2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE TD4 – $64,635
(3.5 / 5)
When was the last time you went to buy a washing machine? It’s a lot harder than you think.
Not because there are a huge amount of brands to choose from, but because every model does what it says on the tin – washes clothes.
If it does one job, why are there are thousands of buttons, fifty programs and a huge array of spin cycles?
Honestly, how many people use every single function on their washing machine? It used to be simple – chuck in the detergent, pull the knob and let it do its thing.
Now, you need to read the owner’s manual to work out what’s going on.
SUVs are the same. Do buyers actually use their machine’s full capability?
People joke about some of these machines not being able to hop kerbs, which is why the SUV tag is a bit of misnomer sometimes.
If you’re going to be making use of the raised ride height, the all-wheel-drive and the expertly calibrated traction control, then more power to you.
If not, why on earth buy an SUV in the first place?
Take the Land Rover Discovery Sport, for example. While most SUVs are pretenders, this one does so much more than you expect.
Here’s the deal
It’s Land Rover’s “entry level” machine, but those words don’t exactly apply to the price.
The Disco Sport may start at $56,595 for a diesel, but on test is the HSE, which jumps to $64,635 plus on roads.
However, it doesn’t stop there. In typical Land Rover fashion, there are plenty of boxes to tick, and our test car has plenty of them ticked.
Do you really need this many options?
Our test car was the higher specced diesel of the two TD4s (with 132kW and 430Nm) – there’s an even higher powered SD4 model – but then you add Dynamic pack ($7830), Entertainment Pack ($3850), Third Row Pack ($3400), Adaptive Dynamics ($1910), Fixed Panoramic Roof ($1850), Head Up Display ($1550), Blind Spot Monitor and Reverse Traffic Detection ($1180), Contrast Roof ($950), Illuminated Tread Plates ($790), Privacy Glass ($620), InControl Apps ($550), and Ebony Headlining ($470), now breathe.
You end up with a final tally of a ridiculous $89,585. On yes, then you add on road costs.
Is it really worth $90,000?
In a word, no. But step back for a second, forget the top model and if you look at it in its base form, it’s far more compelling.
And especially, because of what it can do.
But first, it’s worth taking a walk around to take in the design.
It’s not the best looking Land Rover out there, but it’s far from ugly.
The typical notched liners feature on the wheel-arches, and with the Black highlights on the bonnet and tailgate it certainly fits the name “Sport”.
The interior is an issue
Inside, the Discovery Sport starts to show its weakness, especially given the price, regardless of the trim level.
With cars like the superbly finished Audi Q5 on offer for a lot less cash, the quality of the Disco Sport leaves a lot to be desired.
The plastics are very cheap in places, sounding hollow, not quite lining up around the screen, for example.
The centre stack looks cheap for a MY18 car, and the steering wheel buttons need a hard press to make them activate, unlike the lighter, more positive actions of competitors.
Thankfully the seats are well padded and well bolstered, and the long-distance comfort is good.
Helping here is the heated and cooled leather seating; the climate control works well, too, as you’d expect.
The space is quite good, and the second row can slide fore and aft, which is especially handy for accessing and sitting in optional the third row.
But any notion of adults being able to fit in there is dismissed after one attempt.
Getting in isn’t the problem, it’s staying there.
The headroom for anyone over the age of 14 is non-existent, while kneeroom is probably fine if the second row is slid as far forward as possible, but then no-one will be able to use that bench at all.
So, if you’re buying the Disco Sport for its third row, be aware that it’s kid territory only.
Those last two seats also chew up a bit of boot space, however with them stowed, it’s perfectly practical.
Let’s get it on the road
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbodiesel Ingenium engine, which makes 132kW and 380Nm, which is enough to propel it to 100kmh in just over nine seconds.
Check the spec sheets and peak torque comes in at 1750rpm, but it feels punchy even below that.
The Ingenium engine is smooth, quiet and economical (5.3L/100km on the combined cycle), but it’s the gearbox that lets it down.
The ZF-sourced nine-speed auto snatches and jerks in some driving conditions, but smooth as cream in others.
First to second is clunky, while second to third is perfect -go figure.
The auto can be very indecisive, hanging onto gears when cruising and not changing down when you need to overtake.
If it was consistent, things would be a lot easier. Why Land Rover persists with it, instead of using the brilliant eight-speed is beyond us.
What about how it handles?
Well, in most respects it’s just like every other SUV around, because the steering is reasonably sharp, well weighted and feels pretty good.
The ride is a bit firm (the Dynamic pack is the cause), especially as it runs on 20-inch wheels, but this and the adaptive damping helps the handling, which would ordinarily be, well, ordinary.
As it is, though, it holds its line quite well, just not feeling as well sorted as the Evoque with which it shares its platform.
But here’s the thing: it needs the larger wheels and dynamic package to bring it up to the level of other SUVs which are biased toward on-road performance.
As standard, the Discovery Sport is perfectly balanced between on-road and off-road driving.
So here’s where the Disco gets better
You can happily take the Disco Sport just about anywhere, and it will take it.
Its approach, departure and ramp over angles have been optimised so that if you feel like a bit of bush bashing, you don’t have to worry.
And even with the larger wheels and dynamic additions, those angles don’t change. The only thing you’ll have to stress over is scratching the big wheels.
It’s as easy as pressing a button to activate various off-road programs, which alter traction and stability control operation, and lock up the differential to ensure maximum traction.
If you don’t believe me, just look up Discovery Sport at Eastnor Castle and it will change your mind.
Is it worth buying?
Like a washing machine with a billion settings, it’s doubtful that people will use this car to its fullest potential.
Which is a shame, because you’re paying for something you won’t use. You’d be better off spending less and getting a higher quality product.
But if you’re the adventurous type, then the Discovery Sport is definitely a vehicle to look at closely.
Just don’t start ticking too many options – you’ll pay for it…literally.
Land Rover Discovery Sport Specifications
2.0 litre diesel turbo four-cylinder
132kw @ 4,000rpm / 320Nm @ 1,75rpm
Nine speed automatic transmission
Terrain Select all-wheel-drive
0-100km/h – 9.3 seconds
Fuel consumption (listed): 5.3 l/100km
Can you take the Land Rover Discovery Sport off-road
Yes – definitely, yes. It’s a Land Rover, so that should be your first clue. Get the lower specced models and go nuts – the higher specced versions are a bit too pretty to scratch.