Land Rover only builds SUVs. Not cars or motorbikes, too and not guitars or lawn movers on the side. There’s something comforting about that fact, in the same way it’s reassuring to know the new mattress you’ve just bought is made by a company that just concentrates on crafting things to sleep on and not dabbling in pet food, as well.
Land Rover’s line-up is simple: there’s the Range Rover (the big fat one), Range Rover Sport (the big quick one), Range Rover Evoque (the Victoria Beckham one), Discovery (the one which was really boxy but isn’t as much now), the Discovery Sport (a mini Discovery) and the Defender (looks like it's from 1953).
The updated Discovery Sport came out mid-way through 2016 and we’ve tested the Si4 SE variant which is the base grade with a petrol engine.
So does it pay to buy an SUV from a company that only does SUVs? Is the Land Rover Discovery Sport any more special, capable or better than rivals such as a BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC? What makes it different from a Discovery?
Like mattresses Land Rovers all look very similar, but also like mattresses they’re definitely not all the same.
The Discovery Sport looks nothing like the current Discovery because when it was introduced in 2015 it was the first in the family to adopt the Discovery Vision Concept’s styling. The new Discovery arrives in July next year and will have a very similar look, although a glance at the dimensions of the Discovery Sport show it to be a lot smaller.
At 4590mm end to end the Discovery Sport is 380mm shorter than its bigger brother with 182mm less in the wheelbase, too at 2741mm.
Compared to its rivals the Discovery Sport is 66mm shorter than Benz’s GLC, and 39mm shorter than Audi’s Q5.
The Benz, BMW and Audi are prettier, but the Discovery Sport is unmistakably a Land Rover and the brand’s bold and beefy looks are instantly recognisable and command respect.
"The Terrain Response system really separates the Discovery Sport from the Germans"
The Discovery Sport Si4 SE’s cabin is refined and has a high quality fit and feel, but the interior isn’t what you’d call luxurious. That’s partly to do with it being the base spec and also because this model is at the more affordable end of the entire Land Rover range.
What the Discovery Sport lacks in prettiness compared to its rivals it makes up for in practicality – in a big way.
First space. Even though the Discovery Sport has a wheelbase that’s 132mm shorter than the Benz, 89mm shorter than the Beemer and 66mm shorter than the Audi, legroom in the second row is excellent. I’m 191cm and I can sit behind my driving position with a hand’s width of space between my knees and the seat back.
It gets better, the Discovery Sport can be optioned as a seven seater as was the case in our test car. A flat folding third row lifts out of the boot floor and thanks to a sliding second seat I can sit in both rows with knee clearance. Sure, it’s really only 5 + 2 seating with those back seats best suited to kids or shorter trips for full-sized humans, but none of the German rivals offer seven seats as an option.
Storage throughout is excellent. With the second row in place and the third row folded the seven seater has the same luggage capacity as the five-seater Discovery Sport - 829 litres. There are large pockets in all doors which will take two big bottles each, plus two cup holders in the third row, two in the fold down centre armrest, along with more storage space in the second, and another two up front. One of them is removable to free up more space. Under the centre console armrest is a deep storage bin, a generous glovebox, plus a hidey hole for your bits and pieces in front of the gear shifter.
Power sources are everywhere with 12V and 5V outlets in the third row, two 5V and one 12V in the second row plus a 12V and a couple 5 volts up front, plus USB ports.
Price and features
The Discovery Sport Si4 SE costs $59,990; well that’s the list price. Only the diesel version is less expensive at $55,800 in a range which tops out at $72,740.
The equivalent, BMW X3 goes for $61,100, the Audi Q5 is $63,996 but the Benz GLC 250 trumps them all at $67,900.
The optional Row three pack, as fitted to our test car, costs $3300 and is well worth the getting. Probably not as necessary is the $1800 panoramic roof which looks beautiful, but turns the SUV into a mobile greenhouse under the Australian sun – although it features an excellent opaque shade cover.
Our test car also ticked a box for the $3400 Black Pack which brings 19-inch split spoke alloys and a black roof. There’s the head-up display pack for $1500, although the clarity of the display isn’t as clear as some of its rivals, and $600 for privacy glass which is good for reducing the sun on the kids in the back.
All up the options on our SUV brought the total to $77,880. Still not a great deal of money in luxury SUV terms.
Standard features include an 8.0-inch screen with sat nav, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, 10-speaker sound system, leather upholstery and power adjustable front seats.
There are 16 paint colours ranging from Indus Silver and Aintree Green to Phoenix Orange and Carpathian Grey, but only Fuji White comes for free.
Engine and transmission
Inside that big nose is a small engine with an impressive output. It’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol that produces 177kW of power and a very decent 340Nm of torque. The automatic transmission is a nine-speed – yup, nine-speed.
Our test vehicle was optioned with the $3300 Intelligent Dynamic Pack which incorporates and Active Driveline system which switches between two- and four-wheel drive when it detects wheel slippage and the need for better traction. The pack also comes with the All Terrain Progress Control function with four settings: General, Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud and Ruts and Sand.
Braked towing capacity is 2000kg.
Land Rover says that the Si4 SE petrol will consume 8.0L/100km under combined driving conditions. I managed to double that, but truth be told I’m a lead foot and spent most of my time in it ducking and weaving through city traffic.
It was the ultimate test... for the Discovery Sport, but especially for me. My wife was going overseas on a work trip for 11 days and I’d be flying solo with my two-year-old son. That meant 10 day care drop-offs and pick-ups and two weekends of trips to the park, to the grandparent’s, to the supermarket and to get him to sleep. It was as much a threat to my sanity as it was to my lower back.
The week before, I’d tested an Alfa Romeo Giulietta, which despite being cuter than a basket of bunnies isn’t the most practical. Knowing the Disco Sport would be my rolling childcare centre alleviated some anxiety.
We made it through, just.
Those wide opening tall doors made getting the boy in and out of his car seat straightforward and easy on the back. The ride height meant his car seat was at the same level I carry him. The ‘one-touch’ proximity unlocking isn’t the most seamless, but when you have a kid in one arm, his backpack, plus shopping in the other, being able to touch the handle with a pinky and opening all the doors is a god send. So is the auto tailgate but it doesn’t open high enough. Well, it does, it’s just that the plastic interior trim on it is bulky and hangs lower and I kept bashing my head on it until I learnt not to.
Big windows with low sills make for excellent visibility for driving and also for kids in the back who don’t have to stare at a door the entire time.
I had trouble finding the ‘Sport’ in Discovery Sport. The Si4 SE’s four-cylinder petrol engine does have an impressive output, but it needs to haul close to two tonnes, sure the 0-100km/h time of 8.2 seconds isn’t dawdling, but it’s not going to win many drag races.
By coincidence the Alfa Romeo Giulietta has a turbo-four with exactly the same output and can hit 100km/h in six seconds, but it weighs about 600kg less.
On smooth tarmac our Discovery Sport’s ride was comfortable and composed, but on less-than-perfect roads things became a bit more ‘brittle’ and harsh. Those optional 19-inch wheels and the 235/55 Continental tyres seemed to feel every crack in the road. It’s no biggie, but after doing laps of the neighbourhood to try to get your little bloke to fall asleep, a pothole approaching just as he’s nodding off made my eyes grow wide with terror.
Grip though from those tyres was good, and so was the junior Disco's handling; especially impressive for something with these proportions.
The 212mm of ground clearance and 600mm wading depth, along with the Terrain Response system really separates the Discovery Sport from the Germans. While all of them will and should remain firmly on the road the Disco Sport can go much further afield.
The Discovery Sport has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but you should know the curtain airbags do not cover the third row. It does have great advanced technology such as auto emergency braking and lane departure warning.
You’ll find two top tether and two ISOFIX points in the second row, but not mounts for child seats in the third.
The Discovery is built in the United Kingdom at Land Rover’s Halewood assembly plant in Liverpool, alongside the Range Rover Evoque.
The Park Assist auto parking function is not a standard feature, but can be added as part of an optional pack.
The Discovery Sport is covered by Land Rover’s three-year/100,00km warranty. Land Rover recommends servicing at 16,000km or annual intervals. A service plan is available for the Discovery Sport which caps the price at $1460 (in total) for six years.
The Discovery Sport hasn’t been around long enough for us to highlight any potential reliability issues.
Verdict: Prestige meets practical. It might not be as dynamically adept as some of its rivals but the Discovery Sport is an excellent all rounder when it comes to off-road, and on-road (child care) duties.
This article originally appeared on CarsGuide.