Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The cheapest and most economical Discovery Sport comes with a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine. It’s offered with a choice of two or four-wheel drive, but with no automatic gearbox or seven-seat option. Its price and running costs might tempt, but it feels sluggish so we’d upgrade to a TD4 with a far healthier 178bhp and the option of a nine-speed auto.
While the auto can prove a bit slow to respond off the line and during kickdown, with nine gears to the manual’s six it makes better use of the engine’s extra low and mid-range power. That makes for usable everyday performance, but it’s not quick and is certainly no match for an Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 or BMW X3 20d in straight-line pace. The punchier 237bhp SD4 will make sure you can keep up, but it’s pricier to both buy and run.
Finally, there are the two 2.0-litre petrols with 237bhp or 286bhp, both of which are only available in automatic form. While they might tempt those looking to avoid buying a diesel and do offer brisk performance, they are much thirstier than the TD4 and SD4s.
For those who plan to tow a caravan or trailer, the 178bhp and 237bhp diesel autos will pull 2.2 tonnes (2.5 tonnes for five-seat versions), while most other models are limited to 2.0 tonnes.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Discovery Sport deals with speed bumps well and rides smoothly at higher speeds, especially on the motorway. Clever adaptive dampers (referred to as Adaptive Dynamics) are available as an option, but there's really no need to bother spending the extra.
Things can get a touch bumpy around town, though. Expansion joints and worn surfaces unsettle the suspension a little – a problem that is exacerbated by fitting wheels larger than the 18in alloys that come as standard with SE and SE Tech trims. The 20in wheels are certainly best avoided.
For the best comfort in this class, we'd suggest looking at the Audi Q5 with optional air suspension fitted or, at the cheaper end of the spectrum, the Peugeot 5008 smoothes away bumps pretty well, too.
There is a fair amount of body lean when cornering in the Discovery Sport. As a result, it feels a bit sloppy along twisting, country roads compared with the Q5, X3 and Jaguar F-Pace. Fortunately, though, the Discovery Sport has plenty of grip, so it does actually hold the road well. And, with reassuringly precise steering, it gives you plenty of confidence and control.
All four-wheel-drive models come with Terrain Response: a system that allows the driver to select from a variety of drive modes tailored to different surfaces, such as grass, mud and sand. It means the Discovery Sport is better off road than just about anything else in this price bracket.
Noise and vibration
The 2.0-litre diesel engines are reasonably hushed at speed but far from the class best under acceleration; you'll feel some vibration through the controls and hear a degree of diesel clatter. For the slickest motors in the class, try the excellent Q5 2.0 TDI 190 or X3 20d.
Both the Q5 and X3 are considerably quieter than the Discovery Sport in other respects, too. Its door mirrors whip up a lot more wind noise on the motorway and there’s more road noise to contend with as well, although neither issue could be defined as unruly.
Meanwhile, the nine-speed automatic gearbox is so smooth that most shifts go unnoticed. It’s often hesitant when you’re pulling away from a standstill or onto roundabouts, though. The manual gearshift isn't bad, but the auto 'box is much better suited to the Discovery Sport’s laid-back driving character.
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