The phrase ‘seven-seater’ isn’t exactly one that fills anyone with rampant enthusiasm.
Cars that are designed to haul large numbers of people tend to prize practicality over fun factor, behind-the-wheel feel or kerbside appeal.
But if there’s a brand that’s capable of adding a bit more intrigue to the category, it’s Land Rover.
With its premium leanings, off-road credentials and history of turning out SUVs with oodles of emotional appeal, I felt more eager than usual at the prospect of a week in the seven-seater 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport R-Dynamic SE D180.
How much is the Land Rover Discovery Sport?
The R-Dynamic SE D180 sits right in the middle of the diesel offerings for Land Rover’s medium-SUV range at a starting price of $70,510 plus on-road costs.
The whole R-Dynamic kit-and-caboodle adds around $3000 on top of the regular SE D180’s price, essentially for the sake of slightly sportier looks and paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
The one I drove also came with a few extra trimmings that bumped the price up further to $78,011 plus on-road costs as tested.
No-one will ever accuse Land Rover products of being affordable, but thankfully most of the add-ons on my car weren’t crucial, and the SE offers a large amount of equipment as standard.
On my car, additions included a $1590 black exterior pack, $1400 grey metallic paint, a $920 black contrast roof, $900 for keyless entry, $810 for heated front seats, $650 for privacy glass, $120 for wireless charging, $410 for surround-view cameras and augmented 'see-through' bonnet, $150 for air vents in the third row, and $551 for the ClearSight rear-view mirror. Phew.
My car was also missing a head-up display – an $800 extra.
Of those, I’d suggest heated seats are almost a necessity for those in cooler climates, keyless entry is a nice convenience, and the surround-view cameras are helpful if you’re not the most confident of parkers.
The rest were more aesthetic or convenient accoutrements than crucial additions, though it seems odd to have to add third-row ventilation in a seven-seat vehicle, and by now wireless charging ought to be a part of any premium new car.
|Options as tested||$7,501|
What kind of car is the Land Rover Discovery Sport?
Even without the visual accents, the Discovery Sport is a handsome seven-seater riding on 19-inch wheels and featuring premium LED headlights that make it look modern and sporty.
Inside, the dashboard is pleasingly minimalist and boasts the appropriate premium feel you’d crave if you’d dropped over $70K on a car, while the suede-cloth seats were hands down the most comfortable of any car I’ve reviewed so far. Seriously. Plush and cushy, yet still supportive, they made getting behind the wheel enjoyable, particularly on chilly mornings.
The all-wheel-drive D180 boasts a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel engine producing 132kW and 430Nm. In my opinion, this engine was perfectly matched to a car of this size.
It doesn’t feel fast or particularly lively, but it’s got enough even-handed pulling power to tackle country drives or carry full loads without breaking a sweat.
|Engine configuration||Four-cylinder turbo diesel|
|Power to weight ratio||65kW/tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle)||5.9L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||65L|
What is the Land Rover Discovery Sport like to drive?
In city driving, the Disco Sport never felt underpowered, but there was a lag when taking off from a standing start, so you’ll have to accommodate that with your driving style if you’re used to cars that are a bit quicker off the mark.
I was also pleasantly surprised to learn the engine vibration I typically find grating in diesel cars was quite minimal. However, the engine was noisy – as you’d expect from a diesel – and the Land Rover’s cushy cabin could do a better job of reducing that.
Otherwise, the Discovery Sport’s extremely capable suspension means the car glides over rough patches and soaks up tyre and road noise really nicely.
Steering was light and compliant, and often felt like it was wrangling a much smaller car than a seven-seater. As a result, the Discovery Sport also gives the illusion of having a reduced kerb weight (it’s 1921kg) and doesn’t feel bulky or heavy.
Of course, this family car doubles as a reasonably capable off-roader with all-terrain credentials, operating in constant all-wheel-drive via a nine-speed automatic transmission.
I admittedly didn’t do much land-roving in the Discovery Sport, but the all-wheel-drive system certainly leaves you feeling confident in wet weather or on anything that's not a perfectly paved concrete avenue (i.e. most of Melbourne's roads).
Is the Land Rover Discovery Sport a fuel-efficient car?
One downside is the car's fuel consumption which, it must be said, is higher than I’d hoped for in a diesel engine. Land Rover quotes as low as 5.9L/100km for a combined number, but the trip computer recorded 11.3L/100km for my week of driving.
However, that was with limited time spent on roads with speed limits of more than 80km/h given I was mostly running errands on abandoned mid-COVID-lockdown roads, so I’d imagine that figure can be lowered with more regular, longer-haul stints.
While not a direct comparison, Sam Purcell's recent review of the petrol-powered Disco Sport also recorded a fuel consumption figure far higher than the quoted number, averaging 13.1L/100km of real-world consumption, compared with the claimed 8.1L/100km.
Our last review of a diesel Discovery Sport – from Trent on the 2018 SD4 HSE variant – also returned a higher real-world consumption figure of 8.1L/100km against the quoted 6.4L/100km.
Land Rover has replaced an idle-stop system with a 48-volt mild-hybrid electric motor that can not only serve the older system's functions, but also theoretically reduces petrol-sipping by assisting the engine.
While it's certainly a lot smoother than an idle-stop system, it didn't appear to do much to get that fuel consumption rates down.
What kind of technology does the Land Rover Discovery Sport have?
One of the coolest things about the Disco is all of its cameras. The car may as well be see-through with all the various ways you’re able to view its positioning and surroundings.
Of course, one of the big-ticket attractions is Land Rover’s ClearSight rear-view mirror, which uses a roof-mounted camera to create a digitally augmented visual on your rear mirror.
You can switch between regular view and digital view with a single lever. It makes for an impressive party trick, but would I pay an extra $551 for it? Nah, probably not – unless I were regularly using the third row.
On that note, you may rely on the rear-vision camera more than usual in this car if the third row is in play, because rearward visibility is dramatically diminished – something the ClearView camera is designed to counteract.
The rear window is also smaller than you might crave in a car of this size, but otherwise there’s great sideward visibility and a general feeling of spaciousness thanks to three generous windows down each side.
Another expensive extra that’s possibly worthwhile investing in is the 360-degree surround camera with ground view and see-through bonnet.
For off-roaders, the see-through bonnet allows you to see what’s underneath your car and where your wheels are positioned – to circumvent any potential ‘beached whale’ moments.
For everyday practicality, the 360-degree cameras are excellent and boast a remarkably high resolution. I particularly appreciated the ground-view camera, which automatically kicks in as you pull up slowly to a kerb, protecting against gravel rash or imprecise parking. And I loved how you could choose from an endless list of camera perspectives depending on where you require a little more visibility.
The infotainment system in Land Rover products always looks impressive, but the flipside is that it can occasionally take a while to load or respond. Especially when you’re booting up Apple CarPlay (which, along with Android Auto, is standard on the SE), which can falter for a few moments too many after you plug your phone in.
Is the Land Rover Discovery Sport a spacious and comfortable car?
Back-seat occupants will be thrilled with the sheer amount of leg room available to them with the rear bench seating, which can be further optimised thanks to its ability to recline and slide forward and back. This also makes getting into the third row nice and easy.
The third row, however, is definitely more accommodating of small children than full-grown adults, due to prohibitive head room and barely any leg room. It’s doable for short trips, however, and there are cupholders and (optional) air vents all the way back up to the rear row.
I also thought it was particularly clever how the third row featured headrests that stow neatly away, so you can fold the seats flat for optimal boot space without sacrificing head support.
However, with that third row in play, you’ll sacrifice functional boot space with only enough room for a few shopping bags (specifically – 157L of load space measured to the roof).
With it stowed, though, boot space is ample (754L load space measured to the roof) and the middle row can be folded – with the effortless touch of a button – to boost this even further.
|Boot volume (min/max)||157L/1651L|
|Towing capacity (braked/unbraked)||2200kg/750kg|
Is the Land Rover Discovery Sport a safe car?
For a family car, the Disco Sport feels like a pretty safe option. It was last tested by ANCAP in 2014 where it received five stars.
While that rating is obviously fairly out of date, you’d probably expect it to perform well in 2020, with its high-speed autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, lane-keep assist, front and rear traffic control, and all those damn cameras and sensors.
Should I buy the Land Rover Discovery Sport?
Given it competes with five-seater cars like the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X3, the Discovery Sport feels like it does a solid job of marrying off-road capability, practicality, two extra seats, and the premium feel you'd expect of cars in this price bracket – all within a manageable footprint for city dwellers.
Unlike the seven-seat new kid on the block, the Mercedes-Benz GLB, the Discovery Sport's diesel engine gives it a point of difference, too.
To reap all the benefits of the driver assistance and creature comforts, you’ll end up paying a fair bit more than the recommended list price, but all of these accoutrements are well executed and add to the car’s overall X-factor.
The third row should be viewed more as a backup option than a viable everyday solution, and fuel economy also could, and should, be better to warrant buying a diesel variant in the first place.
But if you’re shopping at this price point and want the option of extra seats and a premium cabin with a comfy, family-friendly bent, the Disco Sport should certainly make your short list.