Glamour model: Land Rover Discovery Sport
Land Rover has updated its popular glamour model, the Discovery Sport. From the outside there isn’t much difference between the new car and its immediate predecessor. But that’s deceptive, because a lot of work has gone on underneath.
Changes include a revised chassis, now a worthwhile 10% stiffer than before and with revised mounting points to attach the engine and suspension. Land Rover’s engineers have now ensured that the car is compatible with electric powertrains and a new plug-in hybrid version is on schedule to join the range next year.
The current engine choice is between three two-litre diesel engines, with power outputs from 148 to 237 bhp and two petrol motors with power outputs of either 197 or 247 bhp. Both front-wheel-drive and 4x4 all-wheel-drive models are available, the latter with exceptional off-road agility that most owners will never fully use, but which gives huge confidence in tricky terrain or for coping with extreme winter conditions.
Considering how similar the new Discovery Sport looks to the previous model, you would expect the two to drive pretty similarly, but driving both back-to-back makes it obvious that there is a distinct improvement from some aspects. The chassis revisions have made a difference. The new car rides even better than its predecessor, has added poise on the bends, and most importantly is noticeably quieter and more refined. Compared with similar sized rival SUVs, it has shot to the top of the class for its hushed behaviour.
Inside, the car has undergone an updating makeover that is mostly good, but with one disappointment. Smooth cabin styling, tactile surfaces, beautifully clear digital dials and a large, well-positioned satnav screen are all welcome.
Less so is the switch away from the previous distinctive rotary dial for the auto gear selector, which has disappeared.
It was a lovely piece of theatre in the old car, rising up out of a flat horizontal surface at engine switch-on and a detail shared with Jaguar’s models. Instead, the Discovery Sport now has a conventional protruding stick lever for gear selection – and that’s a pity.
Prices range from £31,575 to almost £50,000 for the most powerful and most lavishly-equipped version with R-Dynamic HSE trim. That comes with some very clever kit, including a 360-degree camera that gives an all-round view as you drive, and also an ingenious device that shows you what’s under the front wheels as if there were no bonnet and engine in the way. Very handy for spotting all those potholes …
Gutsy and grippy
Business savvy: Volkswagen T-Cross
South East roads are awash with SUVs and all the pumped-up hatchback “crossover” models that have steadily taken the motoring world by storm over recent years. Now the breed is morphing, with some of the recent newcomers styled in a less steroidal manner. Here’s one of the latest examples, the well-conceived and elegantly crafted Volkswagen T-Cross.
VW’s compact crossover is one of the best-driving models of its type, with a very engaging feel behind the wheel and a build quality to match its pleasing road manners. It has some tough competition among others of a similar ilk, notably the Seat Arona, Skoda Kamiq and Kia XCeed, but anyone considering a car in this category should certainly put the T-Cross high on the consideration list.
When the T-Cross first arrived earlier this year, it was only as a petrol model. The ill-informed demonising of diesel prompted a VW decision not to import the TDI version that was available elsewhere in Europe.
But a rethink has resulted in the four-cylinder, 1.6 litre, 94 bhp diesel (114 bhp with auto transmission) model being added to the range here too, and it is the gutsiest performer with strong torque and better driving range. It has a 0-62 mph acceleration time of around 12 seconds.
There is also considerable merit in the perky one-litre petrol version, with its slick performance and cheaper pricing. You can save just over £2,400 by going for a three cylinder, 1.0 TSI that has a similar power output to the diesel, although less torque.
The T-Cross is roomy for its exterior dimensions – just over four metres long and 1.8 metres wide – and has a generous 445 litres boot that extends to 1,281 litres with the rear seating row folded. Headroom is excellent in all the seats, and back seat kneeroom is pretty decent for a relatively compact car.
Other good aspects of the T-Cross are its agile-feeling steering, slick, grippy handling, strong body control and well-resolved ride comfort. Refinement is fair, it’s not unduly fatiguing on a lengthy drive. It has a smart, well-crafted cabin with a nicely integrated infotainment screen and excellent digital dials.
You can have trim highlights on the dash, centre console and steering wheel in the same colour as the body paint, which gives the car an arty look. It’s a pity that almost all the interior surfaces are hard-touch and lacking an upmarket pliant feel, and the rear ends of the door pockets are hard to reach, so stowed items can get lost. Overall though, it’s a thoroughly likeable and efficient car, smart enough for business, practical enough for a family.
T-Cross prices start from £16,995, which buys a 1.0 TSI petrol model with a six-speed manual gearbox and basic S trim, and they rise to £26,740 for the range-topping 1.6 TDI diesel with a seven-speed auto box and top-spec R-Line trim. Best value in the range are the very adequately equipped SE versions that start from £18,815.