Land Rover Discovery Sport hybrid review: our new PHEVourite

Published: 21 October 2020

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Review

► Plug-in tech for baby Disco
► System shared with Evoque
► 4WD, but only five seats

Few brands epitomise automotive Darwinism like Land Rover, with the latest addition to the Discovery Sport range – a BIK-friendly plug-in hybrid, no less – succinctly illustrating the point.

Spoiler alter: for city dwellers who need a rugged SUV and company car drivers looking for something upmarket, but not too flashy, this is the pick of the diddy Disco range.

It looks like any other Discovery Sport, though…

Land Rover’s not alone in styling it’s electrified models virtually identical to sister cars that solely consume fossil fuels, working on the school of thought that owners are more interested in knowing themselves they’re doing their environmental bit rather than virtue signalling the fact to all and sundry.

Scour the Discovery Sport family friendly lines and you will spot that there’s a filler flap on both rear wings of the plug-in hybrid models: one side’s for petrol as per usual, the other being the façade for the charging port.

It’s a stylistically cleaner solution that a flapping section of grille as per the big Range Rover PHEV, plus it’s more convenient for reverse-parking into bays.

Talking of styling, all versions of the Discovery Sport P300e – that alphanumeric confirming this is petrol, with 300-ish metric horsepower and electrical assistance – available are with the more athletic R-Dynamic styling and tweaks introduced on the rest of the range in 2019. Think full body-colouring and the deletion of unpainted black plastic mouldings and you’re there.

Is it a similar story inside?

You’re one step ahead of us – yes, very much so and for the same reasons cited above. This isn’t a bad thing is the latest dashboard introduced as part of that 2019 makeover looks and feels of a higher material quality than when the Discovery Sport debuted at the end of 2014.

There are a couple of modifications necessary for PHEV operations, such as the scrolling between driving modes of Hybrid, EV (battery only) and a third to maintain the battery’s reserves until you’re in an area where zero-emission driving is necessary or desirable. Similarly, the electronic instrumentation battery reserve information.

Technofans will be rejoicing at the introduction of the new Pivi (on S specification models) and Pivi Pro (SE and HSE versions) multimedia system. Running on its own battery system and featuring over the air updates, the new package is significantly quicker to operate with far less lag than its predecessor. All barring the first handful of models will have the new system.

Usefully, the navigation system will determine not only the most efficient routes, but also where on the journey it’s best to be EV-only, use both power sources or even stick to just the engine. Nav graphics remain the same, assuming you’re not using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

It’s around the back of the cabin where you’ll find a significant change, though: the Discovery Sport P300e is a strict five-seater with no option to spec those ‘plus 2’ rearward births. Clearly that combination of engine, fuel tank, electric motor and batteries have to go somewhere. Unless you frequently use seats 6 and 7, it’s only a small sacrifice.

Okay, hit me with those plug-in stats

How do numbers like up to 34 miles of electric driving range and CO2 emissions of 44g/km grab you? Not bad, are they, but as was ever thus, the numbers only tell part of the story.

More impressive is the seamless way the Discovery Sport plug-in hybrid juggles its power systems when left to its own devices in Hybrid mode. It’s also pleasingly hushed compared with that other recent debutant in this sector, the PHEV version of Ford’s latest Kuga.

While the Kuga’s installation employs a CVT, the Discovery Sport P300e is equipped with a conventional eight-speed automatic alloying it to be quieter, with no bovine hollers from the transmission.

Even when the petrol engine does kick in – it’s a turbocharged 1.5-litre triple version of the Ingenium family – it rarely disturbs the cabin’s equilibrium, only sounding coarse as opposed to characterful when very hard acceleration is demanded of it. Not something that’s going to be a frequent occurrence.

More numbers? On the more rigorous WLTP cycle it’s rated at 141mpg, but run it without any electrical assistance and you’ll struggle to approach 40mpg. Don’t forget, this is a 2168kg car suddenly only propelled by a 1.5-litre mill, albeit one punching out 197bhp.

How is the powertrain configured?

The engine looks after the front wheels, while the 108bhp motor exclusively powers the rears, allowing for four-wheel drive security, at least some of the time.

Charging the 15kWh lithium-ion battery pack is relatively time efficient, too: 0-80% charges take as little as half an hour on a 32kW public charger and a smidgen under an hour-and-a-half on a dedicated 7kW wallbox that you would have installed at home.

Overall power is rated at 305bhp, with a 398lb ft slug of torque – aided by the on-tap nature of the electrical drive – ensuring a swift 0-62 blast of 6.6 seconds, enough for some traffic light hot hatch dispatching.

Top speed, as academic a figure as that is in an SUV like this, is 130mph.

Suffice to say the P300e powertrain is swift, but it doesn’t inject any ‘sport’ into the Discovery, err, Sport. In most regards it feels just like its siblings – the Land Rover encourages you to drive it with consideration, not aggression, a factor that merely amplifies the attractiveness of the plug-in hybrid arrangement.

Land Rover Discovery Sport Hybrid (2020): verdict

Given that most Discovery Sports are subjected little more adventure than a school run or commuting to and from the office (remember those), the P300e plug-in hybrid fulfils the needs of its key demographics consummately, providing their journeys aren’t significantly over 34 miles between recharges.

All of the familiar tough guy in a cosy Arran jumper and Hunter wellies kudos buyers expect from Land Rovers, but with very low running costs.

So all good, then? Not quite.

You see, while the Disco’s a cut above the mainstream, at £47,000 its starting price is some £10.5k north of Ford’s cheapest Kuga PHEV – a model we rate for its driving engagement and comparable efficiency.

As impressive as the Land Rover is, whether you opt for it over the Ford depends on how much value to attribute to the green oval over the blue one.

Specifications

Price when new: £47,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 3-cyl, 1.5-litre petrol plus electric motor, 305bhp, 398lb ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 6.6sec 0-62mph, 130mph, 141mpg, 44g/km
Weight / material: 2168kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4597/2173/1727mm

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By Keith WR Jones

Managing editor of the Bauer Automotive hub and car brochure library owner