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. At launch there’s just one high-output petrol engine and two diesels, all coming with front-wheel drive. In time, the range will grow to feature three-cylinder versions and will top out with a plug-in hybrid performance ‘E-Tense’ model in 2019.
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’ll be the first brand in the group to get plug-in hybrid technology. DS’s involvement with the Formula E championship will finally be realised in the production car range with the DS 7 Crossback E-Tense. Launching in 2019, it’ll be the performance option in the line-up and will use 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’llIt is expected to have a pure-electric range of between 30 and 40 miles and cost around £50,000.
As previously mentioned, the engines are familiar if you’ve driven a Peugeot or a Citroen lately. For now there’s just the choice of three units: a 222bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol and two diesels – a 1.5 with 128bhp and a 178bhp 2.0-litre. The lower output diesel only comes with a six-speed manual while the 2.0-litre diesel and the petrol come with an eight-speed automatic. All models are two-wheel drive until the arrival of the E-Tense plug-in hybrid version in 2019. Coming soon will be a 178bhp 1.6-litre petrol, and three-cylinder petrol variants too.
Pick up a DS brochure and with various references to different interior styles (Bastille, Performance Line, Rivoli and Opera) it can get confusing. All you really need to know is that the DS 7 comes in four trim levels – entry-level Elegance, sporty Performance Line, posh Prestige and extra posh Ultra Prestige. All models are well equipped with even the Elegance getting 18-inch alloy wheels, LED front foglights with a cornering function, an eight-inch touchscreen, rear parking sensors and a leather-covered steering wheel and gearknob. Lane departure warning is also thrown in but the Elegance only comes with the 128bhp 1.5-litre diesel and a manual gearbox.
Performance Line opens up the full range of engines and befitting its sporty status, the chrome exterior trim is painted in gloss black and the interior features Alcantara on the seats, door panels and dashboard instead of soft-touch plastic or leather. The kit roster includes heated front seats, a 12-inch HD touchscreen, digital dials, sat nav, LED headlights, 19-inch alloys and tinted glass. The clever Active Scan Suspension is also thrown in but only if you pick the 2.0-litre diesel.
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. Prestige and Ultra Prestige wear £40,000-£44,000 sticker prices 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.
While the DS 7 Crossback has quite large dimensions compared to them, it’s main rivals are the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA, Jaguar E-Pace and the Volvo XC40.