What stands out?

The Discovery Sport is a medium SUV from Land Rover that can seat up to seven people. It is compact enough to be handy in the city, and just loves getting onto country backroads and into easy four-wheel-drive territory. You can choose from responsive and frugal turbo-petrol and diesel engines, and order from a long list of luxury options. Auto braking is standard.

What might bug me?

How much time you’re spending working out which Discovery Sport you want, with what options. It’s very complicated.

How insistently the price rises as you add those options.

Picking the seven-seat option and having to forego a full-size spare wheel, which is replaced with a space-saver spare that has speed and distance limitations.

Discovering that your spare is a space-saver only after you get a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere.

What body styles are there?

A five-door SUV-type wagon is the only body style. There’s seating for five, or optionally for seven.

The Discovery Sport has full-time all-wheel-drive. In some models, you have the option of driving only the front wheels when you don’t need all-wheel drive (which could save you a bit of fuel).

The Discovery Sport is classed as a medium SUV, higher priced.

What features do all Discovery Sports have?

Smart-key entry, which lets you unlock and start the car provided the key is on your person. You can also open the tailgate, by waving your foot under the rear of the car.

A leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt and reach adjustment, which carries buttons for operating the audio system, the cruise control, and calls from your smartphone via Bluetooth.

Leather seat trim, and power adjustment for the front seats.

Dual-zone climate control, so that the driver and passenger can each set their desired cabin temperature.

A sound system with an analogue radio, input from your smartphone or iPod via USB or Bluetooth audio streaming, and at least 10 speakers, controllable from an 8.0-inch or bigger touchscreen. Satellite navigation, with voice recognition.

A Remote Essentials app, compatible with most smartphones, that allows you to remotely lock and unlock the car, and check on things like fuel level and door and window status. It can also help you find the car in a big carpark, with a beep and flash function.

At least four USB charging points for mobile devices, and three 12-volt outlets.

A rear-view camera, and rear parking sensors (which help you judge your distance from obstacles behind).

Headlights that switch on automatically when it gets dark, and that auto-dip their high beams for on-coming traffic. Windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains.

Daytime running lights, which help other drivers see you.

Electronic traction control, which inhibits wheelspin on slippery surfaces.

Terrain Response, which lets you optimise the Discovery Sport for a range of driving conditions (normal, slippery, mud, and sand) with a single control. It improves performance, and helps you avoid getting bogged when off road.

Hill Descent Control, which can control your speed automatically on steep downhill tracks, letting you concentrate on steering.

Alloy wheels, and a full-size spare (unless you option seven seats, in which case you get a space-saver spare).

Autonomous emergency braking, and Lane departure warning.

Seven airbags, and Electronic Stability Control. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Discovery Sport safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

The Discovery Sport is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty. The body is covered for an additional three years for corrosion.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

Three engines are available in a Discovery Sport: two 2.0-litre turbo-diesels, and a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol.

The more fuel-efficient of the three are the diesels, and there is not much between them for fuel use. Both use as little as 5.3 litres/100km in the official government test (conducted in a laboratory).

The diesels share a common four-cylinder construction but are tuned differently, so that one (which Land Rover calls the TDI 150) produces less power than the other (the TDI 180).

On real roads, the TDI 150 averages about 7.5 litres/100km, and the TDI 180 about 8.0 litres/100km.

Both diesels are excellent engines. The main reason you might shun them and choose the petrol alternative is that the 2.0 Si4 four-cylinder runs more quietly and smoothly and produces more power than either. The petrol engine also means more convenient and cleaner refuelling at most service stations. It averages about 11 litres/100km in real-world driving.

A nine-speed conventional automatic is the only gearbox available.

(Power outputs and all other Discovery Sport specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Land Rover offers the Discovery Sport with the three engines outlined above and in three trim levels: SE, HSE and HSE Luxury. In addition, a big range of extra-cost options is available on almost any Discovery Sport. (Further, wheelrims smaller than standard, down to 17 inches, can be ordered as a no-cost option, if you want to optimise performance off-road.)

The least expensive Discovery Sport is the TD4 150 SE. It comes with the less powerful of the two diesels, 18-inch wheels, and the features common to all Discovery Sports.

You can pay more for an SE with either the petrol engine or the more powerful diesel. Go for either of those engines and you also get All Terrain Progress Control, which works like a very low-speed cruise control for use off road. Select a speed and it will adjust the engine and brakes automatically to maintain that speed, uphill or down. That lets you negotiate rough ground while attending just to the steering.

You can also spend more on a Discovery Sport HSE, which adds luxury and convenience. The front seats gain heating and cooling, and – along with the exterior mirrors – remember adjustment settings. The sound system is more powerful and includes a subwoofer. Headlights are extremely bright Xenon units, and the daytime running lights and tail-lights use long-lived LEDs. Front parking sensors augment those at the rear, and the wheels are fancier 19-inchers. (All these HSE features are available as extra-cost options on the SE.)

Spend still more on a Discovery Sport HSE Luxury and you get a more appealing grade of leather on the seats, a bigger (10.2-inch) touchscreen, and more feature-rich satellite navigation. There is also a louder sound system with more speakers, a CD/DVD player, and digital (DAB) radio. (All but the premium leather can be added to an SE or HSE as extra-cost options.)

At any trim level, choosing either the petrol engine or the more powerful diesel allows you to option Adaptive Dynamics, which automatically adjusts the car’s ride so that it feels smoother over bumps but leans less in corners (it uses electronically controlled suspension dampers). You also gain access to the optional Active Driveline, which automatically drives only the front wheels unless it’s slippery (thus saving some fuel).

On any Discovery Sport, you can also add various features either individually or in option packs. The most significant of these for many people will be third-row seating, for a total of seven seats.

Among other options available on most Discovery Sports are heated rear seats, a self-parking system, apps that let your smartphone control parts of the car, rear-seat entertainment screens, and a fixed glass sunroof. You can also have a head-up instrument display, adaptive headlights that shine into corners, and bigger wheels. The optional adaptive cruise control reduces your set cruising speed to match a slower car in front, until you can overtake – and it will also hold your place automatically in stop-start traffic. And optional active safety features include Lane keeping assistance and Reverse traffic detection.

Land Rover also offers an extensive choice of exterior and interior styling details, finishes and highlights.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The 19-inch wheels, and more so the optional 20-inch wheels, use lower profile tyres that ride more harshly on rough roads, are less effective off road, are more easily damaged on poor roads, and cost more to replace.

Optioning seven seats means you lose the full-size spare tyre and gain a space-saver spare wheel, with speed and distance restrictions.

The Active driveline is not always seamless when switching from front-wheel-drive to all-wheel-drive. It adds complexity and brings a marginal fuel saving at best.

White is the only colour that doesn’t attract an additional cost.

How comfortable is the Discovery Sport?

The Discovery Sport’s keyless entry, push-button start and leather seats, all standard on even the SE model, convey a sense of luxury as soon as you climb aboard. That’s sustained by the nicely detailed and finished interior.

The driver’s seat is comfortable too, and it sits you higher than many similar cars. That brings you a more commanding view, which is handy for driving off-road. The big touchscreens are easy to use, as are the clearly marked controls, conveniently grouped by function, on the centre console. All the specialist controls for off-road use are in the one spot, for example.

In place of a conventional gear shifter, you use a knurled metal dial on the centre console to operate the automatic gearbox. The settings are what you’d expect – Park, Neutral, Reverse, Drive, and Sport. Paddles on the steering column allow you to change gears yourself, if you want to.

Once under way, even the lesser of the two diesel engines provides effortless performance – helped by the very smooth automatic gearbox. As with the more powerful diesel, this engine is so quiet and smooth you might think you were driving a petrol car. That is until you drive a Discovery Sport with the petrol engine, which is smoother and quieter again.

The Discovery Sport’s steering is light and easy, and its ride is supple and comfortable. You will notice a bit of suspension and tyre noise on rough roads.

What about safety in a Discovery Sport?

Every Discovery Sport comes with seven airbags, seatbelt reminders on all seats, the mandatory stability control, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, auto headlights, daytime running lights, auto braking and lane-departure warning.

It is a comprehensive safety offering, emphasising crash protection, visibility, crash avoidance, and the safety of others when reversing.

There are two airbags directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body; a knee airbag for the driver; and full-length curtain airbags on each side of the car to protect the heads of all those sitting next to a window (including those in the optional third-row seats).

Electronic stability control can help you bring a skidding car back under control.

The Discovery Sport’s Autonomous emergency braking uses camera-based sensors to scan the road ahead, and is effective at speeds up to 80km/h. If it recognises a crash is imminent, it first warns you via a display on the dash. If you do not take action, it will apply the brakes automatically.

Lane departure warning alerts you if it detects you are drifting inadvertently out of your lane on the highway – perhaps through distraction or fatigue.

The Discovery Sport also has Trailer sway control, which can help settle a trailer that has begun to swing from side to side.

You can add four active safety features to any Discovery Sport in two pairs, as options.

Lane keep assist, which will gently correct the steering if it detects you are drifting out of your lane, is paired with a Driver condition monitor, which warns you if it detects signs of drowsiness.

Blind spot monitor checks behind you for vehicles near your rear corners that might not show in your exterior mirrors, alerting you via a yellow light in the relevant mirror. It is paired with Reverse traffic detection, which works when you are reversing, alerting you to a vehicle approaching your path from either side.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Discovery Sport five stars, its maximum safety score, in April 2015.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

You will. The Discovery Sport is enjoyable to drive - especially so with the more powerful of the two diesel engines, and particularly with the zippy petrol engine.

The lesser of the two diesels is effortless enough in normal conditions but it doesn’t offer much for the performance-minded driver.

What every model does offer is plenty of confidence through corners, thanks to sharp steering and the all-wheel-drive grip. Particularly impressive is the way the car feels stable and assured even if the road is bumpy or unsealed. The Discovery Sport’s very effective suspension gives it something of a rally-car feel.

Those wishing to head off road will find that the same supple suspension will work in their favour, as do the relatively high ground clearance and your ability to tailor the car for different conditions with Terrain Response. Unlike more off-road focused Land Rovers, the Discovery Sport does not have high-speed and low-speed gears – and certainly it is not up extreme off-road driving. But the low first gear in the nine-speed automatic helps when you need to travel very slowly, up or down steep slopes or across rough ground.

If you wish to optimise your Discovery Sport for off-road use, you can order it at no extra cost with the optional 17-inch wheels and enjoy the traction, comfort and durability benefits of tyres with higher sidewalls than are standard on any model.

How is life in the rear seats?

The 60-40 split second-row seat has good head and leg room for two adults in the outside positions and is shaped for them. The narrow centre position is suitable only for a child, or perhaps for a small adult over short distances, and its backrest can be folded down to provide an armrest with cup holders for the outer passengers.

The second-row seat also slides back and forward over 160mm to provide more or less leg room and rear luggage space.

Isofix child-seat restraint points are fitted to the two outside second-row seats, and the higher-riding SUV stance of the Discovery Sport makes it easy to load small children in and out.

The optional third-row seats, accessed by sliding the smaller part of the split second-row seat forward, are suitable only for children up to teenage years.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The Discovery Sport has a one-piece, top-hinged, rear door that can be power-opened with a foot gesture. In five-seat configuration total space is a handy 981 litres despite the space lost to the full-size spare wheel. With the optional seven seats fitted and deployed, the luggage space drops to 194 litres – less than you would find in a light city hatchback but sufficient for a couple of overnight bags.

The seat backs in the second and (if fitted) third rows fold down individually, so that the Discover Sport can be optimised for carrying more or fewer people and different shaped luggage items. With all of the second and third-row seat backs folded, total luggage space is nearly 1700 litres.

The Discovery Sport is rated to tow between 2000kg and 2500kg (with a braked trailer) depending on the version, a good amount for a vehicle of this size and better than most similar vehicles. A rating of 2500kg is sufficient to legally tow a big camper trailer, a medium-sized caravan or boat, or a basic two-horse float carrying two average-sized horses.

Where does Land Rover make the Discovery Sport?

All Discovery Sports sold in Australia are made in the United Kingdom.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Possibly petrol-electric hybrid power, which could offer near-diesel fuel economy but with the refuelling convenience and running refinement of a petrol engine. The Lexus NX offers this, for example.

More off-road ability, as offered by the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and the Jeep Grand Cherokee – or indeed by the bigger Land Rover Discovery. These have two sets of gearbox ratios, one for the road and another set for driving very slowly off-road.

Body-protecting side airbags for passengers in the second-row seats (in addition to the head-level curtain airbags that protect those passengers in a Discovery Sport). The Mercedes GLC comes with these, for example.

Among other cars you might consider is the Range Rover Evoque, which shares most mechanical parts with the Discovery Sport.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The TD4 180 SE is the best buy. If offers the more powerful of the two diesel engines at a modest price hike over the lesser diesel, and more than enough equipment. If you do want a few more features you can then cherry-pick from the long list of options.

Are there plans to update the Discovery Sport soon?

The Discovery Sport arrived in 2015, replacing the Land Rover Freelander (for a time the cars were sold alongside one other). In late 2016, new-generation Ingenium diesel engines replaced the original diesels carried over from the Freelander.

For the 2018 model year, Land Rover will offer a third (and more powerful) diesel and two new petrol engines with the Discovery Sport, all 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ingenium units. One of the new petrols will replace the non-Ingenium current engine in the Si4, supplying similar performance, while the other will offer about 20 per cent more power. The new vehicles can be ordered, but the first arrivals are due about January 2018.

Don’t expect a facelift for the Discovery Sport before 2019.