Driven : Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury (177bhp)

The Land Rover Discovery Sport‘s arrival in 2014 saw the end of the Freelander name – and, with it, a subtle re-positioning of its entry-level challenger in the SUV market. 

As an all-new challenger, the name change has been justified. But is it good enough to take market leadership? We try the Ingenium-engined HSE Luxury on a 1000-mile week to find out.

Land Rover Discovery Sport (1)

The Land Rover Discovery Sport was launched a little bit before it was ready. In 2014, the rounded Freelander replacement was lacking one very vital ingredient in its make-up – the all-new, Wolverhampton-built Ingenium four-cylinder engine. As such, the general consensus from magazine reviewers was that it was a good effort, let down a little by its off-the-pace power unit. In 2015, that was put right, as the new engine, which debuted in the Jaguar XE, made its way across to Land Rover.

Given this is our first sampling of the Discovery Sport, it seemed only fair to give it a fair crack of the whip with a 1000-mile week’s test. This would incorporate commuting, work, motorway driving and a fast dash to the other end of the country. As tests go, it’s a fair reflection of what today’s driver is going to put this car through. It came in HSE Luxury trim, with the 177bhp (180PS) version of the Ingenium engine, and being a press car, it’s generously optioned, too.

In terms of styling, it lacks the interior and exterior flourish of the Julian Thomson-penned Range Rover Evoque, and that’s intentional (just as the Discovery was never intended to step on the toes of the Range Rover when it was launched in 1989). Outside, it’s strangely anodyne, save for the interesting C-pillar design, but inside it’s chunky and cohesive.

The words ‘entry level’ seem odd to apply to a car that’s £43,000 in base form and £47,745 as tested – but it is generously equipped for the money. So, you get a leather interior, a panoramic glass roof, adaptive xenon headlights, keyless entry, heated rear seats and rear-view camera. How generously equipped is all about context – consider that the Lexus RX450h which followed this car through our hands was a mere £2500 more, and it’s significantly faster, better equipped and pretty much as economical in the real world. But then, that’s not a Land Rover, is it?

Here’s the crunch, though – the Discovery Sport is an appealing package, and not just on rational grounds. You can buy it in six-speed manual or nine-speed automatic form and, given the competence of the latter, we can’t see why you’d go for the former. As for the rest of its package, this is a mostly-new car – there are elements of the Range Rover Evoque forward of the B-posts, but it’s 8cm longer overall and comes with multi-link rear suspension that results in a flat floor which allows for the easy provision of a pair of additional optional fold away rear seats in the boot area.

Land Rover Discovery Sport (3)

First thing’s first, in town it’s a nice, easy car to drive, with light steering, good visibility and a myriad of cameras to help you through the tightest of spots when you’re lacking confidence. The test car rides on 20in alloys and that probably goes some way to explain why the low-speed ride can feel crashy, even if the damping is beyond reproach. There’s plenty of stowage space inside, there’s a heated steering wheel (yes, yes, but once you’ve had one, you can’t go back), slick integration with iPhone and Android and the driving position is commanding without being over-the-top lofty.

Get it out on to A-roads, and performance is excellent, given the combination of 1900kg kerb weight, four-pot turbodiesel and autobox. It lacks the pep of the similarly-engined Jaguar XE (as you’d expect), but it goes well enough not to raise complaint – and a 37mpg reading on the trip computer is acceptable enough, even if the fuel tank is too small to make it a truly long-distance effort for hardy non-stoppers.

As the miles pile on, the driver’s seat’s lack of comfort – it’s firm and well-contoured, but strangely unsupportive – does start to wear, but it’s all relative. As we head for the mountains, it’s hard not conclude that it’s another excellent result for the JLR chassis engineers. Despite its relative bulk, it has incisive handling, excellent steering weight and feel and bags of stability. This is perfect stuff for the motorway.

Of course, being a Land Rover, it should also be able to cut it off-road – and, given that it has Land Rover’s Terrain Response control, there are plenty of options to play with. We tried some limited green-laning while we had the Discovery Sport, which encompassed some impressively steep inclines – and the full-time four-wheel drive system with a Haldex centre coupling did its thing beautifully, never getting near to losing traction. We also tried the electronically-controlled Hill Descent Control (a Land Rover innovation), and it performed flawlessly.

That said, so it should. There’s no escaping the fact that this car is not great value for money. It’s expensive, and inside it does not feel that special, even if there are no obvious quality shortcomings. But it looks good, has class in spades and has that all-important feel good factor associated with it. There’s bags of dynamism in the way it drives – and, in our extended week-long test, it certainly had the ability to grow on us.

It’s not perfect, but it’s desirable – and, in the end, when you’re laying out your own money, that’s what really matters.

Land Rover Discovery Sport (2)

Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)


  1. The HSE Lux is far from the entry level. It’s only trumped in the line up by the Dynamic version which I don’t think is actually delivered to customers yet.

    How did you find the fuel consumption? I have an Ingrnium 180 Disco Sport and the fuel consumption is pretty disappointing. It’s made bearable by the fact it has a tiny fuel tank. The reason? It was redesigned to make space for the AdBlubtank. Not a problem in the original DS which came with the 2.2 Duratorq Ford/Pug lump and the petrol which despite my trying very hard JLR declined to supply to me here in the UK.

    The HSE has 19 inch wheels which to provide a good ride and it makes the car less ‘crashy’ on urban roads.

    Coming to this from a late model Freelander 2 HSE I tend to agree that the cabin – while perfectly fine – maybe isn’t up there with the best. ‘Luxurious but not precious’ is how I think someone described it. My FL2 did feel like a little L322 inside. The so-called Command Driving position has gone too.

    Other gripes with my car in HSE trim are the deselection of a few standard features. Gone: the heated steering wheel – now an option. Memory seats with easy entry and auto dip exterior mirrors. Again now a pay for option,

    I find the seats perfectly comfortable.

    What did you think of the rather clever second and third row seat configuration? By far the cars most impressive ‘trick’ in the real non-mud plugging world that most will be used in.

    The load space is great. An improvement in the Feelsnder 2 which was just too small. Slide the second row seats forward and you’ve got a load space that’s going to be about as good as a Range Rover Sport. Slide the row back, recline the back rest and you’ve got more legroom that you need l. I’m 5-9 and I did a 300 mile trip in the back of mine with no complaints.

    The third row seats are irrelevant to me, but I did try them. But if a squeeze for a fat bloke! If you have kids or if you are transporting a few mates a short distance then I can see that facility being useful. Is rather have not had them and had the space freed up as a Volvo 700 Estate style underfloor compartment.

    I’ve taken one – not mine – off road and it’s pretty impressive. No Defender or Range Rover but more than capable in most situations.

    I live the way the marketing people banged on about it having EPAS. Cool. Just like my 15 year old MGF – a car ahead of its time?

    Would I buy another one? Like a shot! I’m hoping JLR will either see sense and offer a petrol Ingenium motor in the UK or at least a more powerful diesel. 250 BHP would make this car about perfect.

    • I’m not even sure the Ingenium petrol engine is out yet; maybe when it is (finally) launched JLR will push petrol versions of their smaller vehicles more

  2. These are big money but then the German manufacturers press cars are similarly specified highly I guess but for over £40k you’d want the option of a 3 litre diesel surely? JLR need to plug the gap in the range between 180bhp diesels and the 3litre in both the XE, XF and disco sport.

    The F-Pace S is £51k basic so looks good value. Surely no one pays list price but then again with SUVs so popular maybe they do.

  3. The dash looks like that fitted to the XE ! It even has the circular know for gear selection, that presumably rises from below like the Jaguar. I suppose with the company called ‘Jaguar Land Rover’ we have to expect some common parts, but I for one, don’t like the XE interior all that much, it has no ‘Jaguarness’ about it and this Land Rover product shows it is true. The XE is ‘Jaguar-Land-Rover-ish’ !!

  4. Very interesting review.

    I did chuckle when I read the comment about how useful a heated steering wheel is. I’ve had one on one of my LR’s and hated it! Too easy to knock on by accident (and with a tiny warning light, the first you know about it is when you’ve got a hot steering wheel. Likely as not in August!) and the heating elements become visible in relief in the surface of the leather after around 20,000 miles.

  5. When JLR launched the Disco Sport a year before its proper engine was available, was it in homage to the Austin Maestro and its S series engine that also appeared a year after launch!

  6. Lovely car, no doubt, but have you seen the competition?

    If you look past the badge may I suggest the Kia Sorento? 194ps, Euro 6 engine, NO adblue, every bell and whistle you can want (including many you’ll never need), surprisingly good off road, seven seater.

    Oh, and they stand by it for seven years.

    Top spec, auto, yours for £41,500 sir.

    Auto Express tested every SUV in the UK last year. Sorento came second, after the Volvo XC90. But that’s not 41 grand.

    Badges are expensive, aren’t they? Look beyond them; otherwise it just encourages them!

    • Don’t get too hung up on the 47k “as tested” price – this car is a fully loaded Keith Adams special!

      The starting price of 31k is more relevant, and is slightly cheaper than the entry level X3 20d and Q5 2.0TDI. Have seen quite a lot of these on the road. They look better in the metal than in photos.

  7. Badges are expensive. For some – like me – it’s a price worth paying as I like JLR products. I also like that it is British designed and made. It’s not a main motivator, but it’s good to put a few quid into the pockets of some UK car workers.

    If I liked Nissan and if it Built something in the UK that compared to the DS, I’d have definitely looked at it especially as I could probably get a friends and family factory discount.

    I had a sniff around a Kia. A decent car no doubt and a pretty convincing argument if I was looking for a car to keep for seven years.. I just didn’t like it. The same went for Toyota and Mitsubishi. They just don’t do it for me.

    Having said that, I’d love to find an excuse to buy a Dacia Duster. Not posh in any way but good honest cheap no frills SUV motoring which you can treat in the same way you would a fridge or a dish washer and chuck away after 10 years knowing it’s not going to be worth nothing and that the depreciation pound for pound will be much less than other cars because they are so cheap to start with.

    I am biased. But the car designs coming out of Land Rover right now are pretty good and they’re holding their value rather well. I think that is down to long waiting lists. There’s just something about Land Rovers that I love, like MG.

  8. The Kia warranty has too many exclusions for my liking, none of which usually get mentioned. For instance, Kia is restricted to 100,000 miles during years 4 to 7. That’s around 3 year’s use for me.

    I’m also happy to pay a premium to drive a, locally designed and built, JLR product. It’s not just a matter of pride in having a successful local industry; it’ll be a sad day if every road, around the world, is virtually filled with the same generic German and Korean cars! Just like having a MuckDonalds, a Starbucks and a KFC on every high street and retail park – it’s a great shame when regional identity is lost 🙁

  9. To my eyes all Land Rover products just look right. They have style, heritage and are desireable. A KIA has none of those attributes. Add in the fact they are made in the UK and are getting more reliable what’s not to like? Yes, they are expensive compared with say 10 years ago but they are much better products today. So long as they hold their value everybody is a winner.
    As a thought, would the average Chinese middle class car buyer prefer a Land Rover or a Kia

  10. Well, look at the sales of JLR products vs Kia in China. They’re on the web, you’ll get your answer…

    Kia”s warranty is also on the web. Unlimited mileage for the first three years (and JLR’s is….) then 100,000 up to 7 years for the retail buyer presumably.

    Exclusions? Well, the battery is only warranted for two years (no, I don’t know either) and the a/c refrigerant isn’t included either. Other than that, just the usual caveats on servicing. None of this seems unreasonable to me.

    However, you pays your money. Some seem blinded by the badge to pay more for the privilege, that’sall im suggesting.

  11. And a restriction of 3 years (or 60,000 miles) for all audio and navigation equipment and the manufacturer “reserving the right” to use second hand (sorry, “remanufactured”) parts. And the best catch all exclusion of all?: “Gradual wearing of mechanical components due to mileage”, thus leaving it entirely up to them if they should pay for a, say, 65,000 mile old wheel bearing, shock absorber or even a torque converter.

  12. And this is different from JLR’s warranty how?

    No manufacturer will ever cover wear and tear items; warranties are for failures in design, manufacture or assembly. It never, not even JLR’s warranty, cover wear and tear or owner misuse or abuse.

    I’m not really after an argument. I’m really only suggesting that the Disco is a fine product but that we shouldn’t be badge-blinded to worthy products from elsewhere. After all, such competition is exactly what improves the breed.

  13. Interesting read and a good looking car. Like most current JLR products too expensive but I suppose if customers are queuing up to buy them it’s good for profits. If I was buying a car in this class it would be the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – petrol engine with electric motor and enough battery when fully charged to take the car 15 to 20 miles. Nice to drive, refined and low running costs providing you’re not doing long journeys.

    As this is an enthusiast oriented site where the readers mostly care about such things I’ll have to rate the write-up as “can do better” for not saying whether the car has a diesel or petrol engine.

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