Curious beast: The new Land Rover Discovery Sport

Land Rover is pitching the Discovery Sport at what it describes as the "leisure" part of the off-road market

Price: From £32,395
Engine capacity: 2.2-litre diesel
Power output: 187 bhp @ 3,500 rpm
Top speed: 117 mph
Fuel economy: 46 mpg
CO2 emissions: 162g/km

The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a curious beast. It replaces the no-nonsense Freelander in the firm's line-up, but is badged as a larger Discovery and sits on the same running gear as the massively successful Range Rover Evoque.

For its part, the baby Range Rover, as the Evoque has become known, faced suggestions that it's more of an automotive handbag than a proper off-roader. And that's where the new Discovery Sport comes in, as a larger, seven-seat, more practical affair that the firm is pitching at what it describes as the "leisure" part of the off-road market.

The idea then wasn't to create a stylish accessory (Evoque) or £100k Bentley rival (Range Rover) but something you'll drive down to Cornwall in with your body-boards on the roof. It's the sort of car you would use to cross a stream on the way to a yurt.

This means that it has been optimised for off-road use, with a 60cm wade depth for river crossing and four settings in its four-wheel-drive terrain response system: general, grass/gravel/snow, mud, and ruts and sand. It also has hill-descent control and roll-stability control. If I were being kind I'd call the 2.2-litre engine "tried and tested", but in reality it is a dated Ford-derived unit that is showing its age. That's not surprising considering that its basic design is nearly two decades old and offers a distinctly agricultural engine note and rather poor emissions and economy. For example, the manual gearbox version that I tested puts out a hefty 162g/km and will realistically only do around 40mpg.

There is hope, though, as you can now order (for delivery in September) the Discovery Sport with Land Rover's new Ingenium four-cylinder engines. These are set to be far more fuel efficient and kinder to the planet. I'd wait for one of these.

Overall though, I'm still not sure I follow the logic of the Discovery Sport; very few of us really need an off-roader and the reason that the Range Rover has done so well for the firm is that it's a luxury offering that rides better than a Bentley. The Range Rover stinks of wealth and opulence, whereas the Discovery Sport is just one car among many mid-range off-roaders on the market. Still, I suppose it's nice to know you could drive across a river in one.

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