The big test

The most comprehensive
new product test in fleet

Peugeot, Citroen and Vauxhall parent company PSA is starting a product push with its upmarket DS brand, and the DS 7 Crossback is first up. 

DS 7 CROSSBACK - The Big Test - Image 7

On the road

On the road

The DS 7 Crossback is the first of a new breed of DS Automobiles products designed to reinvigorate a brand that had big success with the DS 3 premium supermini, but which hasn’t managed to replicate that with either the DS 4 crossover or DS 5 compact executive models.

The DS 7 Crossback is aimed at the likes of the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque, so it’s up against the big premium brands and some well-established and very capable products.

From launch, the engine line-up is pretty simple, with two diesels and one petrol engine. The core company car model will be PSA’s new 130hp 1.5-litre diesel, which comes with a 107g/km emissions figure and is available in all bar the top Ultra Prestige trim level. The other two engines are a 180hp 2.0-litre diesel and a 225hp 1.6-litre petrol, both of which are available on all trims. These latter engines are only offered with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while the 130hp diesel only has the six-speed manual, which helps explain both the huge price difference between the entry engine and its compatriots, and the emissions disparity, as neither of the more powerful engines get within 20g/km of the 130hp diesel.

There are four trims: Elegance, Performance Line, Prestige and the aforementioned Ultra Prestige. All are well-equipped, with standard kit ranging from 18–20-inch alloys, while even the entry trim gets lane-departure and speed limit warnings, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an eight-inch touchscreen and auto lights. The Performance Line trim adds a 12.0-inch screen and 12.3-inch instrument cluster, satellite-navigation, rear privacy glass and exterior and interior upgrades including gloss black grille and aluminium sports pedals.

The Prestige model driven here moves things up further with the likes of front parking sensors and a reversing camera, wireless smartphone charging, keyless entry and electric heated massage front seats, as well as a raft of safety systems including blind-spot detection, lane-keep assist and driver attention alert. Ultra Prestige trim is where you find the powered hands-free tailgate, opening panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control and Nappa leather dashboard and door panelling.

It’s fair to say that the DS 7 Crossback is a plush place to pass the time. The materials all feel pleasant and the seats are extremely comfortable, though the dashboard isn’t quite as soft-touch as it looks. The centrally mounted switchgear that surrounds the gearlever all looks nice, although the aluminium effect across the centre of the car isn’t quite as high-class as the rest of the interior and maybe goes a touch too far. Likewise the rotating B.R.M. timepiece – it’s too unusual to be described by DS as a humble clock – from Prestige trim provides suitable theatre as it rotates on start-up, but is a touch aesthetically overdesigned. But the DS 7 Crossback certainly has a unique and premium-brand level cabin.

The Big Test - DS 7 Crossback
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The Big Test - DS 7 Crossback - Cabin Image

That said, actually starting the car isn’t as simple and easy as it should be. The start-stop button is mounted centrally at the top of the dashboard, and the electric front seat slides backwards out of the way to give you more space to get into and out of the car. However, they don’t slide forward until you’ve turned on the ignition, which of course you can’t reach because the seat is slid all the way back. It’s somewhat inconvenient. The button also needs to be held rather than pressed, and won’t respond until you’ve prodded it for a suitable length of time.

The interior is, away from the base spec at least, dominated by the large 12.0-inch touchscreen system that looks modern, especially combined with the digital instrument cluster that can be tailored to hold a wide variety of data including full-width navigation mapping. The only downside is that the search facility and destination entry aren’t as fluid or comprehensive as would be ideal; the system doesn’t recognise some postcodes and takes too long to search.

There’s loads of rear head and legroom, which reflects the fact that the DS 7 Crossback is much longer than the declared rivals; it’s 131mm longer than the BMW X1, although the Range Rover Evoque is slightly wider and taller. The DS 7 Crossback can certainly accommodate four adults in plenty of comfort, and even though the boot doesn’t look particularly large to the naked eye, its on-paper capacity of 628 litres is well ahead of rivals’.

The steering wheel is a good size and the steering well-weighted, although the pedals are a touch close together for drivers of a big-footed disposition.

DS has developed a decent overall driving experience, with the new 130hp diesel engine proving to be more than capable. Obviously it needs a little work to make rapid progress, but given the economy figures, it’s not a problem and is a refined unit that should give you no hankering for the 180hp diesel and the near-£5,000 upgrade that comes with it. The six-speed manual gearbox is great, offering a much tighter and slicker change than is often experienced with PSA Groupe products, and the lever is set at a nice height related to the high armrest with a short stalk to make it a pleasurable shift. It’s another reason not to feel the need for larger engines, because they come only with the eight-speed auto rather than the manual.

The car rides nicely despite being on relatively large 19-inch wheels, and overall the DS 7 Crossback offers a relaxed and cosseting, if largely uneventful, driving experience.

The big thing that we haven’t got to yet with the DS 7 Crossback is the price. Even this entry engine in the second-top trim level sails past £34,000 before you even begin to dabble in the options list. Ignoring the entry Elegance trim that almost no one will go for, you’re looking at a minimum of just under £31,500.

The established premium brands offer good products at this price point, and while it’s admirable and confident of DS to go in with this pricing structure, it’s still asking buyers to take quite a punt on something different when they can have a more powerful Audi or BMW for a load less.

To be fair, the specification stands up well to scrutiny, with various bits of kit including rear parking camera, keyless entry, electric front seats and wireless phone charging fitted, which you don’t get on competitor models, and the DS 7 Crossback’s interior is at least as good, if not better than its rivals’, but when a decent spec of BMW X1 is four figures cheaper, it’s still an ask. At least the residual values stack up well, and costs such as SMR and insurance are ahead of rivals’.

The DS 7 Crossback can be summed up as nearer the DS 3 end of things than the DS 4 or DS 5, putting it towards the hit rather than what’s fair to say are probably misses for the brand. The DS 7 Crossback certainly has its strengths in terms of classy looks, equipment levels, interior quality, pleasant driving experience and emissions, but the big problem is its top-level list price for a brand that hasn’t yet proved itself at the top level. However, maybe the DS 7 Crossback, which leads a big product splurge from the French brand over the coming years, will prove to be the car that starts off that process.

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Context

Context

DS Automobiles was introduced in 2009 as a premium sub-brand within Citroen, and spun-off as its own entity in 2014. The DS 7 Crossback is the first all-new vehicle from the separated brand, and it joins the DS 3 supermini (pictured), DS 4 crossover and DS 5 upper medium models in the range, although the latter two are nearing the end of their production lives.

DS promises six new products from 2018, with the DS 7 Crossback being the first of those, with at least one per year and electrified versions coming, starting with the plug-in hybrid version of the DS 7 next year. That car will have 300hp and four-wheel drive, along with a claimed 37-mile electric-only range. DS has pledged that electrified versions will make up at least a third of sales by 2025, and all models will have an electrified alternative.

PSA Groupe has declared that its ambition is to “embody the French luxury know-how and apply it credibly to the automotive industry”, drawing parallels with fashion labels Cartier, Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton, while admitting that French automotive brands have so far rarely managed to replicate that premium success.

The Big Test - DS 7 Crossback - In Context - DS 3 Supermini

What they said

What They Said

“DS 7 Crossback is the first of a new generation of products from DS Automobiles. The priority was to be present in the fast-growing C-SUV sector and DS 7 Crossback brings a distinctive identity plus innovative and advanced technological features such as DS Night Vision and DS Active Scan Suspension for a smooth ride."

"And then there’s the interior with many attention-to-detail features. For those of our customers who want to be above the rest or known as a leader in their field, this is the newest and most-captivating SUV on the block.”

Martin Gurney, Fleet Sales Director, PSA Group

 

Martin Gurney, fleet and used vehicle director, PSA Group

Comparatively speaking

The Big Test - DS 7 Crossback - Comparatively Speaking Chart

Need to know

The Big Test - DS 7 Crossback - Need to Know Chart

Like/dislike

Three things we like...

The Big Test - DS 7 Crossback - Three Things We Like - The gearchange has a pleasantly precise and crisp feel to it
1

The gearchange has a pleasantly precise and crisp feel to it

The Big Test - DS 7 Crossback - Three Things We Like - The dashboard display is large, useful and looks great
2

The dashboard display is large, useful and looks great

The Big Test - DS 7 Crossback - Three Things We Like - The rear lights feature the diamond-inspired design that goes across the car
3

The rear lights feature the diamond-inspired design that goes across the car

...And one we don't

The Big Test - DS 7 Crossback - And One We Don't - Not sure about the need to enlarge different numbers to normal on the clock
X

Not sure about the need to enlarge different numbers to normal on the clock

Verdict

Verdict

Drive  7/10

It’s all fairly predictable from a driving perspective. The 130hp engine goes nicely and doesn’t feel slow against rivals’ 150hp offerings.

Efficiency  8/10

A good showing from this engine, although it is the only one in the range below 130g/km. 

Practicality  8/10

The boot space is excellent on paper but maybe feels smaller in reality. Still, there’s loads of rear head and legroom on offer.

Equipment  8/10

The DS 7 Crossback comes pretty well stocked, as you’d expect for the price, although there are big price walks between the trims.

Looks  8/10

Though some of it is down to curiosity about a brand that isn’t as recognised as rivals, the DS 7 Crossback elicited a lot of interest, and it was almost all positive.

Comfort and refinement 8/10

No complaints on the ride front, with a well-balanced ride and handling set-up.

Cabin  9/10

Slightly overplayed on the diamond-shaped theme, but it’s all plush and very pleasant.

Infotainment  7/10

The big screen looks great and combines with the cockpit display, but the nav system isn’t the most intuitive or user-friendly especially when destination searching.

Whole life costs  7/10

The DS 7 Crossback’s biggest problem is its high P11D price, which is actually above those of decent premium brand rivals. RVs are very acceptable, SMR is good and its CO2 output is low.

CCT opinion  8/10

Likeable and smart, the DS 7 Crossback’s big issue will be the very premium list price.

VERDICT 78%

The DS 7 Crossback looks good, is well equipped and offers lower emissions figures than rivals’, but is priced a bit high, especially for the higher trims.