Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 150 SE
Indicative drive away price: $62,406
You need to be ticking all the boxes to win what is one of the fastest-growing categories in Australian new vehicle sales. Major manufacturers have thrown their best into the ring for a crack at this year’s title, so all credit to Land Rover Discovery Sport for taking it out.
The ‘Disco’ Sport received a new power-plant in 2016, with the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel replaced by a 2.0-litre engine which delivers identical power of 110kW. It does drop 40Nm of torque, although the output is still a healthy 380Nm from 1750rpm. The positives of the new power unit are the virtual elimination of turbo lag, considerably improved fuel economy – a meagre 5.3 litres/100km on the official combined test cycle – and significant noise, vibration and harshness refinements. The latter was an Achilles heel of the old engine.
While the Disco Sport gives away almost 40kW and 60Nm to both Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe, a combination of a lighter kerb weight and a slick-shifting nine-speed auto mean the power numbers don’t tell the whole story.
On the road, the ‘Disco’ Sport puts daylight between itself and its rival. It has more communicative steering, less body roll and a firmer but compliant ride that’s able to absorb significant potholes while handling gravel corrugations without complaint.
As you’d expect with any vehicle carrying the Land Rover emblem, Discovery Sport’s off-road performance was well above anything the other finalists could produce. It has better approach and departure angles, greater wheel articulation and a switchable all-terrain system which allows the driver to choose from grass/gravel/snow, mud-ruts and sand settings. Add to that roll-over stability and hill descent control and you have probably more capability that any of the other vehicles here are likely to see.
As well-appointed as the Kia and Hyundai finalists are, there was an extra feeling of luxury in the Land Rover. With a combination of the leather trim on the eight-way electrically adjustable front seats, the soft-touch and brushed aluminium finishes across the cabin, the slick-looking pop-up gear-shift controller and an eight-inch colour touch-screen display, the ‘Disco’ Sport appeared less cluttered and felt more contemporary.
Its smaller physical dimensions mean passengers, particularly in the rear seats, have a little less space in terms of leg and shoulder room, however the 60/40-split rear seat slides up to 160mm and you’re able to recline the backrest.
Discovery Sport also delivers in convenience, connectivity and safety. It has keyless entry and start, easy-connect Bluetooth, five USB ports (four are capable of charging your devices), three 12-volt outlets and sat-nav. The safety list includes all the usual features expected, including seven airbags plus a pedestrian airbag in the bonnet, lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking. Dual-zone climate-control, paddle shifters, cruise control with speed limiter, auto lights/wipers, electric tailgate, reversing camera and rear parking sensors head the features list.
The Koreans do better in terms of warranty, however the ‘Disco’ Sport stands up well in terms of future value.
1ST: LAND ROVER DISCOVERY SPORT TD4 150 SE, 884
2nd: KIA SORENTO PLATINUM, 872
3rd: HYUNDAI SANTA FE HIGHLANDER CRDi, 868