery Sport models, it has straightforward menus and responsive software. 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 large SUV class. If specified, information from the main infotainment system can be displayed on the Interactive Driver Display.
The interior of the Land Rover Discovery Sport is characterised by plenty of plush, dense-feeling materials, well-damped rotary heating controls and classy touches, including brushed-metal trim. You’ll find some harder and scratchier plastics lower down on the dashboard and doors, though.
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 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 large SUV competition, including the Honda CR-V and Seat Tarraco. In short, it lives up to its premium billing.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Even very tall drivers won’t feel cramped in the Discovery Sport. There's plenty of leg room and head room is among the best in the class – it's still fine even if you add the optional panoramic glass roof, which lowers the ceiling slightly. It's not as wide in the front as some of its rivals, though, such as the Kia Sorento.
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.
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 masses of head room 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 particularly petite adults – even our most compact 5ft 3in tester felt pinched. Head room 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 isn't great as the wheel arch juts into the gap passengers have to squeeze through to get in or out.
Still, this is one of the few premium-badged cars of its size to offer seven seats, the Mercedes GLB being a notable exception. If you’re willing to go non-premium, the Peugeot 5008, Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento have third rows that are more spacious.
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 is no seven-seat option available on the plug-in hybrid P300e model.
The boot lip sits flush with the boot floor, making it easy to lug heavy items into the back of the Discovery Sport. In five-seat versions, or with the third row folded down in seven-seat versions, the boot is larger than that of many rivals but it's not the biggest – in our tests the Audi Q5, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Peugeot 5008 all fitted more carry-on suitcases (below their parcel shelf) than the Discovery Sport. Still, it could hold eight cases, which should be enough for most families’ needs. An electric tailgate is standard on SE trim and above.
On the downside, when all seven seats are in use there's room left over for only a few shopping bags, and there’s no under-floor storage, even to stow the tonneau cover (something you’ll need to do before using the sixth and seventh seats). We’d also point out that P300e plug-ins have a reduced boot capacity, by around one carry-on suitcase.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Discovery Sport is priced competitively against five-seat premium large SUV rivals such as the Audi Q5 and 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 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.
All versions with an automatic gearbox use mild-hybrid technology. In essence, there's a battery that can power the car’s ancillaries (the air conditioning, power steering and so on), allowing the engine to be switched off to save fuel when decelerating. Even with that tech, though, fuel economy is disappointing – the official fuel consumption of the D200 diesel is 41.2mpg, which is worse than most rivals, and in our real-world test the P200 petrol managed just over 25mpg. As a reference, the less-expensive hybrid Honda CR-V hit over 45mpg.
The P300e plug-in hybrid offers the best claimed fuel economy, and if you can make use of its electric range for commuting it'll be jolly cheap to run. It also has the lowest emissions by far, which makes it a tempting choice for company car users.
Find out what the fuel consumption of your car really is with our True MPG Calculator
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 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.
Discovery Sport Urban Edition contains a few exterior styling upgrades, including 20-inch alloys in place of the standard 18-inch wheels and a fixed panoramic glass roof, but also gets you the upgraded Pivi Pro infotainment system with sat-nav. R-Dynamic SE ups the stakes with upgraded LED headlights, an interactive digital driver’s readout and additional safety features. Going for R-Dynamic HSE adds keyless entry, full matrix LED headlights, upgraded leather and a Meridian sound system among other goodies, but the price is steep.
We wouldn't bother with the expensive Black trim that's available only with the P290 petrol engine.
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Reliability really isn’t a Land Rover strength. The British brand came bottom (out of 31 manufacturers) in the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey, with the Discovery Sport shown to be one of the least dependable cars in its class. The best include the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.
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 (class-leading) seven-year warranty respectively.
Safety and security
The Discovery Sport once set the standard for safety in this class and received the full five stars from Euro NCAP several years ago but it should be noted that the tests are far more stringent now
In terms of safety technology, automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane-keeping assistance are standard across the range. Traffic sign recognition, which displays the speed limit on the dashboard, is also standard on all but the entry-level trim, while blind-spot monitoring is fitted from R-Dynamic SE trim and up. The two outer second-row seats and the front passenger seat all have Isofix mounting points for child seats and booster cushions.
All models come with an alarm as standard and you can even add a GPS tracker to help to recover your Discovery Sport if it does get stolen.
The Discovery Sport came a poor 19th out of 21 large SUVs rated in the What Car? Reliability Survey. That mirrors disappointing results for Land Rover across the board: the brand came 29th out of 30 manufacturers rated in the survey, beating only Fiat. The Discovery Sport comes with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, plus UK and European roadside assistance. Read more here
The Discovery Sport is not available as a full electric car but there are mild-hybrid (MHEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions. The MHEV’s engine gets some electrical assistance for small efficiency gains, while the PHEV (1.5 P300e) has a 37-mile electric-only range, low emissions figures and potentially excellent efficiency if you keep the battery charged up. Read more here
Our pick of the Discovery Sport range is powered by the D200 diesel engine with mild-hybrid (MHEV) assistance, which combines enough power and torque with decent economy. We recommend pairing it with the Urban Edition trim level, which gets an upgraded Pivi Pro infotainment system with sat-nav, an electric tailgate, a panoramic glass roof and a camera-based rear-view mirror. Read more here
Most Discovery Sports get an infotainment system called Pivi Pro. It uses a 10.0in screen with sharp graphics that is quick to use, and comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. Entry-level models don’t get sat-nav and use a more basic infotainment system called Pivi. It’s still easy to use, but has fewer functions. Read more here
The Discovery Sport has a full five-star rating from safety experts Euro NCAP, although the testing regime has been toughened up since it was assessed, so it’s hard to directly compare it with newer rivals. Standard kit includes automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane-keeping assistance. Higher spec models get additional safety features including traffic-sign recognition. Read more here
With all seven seats in place, the Discovery Sport’s boot volume is a paltry 115 litres up to the roofline, but with the third row of seats folded down, that expands to 840 litres – enough space for eight carry-on suitcases. If you need even more space, you can fold down the middle row of seats too, to get a vast 1574-litre load bay. Note that the PHEV Discovery Sport has a slightly reduced boot capacity. Read more here
|RRP price range||£44,790 - £57,850|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, diesel, hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||181.1 - 42.7|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,102 / £3,957|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,204 / £7,914|