2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport long-term review: Is family life better with an SUV?

A month in, we pick apart living with the Discovery Sport as a family of four – dog included.

Medium SUVs are the go-to for many young families. This is particularly so when couples introduce a new member to their tribe or, alternatively, when a family of three decides to welcome a fourth, furrier member into the pack, too.

The latter aligns somewhat to my situation, but in a different order. Our chocolate-coloured heeler, Murphy, was the first addition, with our son coming a few years later.

The irrefutable attraction to an SUV that comes shortly after extending the family is likely due to their lifted ride height. This enables easy ingress and egress, especially when loading wee children, alongside decent boot capacity in most cases.

The desirability of seven seats without having to go for a daggy people mover may also steer some into the decision. Our Discovery Sport is unique in its segment, as the only offering in the medium luxury SUV class to offer seven seats. More on that later.

Add on top an apparent sense of security and the undeniable extra forward visibility gained, and it’s pretty fair to understand why that is the case.

So, how does the 2020 Land Rover Discovery Sport stack up as a partner in crime for this young family of four?

On today’s recurring adventure, we headed to the park. This is a 3–4 times a week exercise for us as a family, so the Discovery Sport knows this task well.

First things first is the second row.

During my experience as a car journo with a young child, I’ve had to fit my very own car seat into many, many test cars. After doing it a couple of times, you begin to notice the nuances that plague the second row of many new cars.

Headrests that can’t be removed that also interfere with top tethers, and squishy seat bases that require heaps of applied force to ensure the ISOFIX straps meet adequate tension. ISOFIX points that are so far buried that it takes a pre-emptive fact-finding mission to first locate them, and top tether bars that require a blade and cutting of seat-back fabric in order to become useable. Those are just some of the tales.

Thankfully, fitting a child seat to the Discovery Sport was easy. By far, one of the most user-friendly second rows from that perspective. But it gets better.

With the seat installed in one of the two available forward-facing positions, the more upright choice, there remains plenty of space. My son is just over two years of age, slightly taller than the average kid, and remained able to stretch his legs to full extension with the front seat ahead also set decently for the passenger.

Referring to the photos will give you some visual context, too. As you can see, my wife had plenty of space for her knees, handbag, and a few other miscellaneous items to claim the unused real estate of the footwell.

Few medium SUVs that I’ve experienced offer space as sizeable as the Discovery Sport when tested in this fashion. Cars such as the Audi Q5 come across cramped when compared in the same way.

The child seat used for testing is a Britax Graphene convertible-type item. It has been a faithful unit, carrying my son in the back of my three-door Ford Focus RS on his maiden ride home from the hospital right through to now, where it still transports him to activities such as a kid’s sport and play event that we attend weekly.

However, it is quite large, being a 0–4 age seat. That means it can also be fitted in both rearward and forward-facing positions, with the latter having two inclines to choose from. Judging by where my son currently sits against the shoulder marks, halfway through the seat’s claimed life, I think I’ll get a bit over three years of use from the one seat.

We had a question from a reader regarding clearance with the seat installed in a rearward fashion, so I installed the seat in that manner and adjusted the front passenger seat as deeply into the second row as I could. Naturally, a slight amount of front passenger space was compromised, but I was still able to reside there comfortably. The large door aperture, combined with a tall roof height, means loading a child in and out of a rearward-facing seat looks to be an easy task, too.

On that topic, given the height of the Discovery Sport and the equally high seat squab, loading kids in general remains a breeze. My wife was able to access the harness and unclip, then lift my son out of the car while maintaining straight back posture. The extendable seat-back storage areas also cater well for the stowage of a water bottle, wipes, and other general infant paraphernalia.

Reasons like this are why people do opt for such a car, as it does make young parent life easy.

And trust me on this, those who still remain naive: if there’s anything during this life stage that can make your life easier, you generally fall head over shoulders rushing to buy, get, or access it. An SUV is one of those things, it seems.

I will caveat that point, however, by advising not to choose paper-white suede interior trim in your SUV, as our example features.

It isn’t too tricky to clean with a specific microsuede interior cleaner; however, the problem lies more in the frequency of cleaning required to keep it looking pristine. You’ll also forever be paranoid, brushing every newly discovered dark spot in the hope that it’s just the nap playing tricks on your eyes and that it actually isn’t stained. You can live without this stress by opting for a dark leather.

On the topic of things that make cars grubby, canine-friendliness levels were also tested. Our heeler, Murphy, loves scaling anything she can find, so jumping in the back wasn’t too hard of a task. However, if you own a more relaxed dog, expect to lift them into place. There are plentiful tie-downs to secure an animal, as per the local ruling. However, I use a seatbelt clip-in tether that you run from the second-row rearward.

If your dog is crate-trained, I found a medium-sized crate to slot in just fine, allowing for a bag or two either side, alongside some sports equipment, to also fit.

Space is good regardless of how you decide to load your dog, given there’s 754L of room to play with to the second row. The boot area’s dimensions are more on the square side when compared to others in the segment. Consider this a benefit of its seven-seat nature. Good levels of width mean placing a stroller in isn’t a matter of wedging it between the inner wheel tubs with force. I found ours to fit nicely in both longways and sideways positions, no fuss attached.

Separation of the cargo area from the second row could be better, as you’ll find in-tow pets will likely say g’day and mess up the hair of those residing in the second row. Visibility remains fair, so if your pet suffers from motion sickness while travelling, that point will do its bit to help nauseousness.

I jumped in the back, with one of the two third-row seats up, next to the dog to see what it would feel like. You can easily fit six humans and one dog in the Discovery Sport, only if you’re travelling light with bags and other goods. How comfortable you’d actually be on a decent drive is debatable, however.

As with most vehicles in this class, and the class above too for that matter, consider the third row fit for younger adults only. In saying that, room in the Discovery Sport’s extra seating area did surprise in ways.

I’d confidently say the third row is larger, and therefore more usable, than the one found optionally in the Range Rover Sport. Foot room remains compromised, but knee room over-delivered against expectations. Ingress and egress remain much easier in the Discovery Sport when compared to the bigger Range Rover Sport, too.

Even with that over-deliverance, I remain firm on the point that the third row remains for children and young adults only – those around average height and above will still struggle to get comfy on a long haul. Topping off things out back are dedicated fan controls and a pair of air vents. If you do plan to use the third row occasionally, you’ll be best off leaving the cargo blind at home, as there’s nowhere to store it under the boot floor.

After taking longer than usual to get going, thanks to much mucking around with the seats, and then trialling every combination on the way there, my wife and I both had a moment.

We’d been sharing experiences with the very orange Land Rover for a month now, but neither of us stopped to realise how easy it had made our lives. Endless shopping trips with prams, footballs and other gear onboard, and plentiful daycare runs after long days at work, all of which were handled with ease.

We both own small, impractical sports cars, apparently in some feeble attempt to retain our youth. However, the welcome addition of the Land Rover, and its service over the past few months, has been nothing short of excellent. It has probably saved a strained back, prevented the odd grey hair, and enabled us to do more on a singular trip out thanks to its generous size and space offering.

So far, so good.

The next activity planned is a road trip up north to conduct light duties on the sand, with Sam Purcell, with the aim to see whether the Discovery Sport lives up to its brand promise of being conducive to adventure.

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