Introduced last year as a replacement for the Land Rover LR2, the Discovery Sport is Land Rover’s ‘entry-level’ luxury compact SUV. It shares the same unit body platform, turbocharged four-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic transmission as the stylish Range Rover Evoque but it is not related to the larger body-on-frame Discovery, known as the LR4 in Canada.

The Discovery Sport’s clean, understated styling is not to everyone’s tastes, but for me, its simplicity is a plus. While some Japanese luxury SUVs have moved towards aggressive grilles and swoopy bodywork, the Discovery Sport’s lines are free of sharp angles and gimmicky panels. Its rounded corners, wraparound lights, large wheels and short front and rear overhangs give it a streamlined, uncluttered appearance. Still, the ‘DISCOVERY” badge spread across the leading edge of the hood and the tailgate looks rather tacky. Perhaps Land Rover forgot that viewed in another car’s rear-view mirror, the name on the hood reads, ‘YREVOCSID’!   Overall though, I think the Discovery Sport’s understated appearance will hold up well in the long run.

As there are so many better known compact luxury SUVs on the market – Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Volvo XC60, to name a few – you have to wonder what the Discovery Sport has to offer that the others don’t. Well, it turns out that the Discovery Sport has the best residual value in its class, according to the Automotive Lease Guide. It was recently rated Best Premium Compact Utility in the 2016 ALG Residual Value Awards.

It also has the distinction of being the only British-branded, British-built compact SUV on the market – which may be a plus (or a minus) for some people. Being in the same family as the upscale Range Rover models certainly adds some trickle-down prestige. And let’s not forget Land Rover’s heritage and longstanding reputation as a manufacturer of go-anywhere utility vehicles.

That being said, the Discovery Sport is not the kind of Land Rover you’d take on a safari. With its compact dimensions, car-like unit body construction, fully independent suspension and practical five- or seven-passenger cabin, the Discovery Sport is better suited for everyday urban and suburban driving tasks. The Discovery Sport offers what well-to-do families need: a comfortable ride, agile handling and the smaller size needed for navigating the urban jungle along with a roomy, well-equipped five-passenger cabin with the option of a third-row seating for two children. As well, it has the higher ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive needed for winter weather conditions and light-duty off-road use.

Like most of its competitors, the Discovery Sport has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The standard 2.0-litre DOHC turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 240 hp at 5,800 rpm and 250 lb-ft torque at 1,750 rpm, fairly typical numbers for this class of vehicle. Like most turbo engines of this type, it requires premium grade gasoline.

Acceleration is surprisingly quick, particularly from rest where the engine’s low-end torque provides almost immediate throttle response. Land Rover quotes a 0 to 100 km/h time of 8.2 seconds. Its brisk performance is due in part to its relatively light curb weight of 1,748 kg. That’s 157 kg lighter than an Audi Q5 2.0T, 140 kg lighter than a BMW X3 xDrive 28i, and 90 kg less than a Lexus NX 200t – but 14 kg heavier than the new Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Top of the Line: 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE Luxury Test Drive

Cruising on the freeway, the cabin is pleasantly quiet with just a little tire noise seeping through. With a standard nine-speed automatic transmission, top gear brings engine revs down to about 2,000 rpm at 100 km/h, thereby reducing engine noise and minimizing fuel consumption. Upshifts are smooth but because the transmission likes to stay in a higher gear to save fuel, downshifts can be sudden and numerous when rapid acceleration is called for. To maximize fuel economy, the driver can engage Eco mode by pushing a button on the dash. Alternatively, shifting the transmission dial from D to S will adjust shift timing to improve throttle response and provide a more invigorating driving experience, but with higher fuel consumption.

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