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New car review

DS 7 Crossback review

Is the first standalone DS model distinctive enough to turn customers away from rivals?

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Design
6.0
Comfort
8.0
Driving experience
7.0
Value for money
7.0
Safety
8.0

Summary

The DS 7 Crossback is a well-built, spacious SUV that is knocking on the door of premium. But while it replicates much of what an Audi or BMW can do, it doesn’t do it to the degree that will likely sway those who normally buy Audis or BMWs.

Summary

The DS 7 Crossback is a well-built, spacious SUV that is knocking on the door of premium. But while it replicates much of what an Audi or BMW can do, it doesn’t do it to the degree that will likely sway those who normally buy Audis or BMWs.
 

60-second summary

What is it?
The DS 7 Crossback is a compact SUV and the first bespoke model from Citroën’s upmarket sub-brand.

Key features
Bold interior styling, spacious, upmarket technology.

Our view
The DS 7 Crossback is presented as a much more fashionable alternative to the mainstream upmarket compact SUV market but it only partly meets the brief. The interior styling is very bold but contained within a too conventional exterior.

However, the car does earn praise for its ride comfort and the innovation in some of its technology, while it also includes a strong safety package as standard.

Similar cars
Audi Q5
, BMW X1, Lexus NX.

DS 7 Crossback road test 2018 | The Car Expert
The DS 7 Crossback is the first car from DS that’s not a chromed-up old Citroën model

Full review

Introduction

It’s around four years now since DS, previously an upmarket trim level on Citroën cars, was launched to the world as a proper brand. Now DS Automobiles is to Citroën a bit like Lexus is to Toyota, and the DS 7 Crossback, which went on sale early in 2018, is a very important car for the new start-up.

Why? Because until this car, DS Automobiles products have consisted of Citroën models with their styling heavily worked over and any vestige of a Citroën badge consigned to the parts bin.

The DS 7, however, is different – the first standalone model from DS, and we are told the pioneer for a “new generation” of bespoke DS vehicles that will come to market in the next few years – we expect a smaller DS 3 Crossback and a saloon to target the monolith that is the BMW 5 Series, while an electric concept is due at the Paris show in October.

We are told that the DS 7 is a completely new model, developed from the ground up by DS. That’s partly true but the car is built on the same production line as the Peugeot 3008 and on the same platform – any Peugeot technician delving into the DS will not find anything mechanically unfamiliar.

No, where DS is building its exclusivity is in styling, particularly inside, trying to cement its self-titled image as the ‘avant-garde’ brand in the PSA line-up. The designers have certainly gone to town on the interior styling, as we will describe shortly, and that might be a surprise to anyone stepping into the car.

You see, for an ‘avant-garde’ brand, the exterior does look boringly conventional – rather like any other compact SUV. The DS 7 appears huge and it does give off an upmarket, premium impression, but avant-garde? If you were looking for a radical departure from the norm, as was the original Citroën DS of 1955, you won’t find it here.

Buying and owning a DS 7 Crossback

 
 

Checking out a DS 7 Crossback involves heading to a network of DS Stores and Salons that the brand has been opening across the UK. And that’s not as easy as it was. Initially, these were mostly connected to Citroën outlets but the brand has slashed their numbers in favour of opening exclusive sites. Currently there’s only around 30, though they are expected to rise to around 70.

Once you’ve found a dealer (except that we are told they are not dealers but “luxury stores”), you’ll be offered the DS 7 in one of four trim levels dubbed Elegance, Performance Line, Prestige and Ultra Prestige – you get the idea that this brand is emphasising luxury?

Highlights of the entry-level specification include 18-inch alloy wheels, leather on the steering wheel and gear lever, auto air conditioning and wipers, an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, rear parking sensors and keyless entry and start.

Our test car is furnished in the second-level and sporty pitched ‘Performance Line’. This adds almost £3,400 to the bill but does gain quite a lot of extra equipment. The alloys grow by an inch, there are electric folding mirrors that also shine a spotlight on the ground complete with DS logo, while inside boasts lots of aluminium detailing and rear tinted windows.

Perhaps, more importantly, this level also includes clever adaptive headlamps, extra rear airbags, a much larger 12-inch touchscreen with connected navigation, another 12-inch digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver, and voice recognition controls.

Continuing the fashion magazine theme, each of the four trim levels also gets its own bespoke ‘Inspiration’ styling package which involves a lot more than the amount of leather added.

The Elegance version is called ‘Inspiration Bastille’, Performance Line models go with ‘Inspiration Performance Line’ (took a lot of thought, that one), Prestige models are furnished with ‘Inspiration Rivoli’ and the range-topping Ultra Prestige ‘Inspiration Opera.’

The DS 7 scored a five-star safety rating when tested by Euro NCAP in 2017. Autonomous emergency braking comes as standard, while an Advanced Safety Pack – optional on the lower two grades but standard on the rest – adds blind spot and lane-keeping assistance, traffic sign recognition and a driver attention alert.

Top spec Ultra Prestige models are also supplied with DS Connected Pilot, a semi-autonomous adaptive cruise control with steering assistance and stop-and-go. This can be specified as an option on all but entry-level models.

Inside the DS 7 Crossback

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If the DS 7 looks conventional on the outside, it’s anything but within, and the whole effect is achieved by styling.

To start with, the car does the basics very well. For a car promoted as a compact SUV it feels huge within. Occupants front or rear will have to be of pretty large dimensions to complain about head, shoulder or legroom, and the boot space is pretty big at 618 litres. Note by the way that this is very much a five-seater – luxury SUVs apparently don’t do tiny rear seats…

However, it’s the design of the interior that will have one at last thinking that yes, this may be avant-garde. The overriding theme appears to be diamonds – they are everywhere…

The air vents in the corners of the dash are diamond-shaped. The graphics on both the driver’s instrument display and the touchscreen are also diamond-shaped. And as one presses a button to change them the graphic does a little roll-over dance before revealing the next screen. It’s novel at first, but before long becomes mildly irritating.

The overall design of the driver’s controls is clearly an evolution of the digital cockpit we first saw on Peugeot cars – it works just as well as the much-praised original, but this evolution appears to have consisted of styling it to the nth degree.

In some areas form clearly exceeds function – for example, the big touchscreen on our car has a line of chrome-finished but tiny buttons along its base and the furthest, a good stretch for the driver’s arm, controls that seldom-used function rear screen demisting…

We mentioned the bespoke styling treatment of each trim level. On the Performance Line, sporty clearly means Alcantara, because the material is everywhere – all over the seats, but all over the dash fascia as well. You will struggle to find any scratchy plastic because it’s all been covered in Alcantara.

In fairness, the quality of fit and finish is very good and the interior does feel upmarket – it’s just one gets the impression that the fashionistas were let loose in the interior only once the more sensible designers had been locked away in another room…

Driving the DS 7 Crossback

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The DS 7 launched with a three-way engine line-up – a 180hp petrol unit and diesels in 130 and 180hp versions. The range has since grown to include a 225hp petrol engine and it’s this unit powering the car we are testing. All are PSA Group units familiar from Peugeot and Citroën models.

The small diesel is paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, all the others get an eight-speed automatic transmission. And you can only buy this SUV in front-wheel-drive form – those wanting all-wheel traction will need to wait for a planned plug-in hybrid variant.

Luxury SUVs should provide exemplary ride comfort – circumstances involved us clocking up a lot of miles over the week with our test car and generally it proved an adequately comfortable way to travel.

Adequately? Other luxury models we have driven have suited the description better, but we should add that our car was not fitted with the clever Active Scan Suspension. A £1,000 option on Performance Line, standard on the top two trims, it uses a camera to spot imperfections and electronically adjust the suspension before it hits the obstacle.

The 225hp petrol engine does impress, both for its smoothness and its enthusiasm. It accelerates briskly – 8.3 seconds to 62mph is plenty swift enough for most – but never feels like it is doing so, the audio note never intruding into the cabin ambience.

Our DS 7 may be styled in a sporty way, but it is a ‘luxury’ vehicle and not a performance one, and this shows in the corners. At normal speeds it will traverse them as it needs to, but push on and it fails to connect very well, with little feedback from the steering wheel and a little too much body roll.

One final bit of praise should be reserved for the headlamps. Only entry-level models don’t get the Active LED Vision systems. Each unit has three modules which can rotate through 180 degrees. They can automatically vary in width and intensity to light up the roadside as needed, and change their shape whether you are on urban or rural roads or at speed on a motorway. The system even includes a parking mode that can very distinctively alert you to the position of your car – very impressive.

Summary

It’s not easy to sum up the DS 7 Crossback. Overall it is a well-built, very spacious SUV that is knocking on the door of premium. But while it replicates much of what an Audi or BMW can do, it doesn’t do it to the degree that will likely sway those who normally buy Audis or BMWs.

Of course, the other brand knocking on the door of premium recently has been Volvo and the DS 7 must count the new XC40 amongst its rivals – this reviewer would definitely choose the Volvo.

The brand, meanwhile, sees the Lexus NX as a prime rival for the DS 7, and yes it does offer an alternative to the mildly quirky Japanese contender.

Generally, however, we see the DS 7 being bought by those who want something that is different. And they’ll be offering lots of lifts home to work colleagues, because while the DS 7 Crossback won’t turn many heads in the company car park, once one steps inside it…

Key specifications

Make & model DS 7 Crossback Audi Q5 Lexus NX
Specification Performance Line PT 225 EAT8 2.0 TFSI quattro Sport 252PS tiptronic NX 300h SE Auto FWD

 

Price (on-road) £34,990 (range starts £28,095) £40,940 (range starts £40,175) £34,895 (range starts £34,895)
Engine 1598cc petrol 1984cc petrol 2494cc petrol + electric motor
Power 225hp @ 5500rpm 252hp @ 5000rpm 197hp
Torque 300Nm @ 1900rpm 370Nm @ 1600rpm 210Nm @ 4200rpm engine. 270Nm (motor)
0-62mph 8.3 sec 6.3 sec 9.2 sec
Top speed 141mph 147mph 112mph
Fuel economy (combined) 47.9mpg 40.9mpg 54.3mpg
CO2 emissions 134g/km 157g/km 133g/km
Insurance group 29E 35E 27E
Euro NCAP rating 5 stars (2017) 5 stars (2017) 5 stars (2014)

 

Design
6.0
Comfort
8.0
Driving experience
7.0
Value for money
7.0
Safety
8.0

Summary

The DS 7 Crossback is a well-built, spacious SUV that is knocking on the door of premium. But while it replicates much of what an Audi or BMW can do, it doesn’t do it to the degree that will likely sway those who normally buy Audis or BMWs.
Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is the News and Road Test Editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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