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First Drive: DS 7 Crossback PHEV

The story:
PSA’s premium brand DS has made its first move into electrification with the arrival of the DS 7 Crossback E-Tense, a plug-in hybrid version of the mid-sized crossover launched in 2018.
Category:Premium Crossover
Key rival:Audi Q5 PHEV
DS 7 Crossback E-Tense 4x4 Ultra Prestige
Price:£56,020
MPG:235.4mpg
Emissions:33g/km
On sale:February 2020

The arrival of the new E-Tense branding – which slightly confusingly covers both full electric and plug-in hybrid models – marks a new period for French brand DS.

The premium brand sibling to Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall under the PSA banner has been talking about its electrification plans for some time, but they are now a reality with the launch of the DS 7 Crossback E-Tense 4×4.

The plug-in hybrid version of the crossover model combines a 200hp petrol engine with a pair of electric motors for a combined maximum output of 300hp, as well as a CO2 emissions figure from 33g/km and
an official electric-only range of 36 miles. The electric motors, one connected to each set of wheels, also give the E-Tense four-wheel-drive capability not offered on the petrol and diesel DS 7 models.

First Drive= December 2019- DS 7 Crossback PHEV- Image 9The plug-in hybrid is available in the same three trim levels as the rest of the DS 7 Crossback range, and the packaging of the batteries means no loss of boot or cabin space. That gives it the same hefty 628 litres of load space, including an under-floor spot to store the charging cable away from the rest of the luggage.

The only major compromise is on cost, where the PHEV adds a shade under £10,000 to the price of the 180hp diesel DS 7 Crossback. Obviously performance is more impressive, with the 0-62mph time dropping from 9.4 to 5.9 seconds, but it’s still a big price gap. The whole-life cost calculation helps that though, especially if the time driven on electricity is maximised, as electric costs around a third of the price of diesel, while the 16% company car Benefit-in-Kind band for 2019-20 drops to 12% in the next tax year, while the diesel goes from 33% to 34%. On this top-spec Ultra Prestige model, that means a £210-per-month saving for a 40% taxpayer, rising to £301 per month from April 2020.

DS’s position as a premium brand is emphasised by the plush cabin, with fine-quality materials across the dash and doors, and comfortable, soft seats.

First Drive= December 2019- DS 7 Crossback PHEV- Image 6Attempts to make the cabin different from rival brands’ mean buttons aren’t always in the most logical of places, a criticism that also extends to the PSA-sourced touchscreen. But there’s decent space, and the cars are well equipped.

The E-Tense performs well in terms of acceleration, as expected from the sub-6.0-second 0-62mph figure, although the engine can be a touch boomy under duress. But in electric mode it offers a relaxed and calm experience, even if the dashboard display could do with making it clearer to the driver how hard they can prod the accelerator before the engine is required as well as the electric motors.

At present, the PHEV rivals in this premium crossover sector number one – the Audi Q5. Others are coming though, including the BMW X3e. The top-spec DS 7 Crossback E-Tense is £3095 more expensive than the Audi S-Line, but has an official range that’s 10 miles better.

 

paul barker

The verdict

Useful and tax-efficient if far from cheap, the DS 7 Crossback PHEV is a plush addition from a still-left-field brand.