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Car reviews - Land Rover - Discovery Sport - TD4 SE

Our Opinion

We like
Very capable, multi-use mini SUV with handsome looks and brand cache, confidence-inspiring off-road ability, voluminous load area
Room for improvement
Stock all-purpose tyres compromise feel and add noise on tarmac, claustrophobic third-row seating for adults

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Land Rover logo8 Apr 2015

By TIM ROBSON

LAND Rover’s little Freelander 2 has served the company well over the last eight years, but the Discovery Sport comes at an important juncture in the company’s long history.

A recent billion-dollar-plus injection of research and development capital from its parent company Tata Motors is a nod to the brand’s future – but it needs to bolster its bottom line.

The new Discovery Sport will slot into the line up at a higher price point than the old Freelander the base TD4 SE can be had in white and in manual for $53,300, where the Freelander kicked off at $42,300 with the same drivetrain.

Specs and prices are more even as you move through the spec levels, to the point where the Disco Sport SD4 HSE costs $63,600, which is $900 cheaper than its Freelander equivalent.

Its blood relative, the Range Rover Evoque, kicks off at $55,895 for a Pure-grade automatic five-door diesel, before rapidly jumping into the $70k region. All prices are before on-road costs are factored in.

The Discovery Sport and the Evoque are mechanically identical from the B-pillar forward, and there are definitely more than a few visual similarities in around the clamshell bonnet and grille line.

Overall, though, the Discovery Sport – designed by the man who also penned the Freelander 2, Gerry McGovern – cuts its own visual path, presenting as a subtly stylish, squared-off urban wagon with a relatively high roofline.

Doors are large and provide easy access to a spacious, airy cabin that looks much larger than it is. The driver and front passenger spaces are positively huge - it almost seems ludicrous to call it a compact SUV. Rear seat head and leg room is also excellent.

Where fitted, the third row seats are recommended for kids under 15, according to Land Rover, although adults can fit in at a pinch.

At 4599mm long on a wheelbase of 2741mm, 2069mm wide and 1724mm high, the Discovery Sport is 215mm longer than the class leading Audi Q3.

Controls are simple and logical for the driver some observers suggested that it’s a bit too sparse and simple, but in an age where ‘more equals better’ when it comes to switches, knobs, screens and buttons, the Disco’s single large touchscreen and minimalist approach to bits and bobs is a blessed relief.

Available as a five-plus-two seater with the fitment of an optional pair of third-row seats lifted straight from the Range Rover Sport, the Disco Sport’s second row slides forward and aft, also adding to the car’s practicality. Its tailgate is powered (and it’s fitted to all cars across the range) to reveal a space that’s vast, especially when the seats are dropped flat.

The clever all-new rear suspension set-up not only allows for the fitting of the third-row seats, but also means that there’s minimal intrusion into the cargo area. It’ll accept between 479-689 litres with the second-row seats slid forward, and 1698 litres with the seats down.

In a nod to real-world needs, the car features five USB charging points and a pair of 12-volt sockets spread over the three rows, as well as face-height vents and rubberised floor wells.

On the road, the Disco behaves commendably well for a rig that’s designed to handle some pretty rough off-road work, with good steering feel, good body-roll control and minimal pitch and dive. Its suspension tune maintains the sense of liveliness that verges on nervousness – a trait across the Jaguar-Land Rover empire, but the car is easy to drive everywhere.

The fifth-gen Haldex 4WD system does away with the need for a centre diff, and the retuned and highly capable Terrain Response System means the little Land Rover can clamber up, scrabble down and ford across terrain that – if we’re honest – most Discovery Sport owners won’t ever try.

If they do, they’ll find themselves being able to get into – and out of – some pretty impressive places. The recalibrated Hill Descent system and the multi-mode terrain system means the Disco does most of the work. Good approach and departure angles (and removable bumper parts!) means you can get quite silly with it.

To that end, the tyre spec of the Disco Sport is designed to allow a prospective owner to sample the car’s off-road ability in safety if so desired.

This means that the ride a bit noisier and harsher on the tarmac than it might be with a more road-oriented set of treads.

There’s also the option of an Active Driveline system, which replaces the Haldex system with one that allows the rear wheels to be decoupled completely under on-road cruising conditions, boosting fuel economy.

Our test of the SD4 SE diesel auto covers some familiar ground, but also reveals a few new tricks. The 140kW, 420Nm four-potter is mated with the ZF-sourced nine-speeder that’s shared with the Evoque, and it’s a good combination.

The ZF’s first ratio is geared very low for use during tough off-road work, so effectively it’s an eight-speed unit in most situations, but it combines perfectly with the torque-rich four-cylinder diesel. It can be left to its own devices, or controlled via steering wheel-mounted paddles.

The 1775kg (the optional third row adds another 95kg) SUV returns 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres in five-seat form, and 7.4 in seven-seat spec, says Land Rover.

Land Rover Australia claims that it is already holding 600 orders for the Discovery Sport sight unseen there aren’t even any demonstrators out in the 61-strong dealer network. When it goes on sale in May, there’s little doubt it’ll add a rich seam of steady sales to Land Rover’s portfolio not just in Australia, but around the world.

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