Once upon a time, you would get one mid-life model update in a car’s five-to seven-year life, and that would be it. But the race to compete with rivals technologically has changed the landscape so much that frequent, smaller updates can be found on cars most years these days.

That’s why this Discovery Sport variant is no longer available, already surpassed by a ‘model year 2021 update’ announced in August. Fear not: the fundamentals of this Disco Sport remain utterly relevant, introduced in a significant mid-life refresh last year. So significant that it included a totally new platform called Premium Transverse Architecture – the same used by the Range Rover Evoque – to accommodate the inevitable electrified engines plus, of course, new technology and a new infotainment system.

It’s those latter elements that have been further addressed in the MY21 update. The Discovery Sport you can buy today gets the Pivi Pro infotainment system first seen on the new Defender, plus wireless software updates, a 3D surround camera and the option of cabin air filtration.

So what exactly is our Discovery Sport? It’s the D180 AWD, powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder 178bhp turbo diesel with 48V mild-hybrid assistance, promising WLTP fuel economy of 37.2-39.6mpg, CO2 emissions of 187-199g/km and a 0-60mph time of 9.4sec.

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It’s the top-spec HSE car, starting from £46,800, although ours has a generous options list adding more than seven grand to that price. More on that later. If you wanted the closest equivalent available today, it would be the D200 AWD HSE, whose starting price is just £15 more. It uses the same mild-hybrid diesel set-up but dialled up to 201bhp and hitting 60mph in 8.1sec.

The new car’s fuel economy is 39.0-42.4mpg and CO2 emissions are 175-190g/km. All of these figures are slightly worse if you opt for the 5+2 seat configuration – a feature that is standard on all Disco Sport variants other than the new plug-in hybrid.
The range-topping diesel D200 sits above the D165, while there are four petrol-powered engines: P200, P250, P290 and P300e. All diesel and petrol units now use a 48V mild-hybrid system, other than the plugin hybrid P300e, which claims an electric-only range of 38 miles, CO2 emissions of 36g/km and 175.5mpg.

Land Rover keeps its cards close to its chest, so we don’t know which engine or trim is most popular, but we do know that the Discovery Sport is the brand’s top priority as its number-one global seller, with 83,574 units sold in 2019. (For comparison, 204,965 examples of the Volvo XC60, its rival SUV, were sold over the same period.)

HSE trim has all the trappings that you would expect. Highlights include heated electric seats, 20in wheels, a powered tailgate, sat-nav and a 4G wi-fi hotspot.

The Namib Orange paint is a £970 option, while the contrasting black roof – a styling necessity to these eyes – is £610. Various roof rail elements come to just under £900 and there’s the occasional superfluous option: two USB ports in row two and one in row three for £100. Just chuck ’em in as standard on HSE, eh, Land Rover?
The priciest option on our Disco Sport is the £2160 Driver Assist Pack, which includes a 360deg camera, adaptive cruise control with steering assistance, a 360deg parking aid and wade sensing, which can collectively be as helpful on the streets of London as during serious off-roading. For those who like the sound of that pack, good news: it’s now standard on HSE trim, according to the configurator.
Step into the Disco Sport for the first time and it no longer feels a world away from its rivals in terms of interior quality – quite the opposite – and that’s before any further MY21 updates. It also has the advantage of being less bland than its German, black-interior-favouring rivals and retains a distinctive Land Rover feel.

Initial impressions are that it’s strikingly better to drive than its predecessor: nicely damped, direct if not super-sharp steering and just all-round effortless performance.

We have the £815 adaptive dynamics option to help its cause, which has the dampers adjust 100 times per second to “optimise the suspension settings and provide the optimum balance between comfort, refinement and agility”. The other key first impression is the incredibly quiet waft of the diesel engine, and the subtle effects of the mild-hybrid technology. Even the most unobservant of drivers will notice the regenerative braking when coming off the accelerator, although it’s not intrusive in any way. It can help fuel economy only so much, though, given that this model is four-wheel-drive. So far, we’re averaging 34.1mpg.
Over the next few months, we will discover how the go-anywhere Disco Sport fits into our daily lives, as a mid-sized, aspirational SUV offering plenty of practicality and comfort – but also one with several excellent rivals.

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