While DS has been back in business for a few years now the DS7 Crossback is the first machine that has been designed from the ground up to represent what the company stands for – charismatic design, French luxury and advanced technology. It might look pretty similar to a horde of other smaller SUVs but DS is hoping it has enough bespoke design cues to draw customers away from rivals such as BMW’s X1, Audi’s Q3, the Volvo XC40 and the Range Rover Evoque.
While DS says it designed the car very much with that set of competitors in mind it’s worth noting that it’s a little larger than most of them, certainly in terms of rear seat accommodation and boot capacity, so it starts out on a good footing when trying to appeal to family buyers. All but the entry-level models pack quite a high level of specification and have enough showroom appeal with their luxurious interiors to potentially steal customers from the more established brands.
However, if those potential buyers have even a modicum of driver involvement in mind from their SUV they may well be disappointed with the DS7 Crossback. Yes, it has a comfortable ride but the engines aren’t desperately inspiring and their performance isn’t on a par with the majority of their rivals. There’s not much reward to be had from trying to hustle one along a back road as it’s just rather dull from a driver’s perspective. A more powerful PHEV model with four-wheel drive and a claimed 300bhp is coming in 2019 but it’ll need to have a thoroughly revised chassis if it’s to endow the DS7 with an enthralling driving experience.
In the meantime, those after a small sporty (ish) SUV should look elsewhere.DS7 Crossback in detail
> Performance and 0-60 time – DS7 Crossback acceleration figures won’t set the world on fire and lag behind rivals with the 2-litre diesel’s nigh-on 10-second 0-62mph time looking tardy these days.
> Engine and gearbox – Three engines are offered, two diesels and one petrol with outputs ranging from 128bhp to 222bhp. Transmissions are a six-speed manual or a new eight-speed auto for the 180 and 225 models.
> Ride and handling – Clever Active Scan suspension endows DS7 with a decent ride in Comfort mode. Driving modes frustratingly do not offer the option of personalizing them.
> MPG and running costs – Smaller-engined diesel promises nigh-on 70mpg while more powerful models are said to do high-50s.
> Interior and tech – Style and luxury are the watchwords for the DS7’s interior and it certainly comes with plenty of Gallic flair. Lots of gadgets and gizmos to play with, and plenty of space, too.
> Design – The DS7 tries to stand out from its rivals with some neat detailing like the LED rear light clusters and the jewel-like rotating headlights.Prices, specs and rivals
DS is pitching the DS7 Crossback into a very crowded SUV marketplace and says it sees the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Volvo XC40, Jaguar E-Pace and Range Rover Evoque as key rivals. But can the DS7 hope to compete with these established premium players?
The initial launch line up comprises two diesels, BlueHDi 130 (manual only) and BlueHDi180 (auto only) and one petrol, the PureTech 225 (again, auto only). Three trim levels are offered, Elegance (BlueHDi 130 only), Performance Line and Prestige (all three engines) and Ultra Prestige (180 and 225 only). Prices start at a palatable £28,050 for the Elegance and rise to a pretty stratospheric £43k for the two Ultra Prestige models. Yes, you do get a lot of kit for your money with these latter two, but when a BMW X1 20d xLine costs £35k, the DS7 looks rather expensive. The BMW’s significantly quicker too, even if it doesn’t have quite so much standard equipment.
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In terms of equipment Elegance comes with cloth seats, 18-inch alloys, cruise control, lane departure warning and two-zone air con while Performance Line models gain 19s, an Alcantara-clad interior, Active Scan suspension (180 and 225 only), LED headlights and a navigation system. The two top end models really are very well kitted out and just about the only option of note that can be fitted to the Ultra Prestige model is Night Vision.
The compact SUV market is tough though and while the DS might not have the established players licked for driver appeal it does offer an alternative to them with its Gallic style, luxury bent and quirky appeal.Performance and 0-60 time
It’s no exaggeration to say that the DS7 isn’t going to set the world on fire when it comes to its performance figures, even when the 296bhp Hybrid comes on line in 2019. The launch line up comprises three engines, BlueHDi diesels in both 130 and 180 guises as well as a PureTech 225 petrol model. All are four-cylinder units and while they all pass muster as far as emissions and economy figures are concerned they lag behind the competition in performance terms.
The manual only BlueHDi 130 (1499cc, 128bhp) saunters to 62mph in 11.7sec while the auto only BlueHDi 180 (1997cc with 178bhp) isn’t massively faster with a claimed 9.9sec 0-62mph time. To put that into perspective an Audi Q3 2.0 TDi with 181bhp bests that by 2.0sec, although the German does have four-wheel drive to help get it off the line.
For the time being the only petrol model is the PureTech 225 with 222bhp and while its claimed acceleration figure from rest to 62mph of 8.3sec sounds a little bit more like it, a BMW X1 20i with 189bhp covers the same increment in 7.4sec.
On the road the HDi 180 does feel stronger than its vital stats suggest, no doubt assisted by its 295lb ft of torque that’s developed at 2000rpm. Pop it into its Sport mode and the engine feels moderately enthusiastic if a little more gruff than the class-leading 2-litre diesels. Conversely the 225 petrol doesn’t imbibe the same feeling although to be fair to DS, it did say it’s still fine-tuning the transmission software for this model. While it was smooth enough in Normal mode it was far too eager to kick down in Sport, which constantly took the engine out of its torque-rich mid-range.Engine and gearbox
The entry-level 1.5-litre BlueHDi 130 develops 128bhp and 221lb ft at 1750rpm mated to a six-speed manual and while we’ve not driven it yet, we’d reckon it’ll only appeal to a small proportion of buyers on a strict budget, or those after low (107g/km) emissions.
The larger diesel, the 1997cc BlueHDi 180, is expected to be the best seller and musters 178bhp at 3750rpm and 295lb ft of torque at 2000rpm. At launch this will be pared with PSA’s new EAT8 eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s not a bad combination either, with the box swapping between ratios in a discreet fashion in Comfort and Normal modes while in Sport it’s a little snappier if not quite up there with the class leaders.
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With 222bhp at 5500rpm from the 1598cc four-cylinder mill in the PureTech 225 model, we were hoping this might be a little bit more aligned to the thrill of driving but with just 221lb ft of torque at 1900rpm it’s not quite as peppy as we hoped it might be. Driven moderately it’s relatively quiet and refined but, as mentioned previously, the gearbox is too keen to kick down in Sport mode, which brings more noise, but not a significant rise in forward momentum.
One further model that will come on stream – but not until the second half of 2019 – is what DS is calling the E-Tense, a 296bhp PHEV that combines a 197bhp petrol engine with a brace of 107bhp electric motors. One of those electric motors is mounted up front with the petrol engine and transversely mounted EAT8 gearbox, while the other is mated to the rear axle, providing the DS7 Crossback with the only four-wheel drive model in the range.
It has a claimed electric only range of 37 miles and DS says its packaged in such a way as to keep the DS7’s practicality intact. We had a very brief try in a prototype version of the car on a test track and it seemed brisk enough in both electric and hybrid modes, although there’s still plenty of work to be done on it’s refinement. No performance claims are being made at the moment so we’ll have to view this as a work in progress for the time being. It needs to be good though as it has a projected price of £50k.Ride and handling
As part of DS’s desire to move the Crossback upmarket it’s fitted all but the entry-level Elegance model with its Active Scan suspension system. This is the sort of set up you might find in high-end Mercedes and BMW models and uses cameras to examine the road surface ahead of the car and adjusts the dampers’ responses accordingly. It’s clever stuff and currently unique to this segment of the market. But how does it work in practice?
On the whole we’d have to say it does work well, but with certain provisos. For starters it only works when the DS7 is in its Comfort setting which does seem a little daft and seems to assume that if you’re in Normal or Sport modes you’re quite happy for potholes to send a shudder through your car as you go over them.
Comfort works best around town or at speeds of up to 50mph or so when on more open roads and while the Active Scan isn’t perfect it does make crossing speed bumps a more refined experience and does seem to spot the worst of the road’s imperfections. Above these speeds though and it becomes rather wallowy and floaty and will have you reaching for the driving mode switch to engage Normal mode.
For most road conditions this will probably be the default setting as it offers decent body control, a nicely weighted (if pretty devoid of feel) steering set-up and an acceptable ride, unless you decided 20-inch items were a good idea when you spec’d the car. The big rims have plenty of showroom appeal, but are a poor choice on the move.
Engaging Sport tightens the chassis further and does make it corner with a flatter attitude, although we wouldn’t go as far as to say that it actually feels sporting. It’ll understeer if you’re over ambitious but what really hampers the car in this mode is the steering which just becomes overly heavy and leaves you with a feeling that you’re wrestling with the car rather than driving it.
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What is frustrating about the DS7 Crossback is that DS has seen fit to allow you to choose eight different moods of lighting for the interior and six different displays for the TFT dashpod yet won’t allow you to choose what’s what with the driving modes. Thus, if you select Sport the steering, engine, gearbox and suspension all engage Sport – you can’t choose to have just the chassis and engine in Sport leaving the gearbox and steering in Normal which seems a little remiss.
While we’re discussing the DS7’s drive we should also mention the plethora of driving tech fitted to the higher end models. All cars receive lane departure warning, speed limit recognition but higher end models up the ante with lane keeping assist, blind spot detection and active cruise control with stop and go. The various systems do work well and the lane keeping assist in conjunction with the active cruise control did make light work of rush hour Paris Périphérique traffic.MPG and running costs
The quoted economy and emissions figures for the three DS7 Crossback launch models are perfectly respectable without perhaps being quite good enough for class-leading status. The HDi 130 is the economy champion at a claimed 68.9mpg which is identical to a BMW X1 18d’s figure which sounds good until you remember the BMW has an additional 20bhp and is two seconds quicker to 62mph.
Of the two models we drove the HDi 180 offered a better blend of performance and economy than the PureTech 225, despite both cars having official stats of 57.6 and 57.9mpg respectively. The HDi’s superior mid-range torque helps here as there was no need to chase down the red line to make (moderately) rapid progress. In normal driving we’d expect both cars to return figures in the 40s.
To sit alongside the DS7’s luxury ethos DS is promising a luxurious ownership prospect via its ‘Only You’ program which will give owners benefits such as DS rentals, a valet (delivery) service, a Privilege club, an exclusive ‘My DS’ app as well as an eight-year assistance system too.Interior and tech
To go with the luxury side of the DS7 Crossback’s character there are several different interior ambiances to choose from. In an Elegance model you get a cloth (special cloth, mind) interior and traditional dials while the Performance Line models have just about every surface slathered in Alcantara. Prestige has a ‘Rivoli’ quilted leather look while the Ultra Prestige model gets an Opera interior with high-end Nappa leather.
Depending on model there’s some nice detailing too, with all models receiving swanky metal switchgear on the centre console and some receiving nicely illuminated LED door handles. All DS7s bar the entry level Elegance have a TFT screen in place of traditional dials and while you can personalise these to a great degree, we can’t help but feel that the more traditional style items are more immediately readable. Most models have a BRM-logoed clock sitting on top of the dash which rotates into view when you turn the car on… it’s a bit naff really.
The seats are very comfy though, especially in the front, and there’s plenty of legroom in the back – better than in all the cars DS includes as rivals – although a relatively high floor means that for taller rear seat passengers there’s not much in the way of thigh support from the rear bench.
evo comment - While the higher-end Prestige and Ultra Prestige models pack lots of technology and gadgets to play with do ask yourself whether you’ll use them all or you’ll be paying over the odds for equipment you don’t need or want.Design
DS is keen for its products to be seen as something a little bit different from the offerings of the mainstream so it’s a little bit of a shame that the Crossback follows the traditional crossover SUV look. It is well proportioned, even if it does have a slight hint of Audi about its front end, and there is some nice detailing, too.
Pride of place must go to the rotating, jewelled effect headlights which look superb when they switch on - it’s just a shame you can’t see it happen from the driver’s seat. On the move the lights feature several different modes depending on where you’re driving (town, countryside, motorway, etc) and set their light pattern accordingly. It works well in practice, although the number of oncoming drivers who flashed us on our test drive left us wondering if they’re not a little over-bright in some modes.
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evo tip - It might be uninspiring to drive but the DS7 has more interior space than its rivals and a boot that’s nigh-on 100 litres larger than an Audi Q3’s so if it’s space you’re after Crossback may well be worth a look.18 Dec 2017