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Driven: DS 7 Crossback. Image by DS Automobiles UK.

Driven: DS 7 Crossback
Finally, the DS proposition makes sense with the company’s first, all-new model, the superb DS 7 Crossback.

 



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DS 7 Crossback

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: handsome styling, lovely interior, plenty of space, huge boot, supple camera-based ride, superb refinement

Not so good: could do with a bit more engine choice, no 4WD variant, some drive modes are redundant, maybe that handsome exterior styling could have been a bit more adventurous...

Key Facts

Model tested: DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige PT 225 EAT8
Price: DS 7 Crossback range from £28,635; Ultra Prestige 225 from £43,190, car as tested £43,740
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: eight-speed EAT8 automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 135g/km (VED Band 131-150: £205 in year one, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 47.9mpg
Top speed: 141mph
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Power: 225hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 300Nm at 1,900-2,500rpm
Boot space: 618-1,752 litres

Our view:

It would be fair to say that, as an outlet, we've been less than impressed with the DS marque, ever since it was hived off from the main Citroen brand in 2014. We're not alone with these thoughts, mind, because simply crowbarring the double-chevrons off a sub-range of confused Citroens was fooling nobody. The DS 3 was about the best of the lot, given it had always been a likeable and funky supermini, but it was expensive and as a Performance model, it was a seriously underwhelming hot hatch. The largest DS 5 promised much but delivered little, striking the worst possible dynamic balance of a crunchy ride and uninvolving handling, for which no amount of watchstrap-leather and triple-sunroof oddness had the slightest hope of overcoming. And as for the DS 4, well. . . let's just leave it there, out of kindness to DS.

Things promise to be very different with this thing, though, because this is the first, purpose-built DS - and, by that, we mean that it didn't start life as a Citroen DS which just surreptitiously dropped the 'Citroen' bit while no one was looking. This is the DS 7 Crossback and we think, having spent a week with a top-end Ultra Prestige model, it is really rather magnificent. So perhaps we ought to elaborate on precisely why we have come to this conclusion.

It's a bit of a 'genre-straddler', the Crossback, because it is based on the same EMP2 chassis as its two related, superb crossovers, the Peugeots 3008 and 5008, and the DS pricing strategy is such that it takes on the smaller German, Swedish and Japanese crossover/SUV opposition. But it looks and feels like it could easily duke it out with the more expensive, upmarket likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC and Volvo XC60, and not come away with its Gallic nose terribly bloodied.

For starters, it's big. Which is not to say that it's hulking, as if the designers have struggled to contain the Crossback's mass in its sweeping lines - point of fact, the DS doesn't even have that much mass, as it only weighs 1,425kg; that's less than some hot hatchbacks and a certain British sports coupe we could mention. No, it's more that the DS 7 feels sumptuous and capacious within, with loads of space for four big passengers, a low tunnel running through the centre of the car and a boot that's whopping - it's 618 litres up to the parcel shelf with the rear seats up and a most useful 1,752 litres with them folded down.

The design and interior, touched upon above, deserve closer scrutiny. Outside, we happen to think the DS 7 is a very handsome thing, with some nice, theatrical touches like three cube LEDs in each headlight cluster which do a 180-degree swivel as you turn the car on and then those diamond-esque rear lights clusters, which look super-cool when they're illuminated. There are those who believe that DS should be more avantgarde in the styling stakes, but DS itself says that people don't buy wilfully different-to-behold vehicles any more - they buy conventional two-box SUVs. And, as two-box SUVs go, the DS 7 is a pleasingly striking example.

Moving inside, that externally-hinted-at diamond-motif which relates to the edgy, angular brand icon of the French firm is plastered everywhere. The buttons above the interior mirror are diamonds. The speakers in the doors are diamonds, and they - and the tweeters higher up near the A-pillars - have creases pressed into them to make you further think of things that relate to the most precious gemstone on planet Earth. Same with the window switches on the transmission tunnel. And the graphics in the glorious 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster. And the knurling on all the rotary dials and knobs. Diamonds, diamonds, everywhere. And, do you know what? It works. The continual allusion to such an expensive rock gets your brain thinking 'this is opulent' and, as a result, the cabin looks and feels a million dollars. Everything operates smoothly and in a properly premium fashion, and when you add in the visual drama of the swivelling BRM clock and exquisite watchstrap leather (hey, it works here!) and suede door linings, you can forgive the DS 7 its one ergonomic foible, which is that awkward, crooked shift lever for the EAT8 gearbox.

To drive, our 225hp petrol model was sweet, with superb refinement, impressive performance, perfectly acceptable economy (a best of 37.1mpg when cruising on an A-road) and a general air of classiness that makes the DS feel easily the equal of the main, established premium brands. To be honest, the handling is merely above average, with lots of grip and decent balance, but not a lot in terms of engagement or handling tricks to learn. Which is no bad thing for an SUV. However, that doesn't matter, because the DS has a remarkable trick up its sleeve. It's called DS Active Scan Suspension and it's fabulous. . . but only if you use Comfort mode all the time. Otherwise, the adjustable dampers of the Crossback are linked to the drive modes and are fixed in set algorithms, and in Normal and Sport the DS 7 is not particularly comfortable. However, in Comfort mode, a camera mounted near the interior mirror scans the road up to 20 metres ahead of the vehicle, works out which bumps and imperfections are going to hit what wheels, and then firms up/slackens off the relevant dampers accordingly. This works. Beautifully. So much so that, as the Crossback just floated serenely along, we completely forgot our Ultra Prestige was rolling along on 20-inch alloy wheels. Diamond-cut alloys, obviously.

So, aside from (perhaps) slightly unadventurous exterior styling, so-so handling and a gearlever that's the wrong shape. . . oh, and a price tag of £43,740 (the Ultra Prestige plus just £550 on metallic paint), there's not very much we dislike about the brilliant DS 7 Crossback. For all-wheel-drive fanatics, perhaps the fact that every DS 7 model, so far, is front-wheel drive will be a dealbreaker, but an AWD variant is due when DS launches a hybrid 7 next year and, realistically, we never once lamented the Crossback's lack of 4WD. And we even think you can justify the cost, because a 2.0-litre TDI Q5 (for example) would be about this much cash and it doesn't feel any more special inside than the DS 7 Crossback. Maybe, then, just maybe. . . it's time for us to start taking the concept of 'DS as luxury brand' seriously. Because this thing is truly excellent.

Alternatives:

Audi Q3: the pricing and platform of the DS 7 Crossback places it in line to take on things like the Audi Q3, but the French vehicle feels bigger and grander than the German.

BMW X1: the X1 feels a lot nicer in its second-gen guise and it has better handling attributes than the DS 7, but in every other regard the Crossback is more likeable and appealing.

Volvo XC40: it's probably this cool Swede, rather than anything German, which the DS 7 has to beat. Priced to match the Crossback but the Volvo is physically smaller inside.


Matt Robinson - 11 Oct 2018









      - DS road tests
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- 7 Crossback images

2018 DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2018 DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2018 DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2018 DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2018 DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige. Image by DS Automobiles UK.

2018 DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2018 DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2018 DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2018 DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2018 DS 7 Crossback Ultra Prestige. Image by DS Automobiles UK.








 

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