The arrival of the new Discovery Sport may herald the end of the ageing Freelander 2 but it also groups the Land Rover model line-up into three, distinct categories.
For those seeking a luxury SUV, then there’s the choice of the mighty Range Rover, the RR Sport and the seemingly omnipresent Evoque. For something more utilitarian and workhorse like, and then it’s the reliable no-nonsense Defender, which leaves the Discovery and the new Disco Sport to bridge the gap between the two.
Inspiration for the Discovery Sport’s bodywork has clearly come from the Range Rover side of the family, and although it’s only 95mm longer than Freelander 2, its sweeping profile and high waistline makes it appear far larger, and much more elegant, too.
The Land Rover trademark clamshell bonnet has also been incorporated into the design, along with a honeycomb grille and wraparound headlights.
Many of the Discovery Sport’s underpinnings are shared with the Evoque, including the 2.2-litre SD4 diesel engine and 9-speed ZF automatic transmission.
The one thing it doesn’t share is the introduction of an all-new multi-link rear suspension. This has meant the stadium seating arrangement could be reconfigured, allowing for a third row of seats to be squeezed-in, which becomes a standard feature across all four trim levels.
This hasn’t meant interior space has been compromised. Nor, for that matter, has luxury. The cabin of the Evoque has been blatantly used as the blueprint for the Discovery Sport’s interior, which can never be a bad thing, as it delivers an abundance of style and quality, making sitting at the helm feel very special indeed.
And it’s not just on the higher HSE and HSE Tech trim levels which receive this treatment, it’s also been extended to the entry-level £32,395 SE and SE Tech (£33,895).
Key highlights to onboard gadgetry are a new infotainment system that features Land Rover’s InControl technology – allowing smartphone apps to be mirrored directly onto the 8” touchscreen monitor.
There’s plenty of other standard equipment too. Part leather seats can be found in the SE, so can a heated windscreen, 18” 9-spoke alloys, seven USB sockets, heated seats, cruise control and a DAB radio.
City braking and a bonnet deployed pedestrian air bag – a world first – are also part of the Discovery Sport’s standard safety systems.
There’s now even more load area than in the outgoing Freelander (and in the Evoque, for that matter). With the second row of seats moved to their furthest position backwards, to maximise passenger legroom, there’s 479 litres of cargo space.
Slide them forwards, and that figure increases to 689 litres. Fold them completely flat and a cavernous 1,698 litres becomes available.
It’s an oxymoron to call the Discovery Sport a ‘green SUV’. Certainly, it’s more efficient than the Freelander, but the ageing SD4 diesel engine seems to negate all the good work Land Rover’s engineers have done to reduce weight and drag coefficiency.
Fitted with the standard six-speed manual transmission it will emit 157g/km and return 46.1mpg. Opt for the automatic, at an extra cost of £1,800, which is well worth the money for ease of driving, although it will spew out even more nitrates; 166g/km of CO2, and fuel consumption drops to 44.8mpg.
But that’s the only real fly in the Discovery Sport’s ointment. There’s little to complain about the way it rides and there’s hardly any road noise generated within the cabin.
The SD4 may be a little long in the tooth now but it can still deliver a whopping 310lb of torque and not-so-insignificant 187bhp in a very refined manner.
And as for its off-road capabilities; this is a Land Rover through and through. It will do almost anything you could ask of a car, although for most drivers its all-conquering, simple to use Terrain Response system will be a wasted asset.
The Discovery Sport links all the Land Rover models seamlessly together. It has all the refinement of its bigger brothers, the sportiness of the Evoque and the massive off-road capabilities of the Defender.
Rivals: Audi Q5, BMW X3, Volvo XC60
Price: £32,395 – £42,995
Avg. MPG: 44.9mpg – 46.1mpg
0-62mph: 8.4 -9.8 seconds