You hesitate to think of where Land Rover might be now without the Discovery Sport. It's one of the key models that's kept JLR going over the last five years and in the current climate, this car needs to pull its weight in the showroom more than ever. Which is a big ask, given that since the original launch in 2014, direct rivals like Volkswagen's Tiguan Allspace, Peugeot's 5008, SEAT's Tarraco and a new more up-market version of Hyundai's Santa Fe have all arrived to deliver an alternative to what the Discovery Sport can offer.
So Land Rover has set out to take the lead once more in this class, primarily with a fresh range of electrified engines. But also with a smarter cabin, extra technology and stronger standards of safety.
This car might look the same but under the skin, it's actually a lot different thanks to the adoption of what Land Rover calls 'Premium Transverse Architecture'. This not only makes the body stronger and safer but has also allowed the brand to fit a sophisticated range of 'MHEV' mild hybrid engines, plus there's now a Plug-in hybrid option too. Basically, the same powerplant options already offered in the Range Rover Evoque. These 48-volt units use energy recouped during braking to reduce load on the powerplant under acceleration, while letting the engine cut out from deceleration below 11mph and give near-instantaneous restarts as needed.
All models now feature the MHEV tech and have to have AWD and an automatic gearbox. There are D165 and D200 diesel options, the figures designating the hp output. And there are three conventional petrol options, the P200, the P250 and the P290. There's also a Plug-in P300e PHEV variant, which pairs an electric motor with a three cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine and offers a 38-mile WLTP-rated electric driving range. Whatever engine suits, you'll find this car's class-leading towing and off road ability as good as ever. It can tow up to 2.5-tonnes. And 'off piste' prowess is enhanced thanks to an improved 'Terrain Response 2' system that automatically detects the surface you're driving over and adjusts torque delivery to best suit the conditions.
Design and Build
At first glance, this improved Discovery Sport looks little different to the original model. If you take a second look though and you happen to be familiar with this car, the changes will become more obvious. Trademark Discovery design cues, including the clamshell bonnet, rising beltline and tapered roof remain, but the detail features have changed. For instance, there are re-styled signature LED headlamps at the front and rear, alongside an updated front grille and bumpers.
Inside, the standardisation of Land Rover's latest 'Pivi' and 'Pivi Pro' infotainment system makes a big difference. There are more intuitive menus and online media services include Spotify integrated directly within the infotainment menu for the first time. Plus there's Bluetooth connectivity for two phones at once, along with wireless charging and a signal-boosting option. A dual-modem embedded SIM allows over-the-air software updates too. The inclusion of more premium materials throughout also helps with the more premium feel and there's a new Cabin Air Filtration system. All the seats have been completely re-designed for improved comfort and versatility. And the second row bench gets 40:20:40 split fold and slide functionality, enabling a more flexible seating arrangement with up to 24 possible combinations. The brand says there's more luggage space too; with all the seats folded, there's now 1,794-litres of capacity. That's up from 1,698-litres previously. As before, the third row seats are strictly for small children only. But we like the way that the second row bench has been raised 5cms higher than the front chairs to give occupants a better view out.
Market and Model
Discovery Sport pricing now starts from around £37,000, which is quite a lot, but at least the entry level figure (for the base D165 diesel variant) now gets you a car with the three things that most Disco Sport customers want, namely seven seats, automatic transmission and AWD. Add a premium of nearly £3,000 to that if you want the mid-range D200 diesel. The P200 petrol model starts at around £37,000; you'll need around £4,400 more for the mid-range P250 and nearly £50,000 for the top P290 model, which comes only in sporty-looking 'SportBlack' trim.
Various trim levels are offered across the line-up - base 'Discovery Sport', then 'S', 'SE' and 'HSE', plus there are various 'R-Dynamic' options if you want something that looks a bit sportier. You have to have 'R-Dynamic'-spec if you want the P300e PHEV Plug-in hybrid version which is priced from around £47,000.
Various nice touches have been added to the range for you to specify. We'd take a look at the brand's 'Ground View' technology. This uses camera imagery that offers a virtual 180-degree view beneath the vehicle, projected on to the centre-dash touchscreen. You can also now add in a wireless 'phone charger and create a 4G WiFi hotspot.
Cost of Ownership
Let's get to the WLTP figures. The D165 diesel MHEV 48V mild hybrid variant that most buyers will choose manages a WLTP-rated combined cycle fuel return of just under 50mpg and a CO2 reading from 180g/km. The D200 MHEV version manages around 40mpg and from 181g/km.
As mentioned elsewhere in this report, the conventional petrol units benefit from MHEV too and that makes them a far more credible option when it comes to running costs than would previously have been the case. The P200 variant manages up to 30.3mpg on the combined cycle and 213g/km of CO2 emissions. While the P250 manages up to 29.9mpg and 215g/km. The P290 manages 217g/km. The P300e PHEV plug-in version manages between 36-44g/km of CO2, up to 175.5mpg on the combined cycle and a 38 mile all-electric driving range. That emissions figure means a notably low Benefit-in-Kind taxation rating.
With all the conventional AWD petrol and diesel models, a more sophisticated 'Active Driveline' system ensures that you spend more time in efficient two wheel drive when extra traction isn't needed. Residuals should be reasonably strong; certainly better than the volume brand alternatives in this segment.