Land Rover Discovery Sport VS Subaru Forester
Land Rover Discovery Sport
- Space efficiency
- Nice to drive
- Bit exxy
- Bit thirsty
- So-so warranty
- Interesting looks
- Excellent safety
- Good space and practicality
- Not interesting to drive
- Doesn't live up to 'Sport' name
- Bit pricey to own
Land Rover Discovery Sport
Land Rover’s Discovery Sport occupies a close to unique position in Australia’s premium, mid-size SUV market.
At less than 4.6m long it sits at the more compact end of the segment, but offers seating for seven. Okay, Land Rover labels the layout ‘5+2’, a refreshingly up-front concession that the third row is a kids-only zone. But it’s there.
Then the Disco Sport adds all-wheel drive with multi-mode ‘Terrain Response 2’ off-road capability. Go anywhere Land Rover cred, combined with seven-seat flexibility, and a price tag sitting just over $60K, before on-road costs.
There are several mainstream equivalents, and even some more modestly priced Euro alternatives. So, is this Land Rover, which received a substantial mid-life upgrade in 2019, a demonstrably superior package? We lived with one for a week to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
This is not the Subaru Forester Sport model they get in Japan, and it's therefore not the one most Aussies have been desperate to see launched here.
Nope, the giveaway is the 2.5i part of the name for this 2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model, which has just been added to the brand's range to add a bit more of an eye-catching variant to the line-up.
In Japan, the Sport gets a new turbocharged petrol engine, but this one instead soldiers on with the same powerplant as the rest of the Forester range, but there have been plenty of changes and additions besides.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Land Rover Discovery Sport7.6/10
Flexible, dynamically capable, and nicely put together, the Land Rover Discovery Sport S P200 packs a lot into a small/medium SUV package. It gives some ground to its premium competitors on equipment, but has a seven-seat ace up its sleeve, with genuine off-highway ability to boot.
The Subaru Forester Sport is an interesting new addition to the range, despite not really moving it forward in any other way apart from its eye-catching looks. It is a competitive counterpoint to the likes of the CX-5 and CR-V, but still doesn't quite reach the same levels of refinement and driving enjoyment of the RAV4.
There is no doubt the Forester Sport will add a level of appeal that Subaru has been needing in its family SUV range since launch, but we really think the thing that would get more customers excited would be a new turbocharged top-spec model, which would certainly be more deserving of the Sport name.
Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10
Launched globally in 2014, and arriving here a year later, the Discovery Sport was given a comprehensive makeover in mid-2019, with an evolution of its exterior design, a refreshed interior, improved tech, and optimised packaging.
But at first glance you won’t notice a huge difference. The car’s overall proportions are unchanged, the signature clamshell bonnet remains in place, as does the familiar, broad, body-coloured C-pillar, and a strong, horizontal character line running the length of the car (just under the windows).
Although it looks like the roofline tapers to the rear, it’s more a case of the base of the windows (car designers call it the beltline) rising towards the back of the car.
Styling tweaks include a new headlight shape (they’re now LED), as well as a revised lower grille and front air vents, bringing the baby Disco more in line with its larger, and newer, Land Rover siblings.
Changes at the rear are even more subtle, with a rearranged tail-light design the only discernible difference.
Interior highlights include two large digital displays - a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and a 10.25-inch ‘Touch Pro’ multimedia screen - as well as a new centre console design.
The previous rotary gear select dial has been replaced by a more conventional shifter, buttons and controls have been made softer and set in ‘hidden-until-lit’ gloss black panels, and the door grab handles have been relocated and reshaped to be… grabbier.
A reprofiled steering wheel with sleek black control panels attached is also new, but as with the exterior, big-ticket items like the flowing dashtop, main dash panels, and key storage areas are unchanged.
Overall, the interior feel is clean, comfortable, and precisely composed. The Land Rover design team is on its game.
If you've ever trawled the Subaru Japan website like me (high five, car nerds!), you might be thinking: "This Subaru Forester Sport model looks a lot like that Forester X-Break in Japan!". And you'd be right.
It is, essentially, the same car. Just with a considerably nicer looking set of wheels than the Japanese model. They aren't my favourite rims, but then again, I think the Forester's rims on the whole are pretty yuck.
Wheels aside, the flashes of orange around the car will no doubt catch your eye. There are plenty of them: the lower body protection has orange trim from the front bumper to the side skirts/sills and the rear bumper, too; plus there are orange bits as part of the roof rails, too.
The exterior also cops a bit of a blackout treatment, with new dark graphics front and rear, including a black garnish between the tail-lights. And of course, the rims are black, too.
Inside the style a bit more adventurous, with a smattering of orange trim highlights on the vent surrounds, the transmission tunnel, the stitching that runs on the dashboard, doors and seats, and even the eye-catching and intriguing mesh-look water-repellent trim on the seats that goes up to the doors, too. I guess Subaru assumes Forester Sport buyers will be spending a lot of time in the rain?
I really love the orange trim finishes - they really lift the ambience of the cabin and make it feel a bit more exciting than a regular Forester. In fact, it's like the Forester looked a bit further down the Subaru line-up to the XV and said, "Hey, how come you're getting all the attention?".
There are some inherently awesome SUV features that the Forester's interior design brings to the fore - we'll get to that in the next section.
Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10
As mentioned, the Disco Sport isn’t huge on the outside (4.6m long), but interior packaging is impressive. A dash which slopes markedly back towards the base of the front screen helps open up the front passenger space, with 12-way electric front seats (with two-way manual headrests) adding extra flexibility
There’s plenty of storage on offer, including two cupholders sitting side-by-side in the centre console, and a drop-in cover for them is supplied if you’d prefer a shallow, dished tray. There’s also a lidded storage box (which doubles as an armrest) between the front seats, a generous glove box, an overhead sunglasses holder and door pockets with enough room for bottles.
The second-row seat is amazingly roomy. Sitting behind the driver’s seat, set for my 183cm height, I had ample leg and headroom, and at getting on for 2.1m from side to side, the Discovery Sport punches above its weight division in terms of width.
Which means you can realistically seat three adults across the middle row, for short to medium length trips, at least. Adjustable air vents for back-seaters are a welcome inclusion, as are a pair of cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, map pockets on the front seatbacks, and decent door bins.
If you’re willing to launch a UN-style diplomatic mission to negotiate relative space for those in the second- and third-row seats, the manual slide and recline function for the centre row will act as a handy mediator.
As mentioned earlier, Land Rover makes no bones about the fact that the third row is best for kids, but having that occasional seating capacity can be a godsend in helping the car accommodate extra family friends or relatives. There are cup/bottle holders and small elasticised storage pockets for each ‘way-back’ seater.
Getting in and out is relatively painless because the back doors open to almost 90 degrees, and the centre row seats fold forward easily.
Worth noting the third-row seat is standard, and removing it is a no-cost option, the trade-off being the move to a full-size spare wheel and tyre rather than the otherwise standard space-saver.
Boot capacity comes in three sizes, depending on which seats are raised or lowered. With all seats upright, load space is a modest 157 litres, enough for a few grocery bags or some soft luggage.
Drop the 50/50 split-folding third row, via a user-friendly release mechanism, and 754 litres opens up. Our three-piece hard suitcase set (36, 95 and 124 litres) slipped in with room to spare, as did the jumbo size CarsGuide pram.
Fold away the third row as well as the 40/20/40 split second row, and no less than 1651 litres will have you thinking about starting a furniture moving side hustle.
There are sturdy tie-down anchor points at each corner of the load floor, and a handy netted pocket behind the driver’s side wheel tub.
In terms of media connectivity and power options, there’s a 12-volt outlet in the front and centre rows, and a USB port up front.
‘Our’ car was fitted with the ‘Power pack 2’ option ($160), which adds USB sockets for the second and third rows, as well as a wireless charging bay up-front ($120).
Towing capacity for a braked trailer is 2200kg (with 100kg towball download), 750kg unbraked, and ‘Trailer Stability Assist’ is standard. The stability assist system detects trailer sway movements at speeds above 80km/h, and manages them through symmetric and asymmetric braking of the car.
The Forester could be the most practical vehicle in its class. Against the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Mazda CX-5 and VW Tiguan, it stacks up pretty well for cabin practicality, space utilisation and accommodation.
It's a nice, bright and airy place to be, with a big glasshouse that makes it feel a bit more outdoorsy than its rivals. The benefits of that are two-fold - it's easy to see out of, whether you're the driver or if you're a kid in the back.
Looking up front first, the Forester's cabin presentation is much more eye-catching in this grade. The other models in the range are, well, a bit bland. The Sport, though, is a bit more - dare I say it - sporty. And I personally hate models called Sport, but that's a story for another day.
The orange stitching everywhere and the orange metallic look finishes on the dash and the centre console - it combines for a more special feeling cabin than any of the other Foresters available.
I really appreciate the media screen Subaru offers - it's easy to use and is bright and colourful, and also the flush finish design - not a floating tablet style screen - does make it just a little easier to use. However there is a secondary screen above it, which shows you a bunch of information about the car that you theoretically will never actually need to know.
That top pod also has a driver monitoring camera system which is looking at you all the time and will warn you if you take your eyes off the road for too long. Intriguingly, it flashes a warning onto another screen - the one on the instruments, which also makes you look away from the road...
It really is a button and screen overload. If you like minimalism, you're not going to like the number of things in front of you as the driver of a Forester. But they all have a purpose (sort of), and for me, it's better than everything being run through touch screens!
The front seats are quite comfortable, with electric adjustment for the driver and passenger. Both are electric adjusted and heated as well, which is nice, and the material used is genuinely really comfortable - it's like a good quality couch.
Even though those are nice elements, I couldn't find myself a perfect driving position – I feel like I sat just a little too high and I couldn't get the steering wheel in quite the right position for my preferences.
Storage is mostly okay up front: the cupholders between the seats are a little bit deep so small takeaway coffees might be hard to get out, and there are bottle holders in the doors, a small cubby in front of the gear selector for a wallet and/or phone, and that's also where you'll find 2USB ports. No wireless phone charging, though.
The overall space for a family of four is perfectly usable. There is no seven seater version of the Forester, nor any seven-set SUV in the brand's range at all in Australia, so it's strictly a smaller family affair, or a good option for grandparents on duty.
There's very good second row seat space, with a high seating position and hip point allowing for adults to easily slot in there (I'm 182cm/6'0" and I can fit behind my driving position with heaps of leg, toe and headroom to spare), but it's also a handy height for child loading, with dual ISOFIX and three top-tether points. Weirdly, though, Subaru has kept with the ceiling-mounted centre seatbelt, and the seat is flat and a bit uncomfortable for adults in terms of cushioning and support. Great for child seats, though.
There are plenty of smart features in the second row, including twin map pockets on the seat backs, one of which is sectioned and divided for smaller items. Plus there are those two USB ports for charging devices (again, perfect for a family of four), and there are rear directional air vents. There is a fold-down armrest with cupholders, plus bottle holders in the doors.
Weirdly there are LED lighting pods for the boot and the tailgate, and up in the front of the cabin there is LED lighting, too - but in the centre, the middle lighting pod is halogen. Weird.
The boot area offers 498 litres of cargo capacity (VDA) with the seats up, but hit the electric release levers (handy!) at the sides of the boot and you liberate a total 1740L of space - enough for a pair of mountain bikes or a few weeks' worth of camping gear for a couple.
Plus there are shopping bag hooks on the outer sides of the boot area and one on the tailgate,, plus four tie down points if you need to attach things and stop it from rolling around. There's a cargo blind, and a 12 V outlet in the boot, too.
Price and features
Land Rover Discovery Sport7/10
At $60,500, before on-road costs, this entry-level Discovery Sport S P200 is at the lower end of the price ballpark occupied by a slew of small-medium premium SUVs, including the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Lexus NX, Merc GLC and Volvo XC60.
But not all of them are all-wheel drive, and precisely none of them offer seating for seven.
So, this Disco Sport’s value equation is critical in allowing it to stand up to its five-seat luxury rivals, stand apart from its seven-seat mainstream competitors, and get ahead of everything in between.
To that end, aside from active and passive safety tech (covered in the Safety section), this entry-level model’s standard equipment list includes, rear fog lights, auto LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, electrically-adjustable front seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, and ‘Luxtec’ faux leather and suedecloth seat trim..
Then you can add, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker audio (with eight-channel amp), Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity, sat nav, the ‘Online Pack’ (browser, WiFi, and smart settings), 10.0-inch media touchscreen, central TFT instrument display, adaptive cruise control (with speed limiter), as well as keyless entry and start.
Overall, a solid but not eyebrow raising suite of standard features for a car that’s crested the $60K barrier.
The new Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model is a $41,990 proposition - that's the MSRP/RRP, or the price before on-road costs (you might find driveaway deals if you search Autotrader, though).
It slots in between the 2.5i Premium ($39,490) and the 2.5i-S ($42,990), but it stands out compared to both of those versions with a revamped design and a number of inclusions over the models below it, but most of them are visual differentiators which we'll detail in the next section.
Let's consider the standard equipment offered here: black 18-inch alloy wheels with a full size spare, an electric sunroof, water repellent cloth interior trim, electric front seat adjustment (driver's side with memory settings), heated front seats, electric tailgate, electric folding rear seats, smart key hands-free entry and push button start, auto headlights and auto wipers.
There's also a 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech, DAB+ digital radio, CD player, six speakers, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 4xUSB ports (2x front, 2x rear), a 4.2-inch digital driver info display with digital speedo, and a leather-lined steering wheel and shifter.
The safety story is a very strong one - see the section below for all the details.
Things missing from the 2.5i Sport that you might want for include an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a proper surround-view camera, and leather seat trim.
Colours available for this spec comprise: Crystal Black silica, Crystal White pearl (as seen here), Dark Blue pearl (exclusive to Sport), Ice Silver metallic, Magnetite Grey metallic and Sepia Bronze metallic. The green and red options are not available on Sport, but no matter the colour you opt for, it won't cost you any extra.
Obviously though, you might want to choose carefully, as there are some orange highlights inside and out that might not match up with your preferred colour choice. Let's get to that next.
Engine & trans
Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10
The Land Rover Discovery Sport S P200 is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine producing 147kW at 5500rpm and 320Nm from 1250-4500rpm.
It’s part of Jaguar Land Rover’s family of modular ‘Ingenium’ diesel and petrol engines, built around multiples of the same 500cc cylinder design.
The all-alloy unit features variable intake and exhaust cam timing, variable (intake) valve lift and a single, twin-scroll turbo.
Drive goes to all four wheels via a nine-speed (ZF-sourced) automatic transmission, and front and rear diffs, with torque on demand to the rear axle.
Instead, the 2.5i part of the name indicated a carryover 2.5-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engine producing 136kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 239Nm of torque (at 4400rpm). No turbo here.
The Forester is available solely with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) Lineartronic automatic gearbox, and as it's a Subie, of course it has the brand's "Symmetrical" all-wheel drive (AWD) system standard, too.
The Sport grade isn't available with the brand's hybrid powertrain, though that's no great loss. Read our review where we compared that version against the excellent RAV4 hybrid to see how it fared
The 2.5i models have seen a towing upgrade for 2021, with the unbraked rating set at 750 kilograms, while the braked towing capacity is now 1800kg (up from a meagre 1500kg in earlier models).
Land Rover Discovery Sport7/10
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 8.1L/100km, the S P200 emitting 188g/km of CO2 in the process.
Over close to 400km of city, suburban and quite a bit of freeway running, we recorded 10.1L/100km, which is a passable result.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded and you’ll need 65 litres of it to brim the tank.
The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the Forester 2.5i Sport is identical to the rest of the range: 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, with emissions claimed at 168g/km CO2.
On test, we saw an at the pump fuel economy of 9.5L/100km across a mix of urban, highway, country and open road driving (plus a very short unsealed off-highway stint).
Fuel tank capacity is 63 litres. It can run on the more affordable 91RON regular unleaded.
Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10
Land Rover claims 2.0-litre turbo-petrol versions of the Discovery Sport will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 9.2sec. Anything under 10 seconds is reasonably swift, and the S P200 makes good use of all of its nine gear ratios to keep things on the boil.
Maximum torque of 320Nm isn’t huge pulling power, especially when we’re talking about shifting a close to 2.0-tonne (1947kg) seven-seater. But the twin-scroll turbo’s contribution means every one of those torques (actually newton-metres) is available from just 1250rpm, all the way to 4500rpm. So, mid-range performance is energetic enough.
If you really want to press on, peak power (147kW) arrives at a lofty 5500rpm, just 500rpm away from the engine’s nominal rev ceiling. At which point, having remained a relatively low-key whirr in the background, the engine makes its aural presence felt.
The Cleary family (of five) took to the highway and some rural back roads for a weekend away during the test period, and open road performance was stress-free, with more than enough oomph for easy cruising and (well-planned) overtaking.
Seamlessly shuffling drive between the front and rear axles, the Terrain Response 2 system coped admirably with graded, but slightly rutted dirt roads, the car feeling secure and composed at all times.
Suspension is strut front, multi-link rear, and ride quality is good, especially in the context of an off-highway capable SUV. And the seats proved supportive and comfy over long stints.
Standard 18-inch alloy rims are shod with 235/60 Michelin Latitude Tour HP rubber, an on-road focused tyre which proved grippy and surprisingly quiet.
Electrically-assisted steering delivers impressive feel and accuracy, while the brakes, by ventilated disc all around (349mm fr/325mm rr), are progessive and strong.
And although we didn’t push into hardcore off-road conditions, those keen on doing so will want to know the car’s wading depth is 600mm, obstacle clearance is 212mm, approach angle is 25 degrees, ramp angle is 20.6 degrees, and the departure angle is 30.2 degrees. Enjoy the rough stuff.
The Subaru Forester is a smooth and decent family SUV, one that doesn't necessarily do anything exceptionally well, but nor is it terrible at anything when it comes to on-road driving.
In fact, my biggest complaint is the noise intrusion - there's quite a bit of tyre roar through even normal road surfaces, and coarse chip roads are louder again. There's also wind noise up around the windscreen and mirrors, and the engine is noisy under acceleration because of the CVT automatic transmission, and it doesn't sound overly delightful, either.
That said, the 2.5-litre engine's response is pretty good, offering decent and linear power delivery. It's not fast, not overly fun, and the CVT auto does rob it some of the excitement you might want. However, it jumps away from a standstill pretty nicely, and if you can hit the sweet spot when you're accelerating you might be surprised by its brisk response.
There are paddle shifters to take matters into your own hands - though even if you use the SI drive mode selector (Sport or Intelligent drive modes), it's less thrusty than turbocharged competitors (Ford Escape) or even hybrid-powered rivals (Toyota RAV4).
The ride comfort is quite good, there's a nice supple attitude to the suspension and the way it controls itself over bumps, but it is quite soft and that means that there is some noticeable body roll in corners.
Thankfully the seats are really quite nice and offer good support, and while the steering is decently weighted and accurate enough it's hardly the last word in excitement for thrills. I'm also not much of a fan of the lane keeping system and how it affects the steering, as it interrupts the smoothness of your steering a little too much. There's a button you can hit to turn it off, but you have to do it every time.
And that driver-monitoring camera system really does make you realise how much you're not looking at the road ahead. I'm a constant glancer, looking at whatever is driving past or whatever I see parked in people's driveways, and the system really made me realise that.
Because it's a Forester with all-wheel drive, I took it for a brief light off road review expedition, where it lived up to the brand's adventure-focused persona.
The most impressive element was a combination of nice high ground clearance (220mm), plus the way that soft suspension rolled over rocks and bumps allows decent travel to the suspension, and good control to the driver's hands, too.
The drive mode selection system allows you to choose "snow/dirt" or "deep snow/mud", meaning soggy camping trips or drives to the snow should be pretty well catered for. Like most soft-roading vehicles and crossovers, though, the tyres will be your biggest letdown but also your easiest upgrade.
The hill descent control system worked really well, and while I wasn't pushing any boundaries of what to expect a SUV like this to do, it was pretty well sorted of the whole.
Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10
The Land Rover Discovery Sport scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in 2015.
Active safety tech includes the usual suspects like ABS, EBD, EBA, traction control, stability control, and roll stability control, with higher level systems including, AEB (low- and high-speed front), lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, and driver condition monitoring.
Off-road and towing tech includes ‘Hill Descent Control’, ‘Brake Hold’, ‘All Terrain Progress Control’, and ‘Trailer Stability Assist.’
An impressive suit, but… you’ll have to pay extra for, a 360-degree surround camera, park assist, blind-spot assist, rear cross traffic alert, and tyre pressure monitoring.
If a crash is unavoidable, you’ll be protected by seven airbags (front head, front side, side curtain covering all rows, and driver’s knee).
The Discovery Sport is also equipped with an airbag under the bonnet to minimise pedestrian injuries. Big tick for that..
There are three top tether points to secure child seats/baby capsules across the centre row seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.
That said, the Forester has an extensive safety technology specification list, starting with auto emergency braking (AEB) that works both in city and inter-urban settings up to 80km/h, and it features pedestrian and cyclist detection, too.
There's also lane departure warning with an active lane keeping assistance system that works from 60km/h to 145km/h, and there's adaptive cruise control that works through the brand's stereo camera EyeSight system. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard, as is a rear AEB system to stop you bumping into cars or walls at low speeds, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera that is complemented by a front and front kerbside camera (not quite surround view, but close).
The Forester has seven airbags (driver's knee, dual front, front side, full-length curtain), and there are dual ISOFIX outboard child-seat anchors and three top-tether points.
Land Rover Discovery Sport7/10
Land Rover offers a three year/100,000km warranty in Australia, with 24-hour roadside assistance included for the duration.
That’s well off the mainstream pace, which sits at five years/unlimited km, but on the upside, three years paint surface cover, and a six year anti-corrosion warranty are part of the deal.
Service requirement is variable, with a range of on-board sensors feeding into a service interval indicator in the vehicle, although you can use 12 months/20,000km as a guide.
A fixed ‘Land Rover Service Plan’ set at five years/102,000km is available for $1950, which isn’t too shabby at all.
Subaru Australia backs its cars with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is on par with its main rivals but behind the likes of Mitsubishi (10 years if you service with them) and Kia (seven years).
The brand offers just 12 months of roadside assistance when you buy a new car, where some others offer seven years or more.
The company also has unusual service intervals of 12 months/12,500km, with a capped price servicing plan that spans five years/62,500km. The average cost per service over that period is high, at $476.50 per annum - and it'll be even higher if you do a lot of kilometres.
There are also three-year and five-year service plans available. If you sign up for those, you get three years roadside assist plus a loan car when you get your car serviced. The costs for those are $1281.81 (three years/37,500km), or $2382.52 (five years/62,500km).