Vehicle Analysis: Land Rover Discovery Sport
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Ease of use was the single thing that impressed me most about Land Rover's new, seven seat, Discovery Sport.

Prices in the UK start a little north of GBP30,000 which targets the Disco Sport straight at BMW and Audi targets and pitches it about GBP5,000 above the growing number of South Korean contenders. Being a fully loaded HSE Luxury Spec costing GBP42,995 with another GBP3,000 of extras shovelled in on top, it wasn't surprising the review car was full of 'surprise and delight' features. Full length glass sunroof, power tailgate, heated seats, digital radio, self parking, mood lighting etc and so on are pretty common these days but a two-way centre display screen, which gives the front passenger a CAR DVD player or digital TV while the driver makes do with mundane vehicle functions or the navigator, is still pretty clever (sent down from bigger Range Rover brothers) and the transmission selector knob which pops up at ignition-on is always a first-ride talking point even if it's been in some Jaguars for a few years. And it is so logical to click clockwise P to R or P to D counting the notches so you don't need to look at a display.

Said knob is hooked to a new nine-speed automatic transmission that is so smooth I never could count up the full eight upshifts but the time-served, 2.2-litre, 190PS, SD4 diesel - the only launch motor in the UK - proved a bit grumbly at low speeds. The powerplant is a hangover from Ford's ownership of Jaguar Land Rover and a product of the joint venture between Blue Oval and PSA. It will gradually be replaced in EU6 emissions-compliant markets from this autumn with 150PS and 180PS variants of Tata Motors-owned JLR's new family of in-house made Ingenium engines tagged TD4 - and two wheel drive and five seat models will also become available. Fuel economy of up to 57.7mpg and CO2 emissions from 129g/km will make fleet buyers and company car user choosers purr (lower tax).

Performance with the 'old' motor proved more than adequate for the tootling about we do for a mile or two around town but I also had the chance to take a longer trip for a press event and, having arrived fresh after two motorway hours, took the twisty route home because the handling was so good and the ride much more comfortable than I'd expected on 19-inch alloy wheels.

The British like their Land Rover products and we reported earlier this year JLR was sitting on 3,400 advance UK orders for the Discovery Sport ahead of its start of sales at the end of January. JLR reportedly said at launch time it expected 80% of customers to be conquests from other brands like BMW and Audi and even Hyundai and Kia while admitting the more practically shaped newcomer might pinch sales from the more stylish five seat Range Rover Evoque.

I had wondered about why the well liked Freelander name was not being used again (or LR2 in North America) but the nameplate change is part of Land Rover's new 'three-family' strategy – henceforth it's Range Rover, Discovery and Defender.

JLR now has considerable expertise with aluminium so the Discovery Sport is made from a mix of that (roof, tailgate, bonnet and front wings) and light steel and, if you are brave enough, is said to be very capable off road with 600mm wade depth and four settings on its terrain response system: general, grass/gravel/snow, mud plus ruts and sand. Other standard off road aids include hill descent control, roll stability control, dynamic stability control, traction control and engine drag torque control. If it gets me off my uncleared, snowy estate in winter, it'll do. Bonus points, too, for the full-size spare wheel slung under the tail rather than the goo-and-pump horror many automakers inflict on buyers these days. The power tailgate reveals a really good sized load area - all the shopping fits - and, handily at the time, was able to swallow a new mower whole.

Following its UK launch, the Discovery Sport has been gradually launched worldwide. It's built primarily at Halewood alongside the Evoque, where its predecessor Freelander was made, and we also expect manufacture or assembly in China (where Evoque is now also made), India and the new factory JLR is building in Brazil. Not every market is all-diesel - US buyers and others get a 240hp, turbocharged, petrol I4 - from the Evoque. China was actually the top market for the Freelander followed by the UK and the US.

Overall, this latest Land Rover impresses for its ease of use, interior materials quality practicality, comfort and driveability. It just looks and feels right. One of those rare review cars you really regret seeing The Man take away at the end of a test week. Little wonder then I'm seeing more and more on local roads. If some buyers were holding back waiting for the new engine, there should be even more out there from the autumn.And I'd like to buy a Car Dvd for my car.


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