DS 7 Crossback review
The DS 7 Crossback SUV offers a touch of French luxury to take on its established German rivals
The DS 7 Crossback enters a market sector that’s chock-full of talented rivals, but it doesn’t quite boast class leading qualities in enough areas to be considered a proper best-buy. It’s an interesting car with a well appointed, classy interior and plenty of eye-catching features. It’s spacious too, but it doesn’t drive anywhere near as sharply as many rivals, while the inconsistent ride means it fails to fulfil its brief as a supremely comfortable cruiser. Ambitious asking prices mean that there’s no financial advantage in picking the Crossback over the premium SUV establishment either.
The DS 7 Crossback is a small SUV that focuses on offering something different from the norm – namely ‘French luxury’ in a class used to German offerings. While it may have the exterior dimensions and interior space akin to an Audi Q5-size of SUV, the DS 7 Crossback actually rivals smaller models like the Volvo XC40, Jaguar E-Pace, BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.
To stand out from those cars the DS 7 has suspension that ‘reads’ the road ahead plus other technology like night vision and a head-up display on some models. It’s fair to say that visually, the DS 7 is the most toned down model DS Automobiles has built so far – the overall design is rather generic with just some bold little features, but it’s enough to make the DS 7 stand proudly amongst its German, Swedish and British rivals. There's a choice of three petrol engines and two diesels, all coming with front-wheel drive, along with the E-Tense 4x4 plug-in hybrid. In time, the range will grow to feature three-cylinder versions for added flexibility and further benefits to economy and emissions.
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DS Automobiles has had a confused and difficult upbringing. Quite rightly, Citroen believes its DS model of 1955 is one of its halo cars and one that has defined the brand (it was built until 1975 and sold more than 1.4m units), so when the French company decided to launch a range of new upmarket models in 2010 it turned to the DS name. The first DS to launch was the MINI-rivaling Citroen DS3 – a car that was highly desirable (and still is) to fashion-conscious British buyers. The DS 3 was followed by the Citroen DS4 and and the Citroen DS5 – the latter being an oddball offering rivalling the BMW 3 Series that returned Citroen to the days of producing slightly eccentric cars.
Then in 2014 the DS models were divorced from Citroen with the French company believing DS could stand on its own two feet as a separate brand. DS Automobiles became the third brand in the PSA Peugeot Citroen Group and was tasked with chasing other premium brands like BMW and Mercedes.
DS thinks its cars and its brand are the automotive equivalent of other high-end French names like Chanel and Hermes, and its ‘French couture’ products offer something different from the German norm. And with that confidence behind them, the Citroen DS3, DS4 and DS5 models became the DS 3, DS 4 and DS 5.
That was phase one of the brand separation – phase two began with the DS 7 Crossback. DS plans to launch six new cars by 2023; that’s six all new cars that never started life as a Citroen – and the DS 7 Crossback is the first. While it may share its platform with the Peugeot 3008 and engines and components with various other Peugeots and Citroens, the DS 7 is the first ‘proper’ DS.
But while the oily bits are common, the bits you can see and use are mostly unique – the DS 7 Crossback has the type of technology normally associated with more familiar premium brands such as night vision, adaptive cruise control (which can also stop the car and move off in heavy traffic) and suspension that ‘reads’ the road. Only available on some models, the Active Scan Suspension uses a camera that scans the road ahead and if it spots a pot hole or bump, it tweaks the suspension accordingly. It’s the type of tech normally found on high-end cars like the Mercedes S-Class.
Design-wise the DS 7 Crossback is a new DS. Where the DS 5 is eccentric, divisive and a bit of a French odd-ball, the DS 7 is more adherent to SUV norms and doesn’t stray too far from the classic design rule book. So look quickly and you may mistake the DS 7 for an Audi Q5 at the front and back or a Lexus if you look at it in profile. Instead, DS has worked on the details to make the DS 7 stand out; the LED lights, for instance, glow purple when you approach the car and the individual LED elements swivel round when the car is unlocked. The rear lights feature a distinctive diamond design pattern (the diamond design is repeated throughout the car), while inside some models have a clock on the dashboard made by up-market French watchmakers B.R.M. – press the start/stop button and the clock rotates into view out of the dash.
So confident is the PSA Group in DS Automobiles, it's the first brand in the group to get plug-in hybrid technology. DS’s involvement with the Formula E championship has been realised in the production car range with the DS 7 Crossback E-Tense. Launched in 2019, it’s the performance option in the line-up and uses a 200bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a 110bhp electric motor on each axle, making it the only four-wheel drive DS 7. It has a pure-electric range of around 31mpg and costs just short of £48,000, rising to £56,000 for the Ultra Prestige version.
The DS 7 comes in three trim levels – sporty Performance Line, stylish Prestige and extra posh Ultra Prestige. All models are well equipped with even the Performance Line getting 19-inch alloy wheels, LED front foglights with a cornering function, a twelve-inch touchscreen, rear parking sensors and a leather-covered steering wheel and gearknob. Lane departure warning is also thrown in as standard.
Prestige adds crystal controls in the interior, LED ambient lighting, front parking sensors and a reversing camera, along with wireless charging. The B.R.M clock is added to the dashboard along with swathes of leather. Meanwhile, the Ultra Prestige also features 20-inch wheels, an upgraded stereo system, a panoramic sunroof and full-leather seats. There’s a 360-degree parking camera, keyless entry with a powered tailgate, and an Advanced Safety pack which includes blind spot detection and lane keeping assist on this top line model too.
Performance Line is the pick of the range due to its strong kit list and sub-£40,000 asking price. Certain Prestige models and all Ultra Prestige versions come in at over £40,000, which is a little steep for a new brand, bearing in mind that some of the kit that makes the DS 7 desirable and sometimes unique in the class is reserved for the options list. DS Connected Pilot (which features adaptive cruise control with Stop&Go and lane keeping assist) is £650 on all but the top model, and Night Vision is between £1,100 and £1,600 on all models.
Engines, performance and drive
DS Automobiles is building its brand on the original Citroen DS of 1955. That car was a technological masterpiece and one that Citroen quite rightly holds up as one of its greatest ever cars. One of its hallmarks was the way it drove and rode – there was nothing that could compete with its hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension, brakes, steering and clutch.
DS makes great claims about the DS 7 Crossback reviving the original DS’s glory days of comfort and refinement, but you should be a little wary. Overall the DS 7 has a ride quality that is a touch more comfy than its rivals, but it’s nowhere near as luxurious as the firm might want you to believe.
If you’re considering a DS 7, you should probably opt for one that comes with Active Scan Suspension. It’s a clever system similar to that usually found on high-end Mercedes models, for instance, and uses a camera that scans the road ahead and adjusts the damping accordingly.
Like many rivals, the DS 7 comes with a number of driving modes and the default mode is ‘Normal’. But if you want the Active Scan Suspension to actually work you’ll have to jab the diamond-shaped drive mode selector switch and change to ‘Comfort’. Do this and the DS 7 becomes far more comfortable (as you’d expect) – the camera does a good job of scanning the road and tweaking the damping at road speeds around 30-40mph, but the low speed ride remains noticeably inconsistent and picks up judders too frequently. It can feel a little wallowy at speed on motorways too.
Flicking the car into Sport mode reveals that the DS 7 isn’t an SUV prepared to be driven swiftly, with sub-par body control and soft, lifeless steering. The the artificial engine sound actuation induced in Sport mode will quickly get on your nerves too.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
DS have realigned the model line-up to include two petrol engines and two diesel units, along with the E-Tense 4x4 plug-in hybrid. Petrol versions include the 1.2-litre PureTech, delivering 130PS or 180PS - with manual and auto transmissions, respectively. The more powerful 1.6-litre PureTech offers 225PS with an automatic gearbox. The 1.5 BlueHDi diesel offers 130PS and is included across all trim levels, as is the 2.0-litre variant with 180PS. The E-Tense is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged unit, with a hybrid system using a pair of electric motors teamed up to a 13.2kWh battery. This means up to 31 miles between battery top-ups, and ability to travel at speeds of up to 83mph in zero emission mode. The 1.6-litre turbocharged unit makes 200bhp on its own, which combined with the electric motors can mean a total output of 296bhp and 450Nm of torque. That’s the same power as a Cupra Ateca, and 50Nm more torque, so 0-62mph takes just 5.9seconds.
The engine most likely to find favour with buyers is the potent BlueHDi 180 diesel. It’s still front wheel drive, but power climbs to 177bhp in line with an enlarged capacity of 2.0-litres. 0-62mph drops to 9.4 seconds and an automatic gearbox is standard. With torque climing to 400Nm it feels far punchier, while the eight speed-gearbox is smooth. It doesn’t do too badly for refinement, settling nicely while cruising, but unfortunately revealing a trademark, coarse diesel growl when pushed. However, it’s still probably the best all-round choice.
Opt for a petrol DS 7 Crossback and the experience is even smoother. The range-topping 225 PureTech with 222bhp and 300Nm of torque on tap feels suitably brisk, sending the DS 7 Crossback to 62mph in 8.3 seconds and remaining very quiet under stress. We’ve yet to try the 180 PureTech model, but we’d expect the refinement to remain.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
If you can see past the expensive list price of the E-Tense 4x4, then its economy of 235.4mpg on the combined cycle and emissions of 33-37g/km of CO2 does sound particulaly attractive. However, the DS 7 Crossback’s duo of diesels serve up interesting alternatives from a running costs point-of-view. The BlueHDi 130 auto is around £12,000 cheaper than the E-Tense and boasts an impressive 55.3mpg on a combined run, while tailipipe emissions of 100g/km are low for a car the size of the DS 7, too. The downside is it'll feel sluggish and it’s only available with a six-speed manual gearbox.
The BlueHDi 180 automatic trades a bit of frugality for performance, but it’s still decent for fuel economy. DS claims 48.2mpg for this engine, but emissions climb to 124g/km, pushing it into the 27 per cent BIK band for company car buyers. The 225PS petrol still returns a respectable 40.4mpg, part in thanks to the fact that it's also front-wheel-drive.
The Performance Line BlueHDi 130PS car occupies insurance group 22, rising to 23 for the same engine in Prestige trim. Our choice - the BlueHDi 180 in Performance Line trim, sits reasonably in group 29. Range topping Ultra Prestige cars sit in group 31.
Predicted residual values aren’t too alarming but the most popular and in-demand versions of key rivals such as the Jaguar E-Pace and Audi Q3 make for better reading, and the DS 7 Crossback’s worth after three years lags behind the Volvo XC40. Values vary between 46 per cent and 52 per cent of the car’s original asking price depending on trim and engine, with the range topping 225 petrol in Ultra Prestige predicted to be the worst at retaining its value. The BlueHDi 180 Performance Line car should be worth 50 per cent of its list price after three years and 36,000 miles.
Interior, design and technology
As the first true DS product in its own right, the DS 7 Crossback shows us what the French firm’s design team can do when presented with a blank sheet of paper. It sits on the PSA Group’s EMP2 platform, shared with the Peugeot 5008 and the upcoming Citroen C5 Aircross.
Compared to older DS cars and their tweaked, previous-generation Citroen designs, the DS 7 boasts a far less complicated look, and is much cleaner in image thanks to smoother surfacing.
At the front, the car cuts a very Audi Q5-like figure with its large hexagonal chrome grille and chrome trim elements bleeding into the headlights. The rest of the design is a little bit more distinctive though. The horizontal daytime running lights placed into the intricate front apron are standard on every model, while looking at the car’s side profile reveals a tall beltline mated to a rounded roof and rear window line. At the back, DS signature 3D style LED taillights are found, connected by a chrome strip spanning the width of the tailgate. Some chunky black cladding injects a bit of ruggedness into the otherwise delicate design.
The car’s interior is much more interesting. The cabin is dominated by a large centre console, which pours down seamlessly from the dashboard. Material quality is par for the premium SUV class at hand height, but you’ll be disappointed to see that the angular, metallic looking switchgear lining the centre console is plastic, not metal, and scratchier plastics can be found if you go looking for them.
The Opera interior theme can be had with either black or brown leather seats, both finished with a watch strap chain-link like pattern. Pearl stitching features too, as do backlit door handles. This scheme is only available on the range topping Ultra Prestige car.
The Rivoli upholstery line is standard on the regular Prestige version. It uses a quilted leather theme, applied to both the seats and the dashboard. Performance Line cars get Alcantara finished cabins, while the B.R.M 180 timepiece is standard fit on Prestige cars upwards.
Performance Line includes 19-inch wheels, alongside subtle, sporty design tweaks such as the gloss black grille and exterior trim, along with Active LED headlights. 20-inch wheels are standard fit on Ultra Prestige versions.
Sat-nav, stereo & infotainment
Navigation is also offered across all variants, as are two rear USB sockets and an eight-speaker audio system. Wireless charging is available on Prestige trim and above.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The DS 7 Crossback slips into the smaller end of the SUV market alongside the Audi Q3 and Volvo XC40. As such, the avant-garde cabin contains seats five and no more. The driving position feels nothing out of the ordinary, perching the driver high for a decent view of the road. Visibility front and sideways is good, though as is the case with the current crop of increasingly rakish SUVs, the rear window isn’t the largest.
Though it’s clearly a design-led SUV, Performance Line cars upwards come with roof rails as standard, and a tow bar is available on the options list.
Against the tape measure the DS 7 Crossback sizes up at 4,573mm long, 1,625mm high, 1,906mm wide and boasts a wheelbase of 2,738mm. That means it’s longer than the Volvo XC40, Jaguar E-Pace and Range Rover Evoque, boasting a lengthier wheelbase than those cars too. Both the Evoque and the E-Pace are a little wider, while the 1,625mm height means that the DS 7 Crossback is isn’t one of the tallest options in the pack. It is, of course, taller than more hatchback biased rivals such as the BMW X2 and Mercedes GLA.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Inside, the DS 7 Crossback’s level of knee room is decent, generous even, front and rear. The tall, rounded roof means headroom is good, but equipping the panoramic glass roof intrudes on this. In the back, the floor feels just ever so slightly shallow and could impact comfort for taller passengers, but the transmission tunnel is completely flat and doesn’t intrude on the middle seat where kneeroom is still excellent.
Open the tailgate and a 555-litre boot is found, accessed by a wide and low opening. It’s a generous size for the class, roundly beating the Volvo XC40 and other SUVs with similar footprints such as the Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque. To put things into perspective, the 555-litre space even shades out the larger Audi Q5. The seats don’t fold completely flat, but lowering the back row opens up a large 1,752-litre cargo area.
The £150 optional Modularity Pack introduces a variable boot floor, alongside lateral storage spaces and a 12v power socket too. Additionally, the boot sills are chromed.
A manual tow bar can be fitted to the DS 7 Crossback and is available as an optional extra on every model, priced at £600. The volume seller - the BlueHDi 180 engined car - boasts an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg.
Reliability and Safety
The DS 7 Crossback has run the Euro NCAP gauntlet and has emerged with a full five-star rating, notching up a 91 percent score for adult occupants and 87 percent for child occupant protection. A pedestrian safety rating of 73 percent is impressive, while a decent amount of standard safety kit results in a 76 percent score in that field too.
Standard convenience tech includes cruise control with a speed limiter function, traffic sign recognition, hill start assist and rear parking sensors. Performance Line adds adaptive LED headlights with high beam assist plus rear lateral and curtain airbags, while Prestige gets the Advanced Safety Pack. This includes blind spot detectors, lane keep assist, and an extended traffic sign recognition system as well. Front parking sensors and a reversing camera are added for convenience.
Ultra Prestige gets the DS Connected Pilot system, with adaptive cruise control with stop & go capability mated to lane keep assist. It’s optional further down the line-up, and enables semi-autonomous cruising on motorway-style roads, where the system detects it is safe to do so.
In our Driver Power satisfaction survey, customers highlighted significant concerns with the quality of the brand's products. Finishing 28th out of 30 manufacturers, DS will be troubled by the high proportion (25.5%) of owners reporting faults. There was some positivity towards the overall driving experience and fuel economy, but criticism for harsh ride quality and poor practicality.
The standard DS warranty lasts for three years and is limited to 60,000 miles. For another fee, the warranty can be extended to five years. A 12-year anti-perforation warranty is also included, alongside a three-year guarantee on the paint. All in all, it’s a fairly standard offering.
DS offers a range of regular service plans, paid for monthly or in a lump sum. A two year, 30,000 mileage service plan costs £305, or £12,71 a month. Three-, four- and five-year plans are available too.