Unless you’re Ferrari, no car manufacturer can afford not to have an SUV in its range.
Enter the DS 7 Crossback – the first original model and first sports utility vehicle from DS Automobiles, the standalone premium brand hived off from Citroen in 2014.
What is the DS 7 Crossback?
Priced from £28,050 to £43,535, the DS 7 is currently available as a front-wheel drive, though a plug-in hybrid 4×4 is due to be launched in 2019. For now, Advanced Traction Control is available as an option if more grip is required.
Awarded a maximum five stars by Euro NCAP in crash safety tests, the substantial list of driving assistance technology available includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, driver fatigue monitoring and DS Connected Pilot for semi-autonomous driving.
Slightly smaller than an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, yet bigger than the Q3 and X1, it’s tricky pinpointing its exact rivals. Others include the Range Rover Evoque and new Volvo XC40. In terms of size, it’s closest to the Mazda CX-5.
There’s no doubt that the DS 7 Crossback has kerb appeal. With a bold mesh grille, distinctive bejewelled LED lights and big alloys, it’s instantly recognisable from the front.
The rear is slightly more understated with a hint of Audi about it – not just in shape, but also those pulsating horizontal indicators.
Its profile conforms more with established SUVs, while the classy, comfortable interior is covered with soft-touch materials, packed with tech and finished beautifully.
There’s plenty of space up front, combined with a commanding driving position, while there’s room for three adults in the back, though you’d have to draw straws for the less comfy middle seat. The boot is wide opening and has a 555-litre capacity (1,752 litres with the rear seats folded down).
At launch, the DS 7 Crossback is available with a range of two turbo diesel engines and one turbocharged petrol unit. The diesel duo (a 128bhp 1.5-litre and 178bhp 2.0-litre) are the most economical, capable of 69mpg and 58mpg respectively with CO2 emissions of 107g/km and 128g/km. The punchy 1.5-litre is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, yet seems swifter than its 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds.
The more powerful 2.0-litre is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and is faster, reaching 62mph from standstill in 9.4 seconds. A little gruff under heavy acceleration, it soon settles down into a relaxed cruiser, with more than enough power. So whether you’re fully loaded with family and luggage or just plying the motorways, this would be our engine of choice.
However, if you’d rather stick to petrol, then the 221bhp 1.6-litre engine is surprisingly capable, despite the DS 7’s dimensions. With a 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds, it’s the fastest model in the range, while fuel economy is a respectable 49mpg and CO2 emissions are 134g/km.
There are four trim levels – Elegance, Performance Line, Prestige and Ultra Prestige. We’d recommend stretching to at least the Performance Line grade because though the Elegance is well equipped as standard with features such as autonomous emergency braking, rear parking sensors, automatic air conditioning and wipers, plus LED running lights, it “only” has an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen and there’s no digital instrument cluster for the driver.
Step up to Performance Line and you get a 12.0-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch driver’s digital display, plus other goodies including DS Active LED Vision, which is both eye-catching and functional, featuring rotating light modules which adapt to road conditions and vehicle speed. Another innovation, DS Active Scan Suspension, is also available. It can anticipate upcoming bumps and dips in the road, adjusting the shock absorbers accordingly.
Performance Line adds Alcantara dashboard and door panels, while Prestige and Ultra Prestige are swathed in Nappa leather – the seats with DS’s signature “watchstrap” design. The list of impressive equipment available is huge and DS has thought of everything, but a special mention for DS Night Vision which uses an infra-red camera in the front grille to pick out objects (displayed in the digital instrument cluster), such as pedestrians and animals, on the road at a distance of up to 100 metres.
How does it drive?
It’s rare to find an SUV with decent driving dynamics (the Mazda CX-5 is a rare example) and the DS 7 Crossback gets pretty close, especially in Performance Line trim with the 2.0-litre diesel. A combination of direct steering and suspension that keeps it surprisingly flat on cornering, make for a fairly sporty drive at times.
There are four driving modes to choose from – Eco, Comfort, Normal and Sport – and each is subtly different. As well tweaking the throttle response, steering and suspension, Sport also enhances the biggest diesel’s exhaust, giving it a more baritonal note.
Despite all the gizmos to cushion the ride and insulate noise, the DS 7 is not as refined (especially over rougher surfaces) as you might think, but it is generally a comfortable driving experience. We particularly like the big infotainment touchscreen which was slick and easy to use, and unlike some manufacturers, features a set of short-cut buttons too.
The new DS 7 Crossback is not just a pretty face. An innovative SUV oozing French chic, it strikes a good balance of premium quality, driving enjoyment, space, safety and practicality – a serious statement of intent from DS Automobiles.