by Danny Shin
Considering how congested the compact premium SUV market is, the fact the Land Rover Discovery Sport is amongst the better examples in this class is testament to how strong it is overall. Whereas the LR2 it replaces was a bit rough around the edges, the Discovery Sport fits the premium car bill with a plush interior, good noise insulation levels, impressive practicality and a comfortable ride. Better still, the premium push hasn't impacted the Discovery Sport's off-road credentials. Only the sub-par fuel economy tarnishes what is an otherwise impressive offering.
'Well-made, lots of space and one of the biggest trunks in the class'
Though not quite the plushest cabin in this class, the Land Rover Discovery Sport's interior is (bar a few cheap plastics further down) a well-built, high-quality and appropriately premium-feeling cabin. Controls are also easy to use, with the large touchscreen display in particular being very intuitive to operate. Overall space is very impressive by class standards, with the head and leg-room on offer and trunk space (32.7 cubic feet with the rear seat back up; 60 cubic feet with the seat backs folded away) comparing favourably with less cavernous five-seater competitors. A second-row of seats that can fold away completely flat into the trunk floor is available as an option, though it's worth pointing out that their limited size means the two extra seats are only suitable for children.
'Not the most comfortable car in the class, but still pleasant to use day-to-day'
Though the ride is on the firm side (especially on models with larger wheel options fitted), the Land Rover Discovery Sport does a good job at isolating occupants from harsher road surface imperfections. Noise insulation levels are very good too, which in conjunction with the aforementioned ride quality makes the Discovery Sport very well suited to longer highway journeys. Plus, steering response is good, as is the overall visibility - though it's worth pointing out the thick rear pillars do impede the view out back somewhat. Also, being a Land Rover, the Discovery Sport is also pretty impressive by class standards as an off-roader. However, since most premium SUV buyers will spend a vast majority of their driving time on paved road surfaces, this perk is of limited value to the Land Rover Discovery Sport's target audience.
'Gets the job done, but not very frugal or punchy by segment standards'
Though underpowered in comparison with similar engines in rival cars, the Land Rover Discovery Sport's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine is still torquey enough to deal with most load-lugging and towing demands. Likewise, the nine-speed automatic transmission can be unresponsive in fully automatic mode, but does change gears smoothly and quickly. It's the fuel economy, though, that's the hardest powertrain aspect to stomach: with claims of 20mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway, the Land Rover Discovery Sport is comfortably one of the least frugal vehicles in this class.
'Well-equipped for the money, and should be very safe'
Equipment levels on the Land Rover Discovery Sport are fairly good, with even the $37,695 'SE' base car coming with permanent all-wheel drive, power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control and a crisp 8.4-inch touchscreen setup. For reference, the mid-range $42,195 'HSE' adds full leather upholstery and a panoramic sunroof to the spec sheet, with range-topping $46,595 'HSE Luxury' models coming with built-in navigation and a premium sound system. Lots of safety equipment is available across the range too - all models come with parking sensors and front, side, curtain and front knee airbags, with autonomous braking and blind spot monitoring available as options on all trims bar the entry-level SE spec.
With a combination of a comfortable ride, competitive interior space and good value for money, the Land Rover Discovery Sport is definitely a vehicle that premium five-seater SUV buyers should consider. Only below-par fuel economy and a slightly underpowered engine hold the car back from being close to topping the class.