NOW regular readers of this column will know I am a bit of a Land Rover fan with three of the green oval models currently in the big boy’s toy box at Howarth Towers.
Over the years I have been testing new cars those lovely people at Jaguar Land Rover have supplied me with some fantastic vehicles to try out from bonkers 600bhp SVR Range Rovers to basic spec Defenders.
But one which has so far slipped under the radar for a longer-term test is the entry-level model to Land Rover ownership and their second best-selling SUV. I am, of course, talking about the Discovery Sport, which took over from the Freelander in 2014 as the most affordable new Land Rover.
Now JLR have given the model an update for 2021, adding new tech and features plus a new engine, safety kit and another trim level. They have also strengthened the platform to take electric drivetrains.
The new engine is a 290hp mild-hybrid petrol engine for range-topping Black Edition cars while existing 163hp and 204hp diesel engines have also been given the mild-hybrid treatment to improve economy. The battery powers ancillaries like air conditioning and power steering so the engine can switch off during deceleration to save fuel.
Our test car was the base spec ‘Core’ edition which is from £36,765 on the road and it had one of these MHEV set ups. While it cannot be driven on electric power alone the system does boost MPG figures and during a week of very mixed driving I managed around 40mpg – not bad for what is a family-sized SUV.
And speaking of family the Disco Sport’s USP is that it can transport seven adults in relative comfort (but make sure the smallest go in the third row seats). This is something most of its rivals cannot offer and you have to move up to Large SUVs (with much larger price tags) to find this feature in other premium brand products.
Talking about the charges for 2021 the updated Sport’s interior has a new 10-inch touchscreen display which can receive over-the-air software updates and can connect two smartphones to the infotainment system at the same time. New safety features have also been added including a rear traffic monitoring system in the plusher, more practical interior.
The final engine option is the plug in hybrid P300e which has a 1.5-litre petrol engine that drives the front wheels and an electric motor for the rear pair and means up to 38 miles on electricity alone and a combined output of 305bhp, which gives a 0-62mph time of just 6.6 seconds.
But this is a Land Rover – so that is what you expect it to do best and while I did not manage any mud plugging our four-wheel-drive version will be excellent when the going gets tough with Land Rover’s terrain response system and off-road driving mode selector giving that go anywhere confidence.
All Discovery Sports come with front and rear parking sensors plus a surround-view camera as standard. LED headlights are also standard across the range but our base spec car did not have sat-nav or adaptive cruise control – however the former is rapidly becoming redundant thanks to smart phone connectivity and route finding apps such as Google Maps and Waze.
There’s plenty of leg room and head room is among the best in its class – even if you add the optional panoramic glass roof our car came with (£1,150).
All versions have Land Rover’s excellent automatic gearbox and our lower power 163bhp 2-litre diesel engine still felt brisk with 0 to 60 coming up in a very respectable 9.8 seconds and a top speed of 112mph.
Standard equipment across the range also includes dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, alloy wheels, ambient interior lighting, heated windscreen, and those off-road modes with Terrain Response, hill descent control, traction assist and infotainment, visibility and safety aids including auto emergency braking and lane keeping assist.
Most test cars I get are range topping versions loaded with extras but fair play to JLR who are confident enough about the new Sport to send a base spec vehicle which proved to be a great, comfortable drive and was practical and relatively economical.
By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth