After a week driving the internally very quirky DS7, what do we reckon to this style-conscious SUV?
24 June 2018
The DS7 Crossback is France’s first SUV aimed at the luxury market. It’s covered in attractive details outside and in that give it a distinct personality and bucket-loads of charm, while its overall external shape looks uncannily like a particular German brand’s popular mid-size model at first glance, which is no bad thing.
Away from obvious features like the French newcomer’s vertical front LEDs and DS’ trademark chrome wings either side of the gaping diamond-effect grille, the DS7’s bonnet has a subtle rib down the middle, the wing mirrors have a bi-ton vibe, the badges denoting the chosen interior ‘inspiration’ look subtly special, the tested Ultra Prestige trim’s chrome and black onyx wheels will appeal to people the world over from Manhattan and Monaco to Mytholmroyd, and the rear light clusters bridged by a chrome strip have been given an ‘overlapping scales’ effect like 3D skin.
The real party piece to bore your mates with down the pub, though, has got to be the Active LED Vision headlights. Look closely and each unit’s three innermost lights resemble jewels, and after unlocking the car, they radiate a purple hue before swivelling by 180 degrees in homage to the original DS of the fifties - this SUV’s design maybe then appealing more to a mature audience. No, stuff like this doesn’t define a great car no matter how theatrical, but the DS7 Crossback is definitely charismatic, helping it stand out – although it’s debatable whether its badge will lure that many away from the established prestigious compact and mid-size SUVs it’s trying to compete with like the, erm, Q5.
Diamonds are a DS7’s best friend, dominating the car’s unsurprisingly quirky interior that you’ll either love or loathe, with us falling into the first camp. While the tested car’s exterior styling and general equipment list is called Ultra Prestige, DS then calls its interior trims ‘ambience inspirations’ which include Bastille, Performance Line, Rivoli and, as tested here, Opera, which sounds pretty posh. It’s like buying a tailored suit, first opting for a slim fit or regular-shaped jacket with one, two or three buttons before choosing the colour and material of the lining plus other details like contrast stitching on the lapels.
The Opera ambience inspiration’s seats in Art Black Basalt Nappa leather look gorgeous with a distinct ‘watchstrap’ design that look a bit like quilting, and they’re really comfortable to wile away long journeys on, especially combined with the multiple massage settings that include ‘cat paw’. The same material finishes the pearl-stitched dashboard and door cards, giving the car a plush feel and a sense of wellbeing, with everyone sat at a similar height to a Kodiaq rather than a loftier XC60, for example. In trying to give the DS7 its own compelling identity, it could be argued, though, that DS has gone too far with novelty touches like the motorised B.R.M R180 analogue clock that rotates into view when the car is started, the diamond-inspired electric window and other switches located in two chrome rows flanking the gear selector similar to in the original Porsche Panamera, the barrel-like and jewel-textured rotary volume controller, or the start button mounted high up on the dashboard just beneath the clock. The elegant vibe doesn’t translate into opulence in the nooks and crannies, though, with some firmer plastics discoverable lower down, while it would be nice if the front central tunnel’s sides were covered in something soft to the touch like in some alternative models. Budgetary constraints have obviously had to stop somewhere.
The wide, dashboard-dominating 12.3-inch HD infotainment touchscreen looks expensively beautiful but its graphics are sadly not as crisp as many rivals’ systems and the fiddly menus and lower row of buttons need firm finger-pokes in order to successfully operate the somewhat laggy system on the move. Still, the Ultra Prestige + Opera DS7 has it all, from a pretty impressive sound system called FOCAL Electra plus options including ConnectedCam and even night vision, to a 12-inch digital instrument cluster, diamond-themed and highly customisable ambient lighting, and wireless smartphone charging, even if the ultimately chintzy touches probably won’t in their own right help sway undecided leasing customers to make the switch from German or Swedish.
French cars are known for their mattress-like levels of comfort, penknife-matching practicality and garage-rivalling interiors when it comes to sheer space, and the DS7 is no exception. The split-opening cubby between the two front seats is impressively large and the door bins can swallow fairly large bottles and other stuff, but the fusebox’s positioning means that the glovebox is disappointingly small. Head, shoulder and legroom in the back are good but not class-leading and although the middle passenger doesn’t have to straddle a large transmission tunnel hump and the seats recline electrically for added comfort, the angle of them can feel too much like squatting at times.
With a much larger boot than its technical rivals like the GLA, Q3, X1 and XC40, the 555 litres on offer (expanding to 1,752 litres with the back seats lowered) even matches similarly-proportioned models from the mid-size SUV segment like the GLC, Q5, X3 and XC60, so there are no grumbles on that front. During its week with us, we used the DS7 to empty a half-garage-size lockup of boxes and all kinds of other stuff, and it did a great job. Parents who came to have a nosey seemed to immediately rule out its boot as too small for two pushchairs, though, and even on Opera-lavished cars, you have to pay a bit extra for the adjustable boot floor which is well worth having. Oh, and talking of kids, the DS7 is a 5-seater SUV only.
Most people who’ve bought or leased a newish car over the last few years or so will already have seen engine sizes reducing, but for anyone contemplating a DS7 to replace a fairly old car, it may come as a surprise that the test car had a turbocharged 1.6-litre PureTech (PT) petrol engine under the bonnet. While it may not be particularly sporty or memorable, it’s definitely no slouch, with 225bhp and 300Nm available, and for most of the time it feels and sounds like a quiet, friendly kind of motor, only sounding a bit coarse when you floor it, which isn’t really in the DS7’s nature anyway. Town, country road and motorway driving are all a pleasure thanks to the good relationship the engine has with the EAT8 automatic gearbox, which performs smoothly on the whole, with gear changes only very subtly felt on occasion. Just leave the car in Eco or the excellent Comfort mode, as the Sport setting doesn’t really make the car much more exciting and the enhanced steering tightness feels a bit artificial. The DS7 Crossback is only available in front-wheel drive at the moment, so forget any mild off-roading, although an all-wheel drive version is in the pipeline.
For anyone who’s heard of EURO or EU engines followed by a number in relation to fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, the diesel scandal and new WLTP/RDE vehicle tests, it’s worth noting that the DS7’s 1.6-litre petrol unit emits 135g/km CO2 and is Euro 6.2/Euro 6d-TEMP compliant, which means it meets the very latest standards. The test car had just over 100 miles on it when delivered, so averaging 40.8mpg after a range of 370ish miles of mixed driving is pretty impressive considering four adults were on board some days while others were spent lugging mountains of ex-storage clobber around.
French cars have never been known to handle as sportily as the Germans and the DS7’s steering doesn’t provide a great deal of feedback and feel but it’s pleasantly light at low speeds to aid manoeuvring, while the standard suspension fitted to the test car helps it corner quite well for a relatively tall vehicle. An option is available called DS Sensorial Drive which basically equips the car with incredibly clever Active Scan Suspension for coping with the UK’s pants roads, but comments from colleagues lead us to believe that it’s not a must-have option and can be jittery at times, the standard setup definitely selling itself to us. It’s also worth noting that the 180bhp version of the 1.6-litre petrol engine has the same fuel economy figures, the main difference being a top speed 4mph lower, which nobody can legally reach anyway unless they own a private runway.
If being different is your cup of tea and you like the idea of a quirky, luxury-first interior that gives you plenty to talk about and offers strong levels of space and refinement atop a drivetrain that does a decent job without amazing in any way, the DS7 is well worth considering.
Talking of tea, the car’s on the road price of £43,740 as tested might make you spill yours, though, and awkwardly positions it financially between, for example, a slightly less powerful X1 with all options ticked or a fairly standard spec’ Q5, kind of making the French contender look lost in terms of true identity. When it comes to leasing, the DS7 1.6 225 Performance Line is a reasonable £328.99+VAT per month, which is slightly pricier than the more powerful XC40 T5 AWD but £70-to-£100 cheaper than a similarly-specified Q5. The DS7 Crossback obviously shrugs off any of the usual budget bonanza vibes associated with mainstream French brands and it’ll be fascinating to see if it manages to coax many drivers away from the usual choices. Whether it deserves to is ultimately down to personal taste.