The DS brand was set up two years ago as a premium offering above Peugeot and Citroën. This 7 Crossback is the French company’s second-round attempt to convince buyers of the new company’s worth.
Battling with cars like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Mazda CX-5, the 7 Crossback has imposing styling and a high-tech active suspension system. Three engines are available: a 221bhp 1.6-litre petrol, a 128bhp 1.5-litre diesel and a 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which is the version we’ve tried.
After some initial clattering, the engine runs smoothly and powerfully, offering a generous 295lb ft of pulling power at 2000rpm. That means the eight-speed automatic gearbox can change up nice and early as it accelerates, boosting the sense of quiet relaxation that’s already been established by the very effective active suspension. If you drove a Renault Koleos along the same sort of bumpy urban roadways as the 7 Crossback you might struggle to believe it was the same surface. Whereas the Renault would be jostling its passengers, the 7 Crossback seems to anticipate and then absorb low-frequency bumps. The Mazda CX-5 feels tighter on undulating roads, but the 7’s high-speed ride is pleasantly cushy.
That softness does allow the 7 Crossback to lean over somewhat through faster bends, but there’s never a feeling of uncertainty: you just get the message that the car would be happier being pushed less hard. Sport driving mode fastens the Crossback down to the road more securely, but the price you pay for that is artificial engine noise coming through the speakers, and a too-sensitive accelerator pedal, neither of which seem appropriate in a family SUV. It’s better to relax and schmooze about in the Comfort setting. Oddly, this Comfort mode is the only one in which the active suspension works. If DS could have made a softly-sprung car handle well on a bad country road, that would have been something worthy of praise.
Be that as it may, there’s no doubting the style of the interior, swaddled in lashings of leather and chrome and dominated by the 12.0in infotainment touchscreen and customisable digital instrument display. We don’t like the fact that the touchscreen, though relatively intuitive, has touch-sensitive buttons along its bottom edge. Physical buttons are definitely desirable in this context, but you’re never sure with these ones whether you’ve selected the right settings, especially when the system’s response is as laggy as this one. We do however like the crisp and speedy customisable digital instrument display that allows you to customise the delivery of information, including satellite navigation.
While the interior looks stylish, the quality of the interior materials is less impressive. Lower dash sections are hard to the touch and most of the ‘chrome’ is plastic – not the normal expectation of premium customers. On the positive side, the driver’s seat and steering wheel are widely adjustable, and all-round visibility is good too, augmented by standard rear parking sensors on every trim level.
Space and practicality are both excellent with plenty of legroom for all passengers, front or back, and for their heads too as long as you don’t specifiy the space-robbing panoramic roof. The boot has a variable floor and there’s a good 550 litres of cargo space when the back seats are in place, beating the Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Qashqai, but slightly behind less the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
The £28,050 starting price for the 7 Crossback seems fair until you see that that is for the lowest-powered 1.6-litre 130 diesel with a manual gearbox. You can pay up to £43,535 for the highest-powered diesel in Ultra Prestige trim. That puts it right in the thick of some established premium SUVs.
At least you do get a lot of standard equipment for your money. Even the entry-level Elegence has rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, keyless start and leather interior trim. Having said that, you need to go up to Performance Line to get the impressive Active Scan suspension included.
Another bonus is that the Crossback’s engines are clean and efficient for the class. Company car buyers should look at the 1.6 BlueHDi 130, its 107g/km CO2 emissions comparing very well in this class. Private buyers might be more concerned about the car’s depreciation. Up to now, DS products have dropped more steeply in value than equivalent models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes . That depreciation hurts DS finance deals too.
Overall, the DS 7 Crossback is big, comfy and well equipped, but we’re not so convinced by its pricing or cabin quality.