Car reviews - Land Rover - Discovery Sport - Si4 SE
Land Rover models
Style, large and flexible cabin, car-like handling and performance, great in the dirt
Room for improvement
Extra two seats are an expensive option, big turning circle, touchscreen is complex
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29 Jan 2016
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
This single-model petrol Discovery Sport sits at the lower end of the range, immediately making it an attractive option against its diesel siblings.
At $59,000 plus on-road costs, the Si4 SE is equivalent in price and specifications to the SD4 SE diesel and a hefty $10,000 cheaper than the flagship D4 HSE Luxury tested here recently.
It’s also a bit cheaper than the more trendy and bitumen-oriented Evoque that, with the same engine, will ask $67,605 plus costs in its Si4 SE version with four doors.
The difference is that the Evoque aims at a parallel audience compared with the Discovery Sport, even though they share drivetrains and a competent on and off-road character.
The Discovery Sport also has the ability to seat seven people, though there are two things you should be aware of: The extra seats are small and only for children.
Secondly, you have to pay for them. They cost $1990 plus you’ll need the airvents (add $1150) for the air-conditioner. You also have to ditch the full-size spare wheel and take the space-saver.
The trick is not to buy this vehicle because it offers seven seats. Others, including the latest ute-based off-roaders such as the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest, are perhaps better choices for adventurous families.
Other options include the neat black roof ($920), panoramic sunroof ($1800), heated front seats ($620) and metallic paint ($1300). It quickly adds up.
Though it wears the Discovery name and so lends itself to the same family as Land Rover’s capable mid-sizer, the Discovery Sport is more akin to the Range Rover.
It aims its attention to buyers wanting prestige, comfort and space and lives in a zone where off-road ability may not be as important for a buyer as having a good-looking and versatile wagon that is comfortable in the suburbs.
Standard kit in the SE includes a strong safety equipment list, leather upholstery, a second seat row that slides and reclines, satellite navigation on an 8.0-inch touchscreen that includes a connectivity suite, an electric tailgate, 18-inch alloy wheels and a 10-speaker audio with digital radio.
If the outside is attention grabbing, then the interior is just as alluring.
Like the Range Rover, it uses premium materials and good fit to make its mark.
There’s a blend of the luxury with the functional, notably the sill-topped buttons for the electric windows that mirror the Range Rover and – legal issues aside – provide a comfortable armrest for the long-distance driver.
There is adequate space for up to five adults and, in the rear, two children.
The second row slides to offer more room for the third-row occupants but never gets to the point of tempting adults.
This centre seat also reclines, a point on test that appeased the youngest family member who needed a snooze.
If required, the third row folds flat into the floor.
Appreciated are the electric tailgate and the wide boot opening. Though the Disco Sport looks smaller than its rivals, it actually has a bigger boot. It measures 981 litres when the third row is folded down and 1968 litres when the second row is down. This compares with the BMW X3, for example, at 550 litres with all seats up and 1600 litres with the second row folded.
Like the general cabin design, the dash recreates the Range Rover’s simple style.
It all works beautifully and there’s sufficient toys to play with, though the touchscreen is slow to react and has some unnecessary extra commands that makes it more complex to use, especially for the driver.
Nice points are the twist gearshifter that the wagon shares with Jaguar the electric park brake the four-mode Terrain Response system that dials in the optimum drivetrain parameters excellent storage and the seven USB points.
Engine and transmission
The sole petrol Disco Sport picks up the Ford 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbocharged engine that has seen duty in a range of vehicles around the world, even including the Ford Falcon.
It is a sprightly, quick and – when driven conservatively – fuel efficient engine that is generally quiet and smooth.
It is better in terms of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) than its diesel-engined siblings and that impacts well on occupants. As a petrol, it also means it’s easier to refill at the service station.
Diesels tend to draw their fuel from the grottiest corner of the forecourt and often leave the refueller smelling like an oil refinery and trailing shoe prints of oil through the cashier point and back into the car. It’s something they don’t tell you in the diesel-car brochures.
The engine pumps 177kW at a relatively low 5500rpm thanks to the turbocharger, and has 340Nm of torque at 3200rpm, perhaps a bit on the high side in comparison with some latter turbocharged petrol engines.
But it claims a respectable 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres and came close on the test with 9.2L/100km.
The Ford petrol engine will give way to Jaguar Land Rover’s 2.0-litre Ingenium engine this year.
The big news is the mating of this engine to the ZF nine-speed automatic and then through a constant four-wheel drive platform.
This is the second application of the nine-speed automatic – it’s also used in the Jeep Cherokee – and it performs well by spreading out the ratios for seamless acceleration.
It also allows the first gear to be reduced to a crawler status which suits the Disco Sport’s off-road ability, while on the other end of the gearbox, create a tall overdrive ratio for low-fuel consumption touring.
Ride and handling
The Discovery Sport model sits on a modified Freelander/Evoque platform with a stretched wheelbase designed to boost cabin space and create a smoother ride.
The wagon also has a new multi-link rear suspension, replacing the strut design of its Freelander predecessor. The Evoque will this year get the Disco Sport’s rear suspension layout.
Handling is predictable and flat with excellent wheel control through the corners.
The petrol-engined model benefits by being more responsive than the diesel, especially when driven with some purpose, and works glove-in-hand with this suspension.
If there is a downside it’s the overly large 11.6m turning circle.
Safety and servicing
The Discovery Sport has a five-star crash rating by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and the European equivalent.
Standard equipment ion the Si4 SE is seven airbags plus a bonnet-mounted pedestrian airbag, front and rear park sensors, a reverse camera, lane-departure warning, hill descent control, heated and folding mirrors and a collision mitigation system that works between 5km/h and 80km/h.
Electronic brake aids include stability and traction control, one to minimise trailer sway and another for hill descent.
Land Rover has a three-year or 100,000km warranty with roadside assistance. The service intervals are 12 months.
There is no capped-price service program or any pre-paid or menu-based programs and is the only major manufacturer without such a program, though Citroen doesn’t yet cover all of its models.
Glass’s Guide estimates that the Discovery Sport will retain 61 per cent of its purchase price after three years.
The Discovery Sport is one of the better mid-size SUVs on the market, though it draws criticism by advertising it as a seven seater and then charging for the privilege.
The petrol engine shouldn’t be dismissed as it is smooth, quiet, reasonably economical and makes life less of a hassle at refueling time.
BMW X3 xDrive 20i from $61,100 plus on-road costs
The X3 has recently been upgraded with more exterior and cabin trim detail without any price rise. The five-seat wagon has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol with features include sat-nav, front and rear park sensors with a reverse camera, bi-xenon headlights with auto-dip, leather-look upholstery and 18-inch alloys with run-flat tyres.
Audi Q5 2.0TFSI from $63,210 plus on-road costs
This popular mid-size SUV isn’t the cheapest but caries a lot of class and a reputation for excellent build quality. Like the BMW, it is a five-seat wagon and has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine. Features include sat-nav, leather-mix upholstery, bi-xenon headlights with washers, eight airbags, electric tailgate and front-rear parking sensors.
Volvo XC60 T6 Luxury from $72,600 plus on-road costs
Volvo sets the standard with its safety equipment, including the autonomous collision avoidance technology called City Safety. It also has six airbags, built-in child booster seats, front and rear park sensors, reverse camera, LED daytime running lights and headlight washers. It is also the most powerful here, with a 3.0-litre turbo-petrol engine. But it’s more expensive than its peers.
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