Eamonn Wall samples the latest Land Rover Discovery Sport.

WITH its launch in 2015, the Discovery Sport replaced the Freelander and soon became a popular choice as an all-round tough SUV. It has a large boot and seven seats, thanks to a special compact rear-suspension design. Being designed for off-road use, one was happy to take it off road, where its electronics and part-time automatic four-wheel-drive system kept the vehicle moving until the minimum ground clearance was not enough to maintain progress. I have always been surprised at just how good the Freelander 2 – and now Discovery Sport – are off road.

The original Discovery Sport came with distinctive round lights front and rear, maintaining a stylish link to the Freelander and the round lights of the Discovery 4. It was a handsome and useful vehicle let down by a mediocre interior, unpleasant interior door handles and a small fuel tank.

Forestry Journal: Side profile – no change here.Side profile – no change here.

So when, in 2019, time came round for a refresh, Land Rover changed a lot. In fact, most of the chassis and suspension is now based on the new Range Rover Evoque. While the new Evoque got a new body, the Discovery Sport continued with the same body but with slightly different bumpers and new front and rear lights. Gone is the circular theme, the design of the new lights being rather bland. However, there is still some good news, as the fuel tank is larger and the interior has received a redesign resulting in much improvement, with nicer door panels and handles.

Forestry Journal: New front light design.New front light design.

The diesel engines have gained some mild hybrid assistance and a proper plug-in electric version has been introduced, using a three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, giving a 30-mile electric drive range.

READ MORE: A beginner's guide to selecting a 4x4 for forest work

I test-drove the 2-litre four-cylinder 187 bhp diesel linked to a nine-speed ZF gearbox. The engine was powerful, quiet and returned 36 mpg. The new suspension provides very good handling and a smooth ride. It is a quiet car with not much road or wind noise. I now think it looks better on the inside than the outside, as the new lights have lost their circular Land Rover Discovery heritage.

Forestry Journal: The Sport has a good-sized boot. The rear seats move forward too and under-floor stored seats pop out.The Sport has a good-sized boot. The rear seats move forward too and under-floor stored seats pop out.

One strange piece of design I have not seen before is that between the speedometer and rev counter a digital screen exists. In and of itself, that’s normal enough, but it eats into the space of the instruments and replaces part of them with a screen. I thought it looked weird!

Forestry Journal: These rear lights replace original more distinctive circular ones.These rear lights replace original more distinctive circular ones.

Just recently, Land Rover has revised the diesel engines to include both a 163 bhp version (up from 150 bhp) and a 204 bhp version, replacing the one I tested. The digital experience has also been updated. It still tows 2,500 kg, with prices starting at £36,765.

With the ever-increasing popularity of BIK-busting pick-up trucks in the forestry sector, the likes of the Discovery Sport are less popular. However, for many rural and urban dwellers it is still a popular choice, and with constant updates, Land Rover is keeping it fresh and in demand.

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