Built in the same factory as the Peugeot 3008 and on the same EMP2 model platform, the 7 Crossback is a front-wheel-drive SUV available with a choice of 1.5 and 2.0-litre diesel engines or a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol. A range-topping petrol-electric plug-in hybrid version with 296bhp and four-wheel drive will join the range in 2019.
But it’s what’s in the 7 Crossback's cabin, and what’s going on inside its wheel arches, that DS makes its boldest claims about. Designed with more style than that of any existing compact premium-branded SUV and appointed with greater lavishness than most, the car's interior can come upholstered in nappa leather or Alcantara depending on trim level, and with massager seats and colour-adjustable ambient lighting. Adaptive LED headlights are standard on all but the entry-level model, a night vision camera is an option and a full suite of active safety systems is available.
DS’s big push is clearly to give this car a distinguishing, tech-rich kind of luxury appeal. It’s an effort crowned by a segment-first active suspension system (standard on high-end trim levels and optional elsewhere) that combines a forward-facing camera with adaptive dampers to perfectly adjust the car’s suspension for the road surface it’s about to cover.
This DS Active Scan Suspension system is only truly active when you’re in the car’s Comfort driving mode, and it was much more effective on the test cars we drove when combined with 19in, rather than 20in, alloy wheels. But at its best, it gives the 7 Crossback a particularly supple and absorptive ride that’s also quiet.
The 7 Crossback handles very competently, too, even in Comfort mode, with decent grip, steering precision and lateral body control.
Our BlueHDI 180 diesel test car’s engine is fairly muted and torquey at low and middling revs, becoming more loud and coarse above 3500rpm. Its transmission works quite well in laid-back mode, but less well – and with the odd hint of shunt – when hurried. The performance level is more than adequate but won’t be a selling point.
The interior, meanwhile, is one of the car's highlights and one of its low points. Where DS has put effort in – with the attractively stitched leathers, decorative switchgear and 12in widescreen colour infotainment system, for example – the 7 Crossback begins to justify the prices that are asked for it. But there are too many ordinary-looking and feeling mouldings used in places to see that process through.
Likewise, there are too many frustrations in the operating capacities of the driver assistance systems; too baffling an array of digital instrumentation layouts, most of them plainly preferring contrived style to legibility; and too slight a sense of spaciousness in the front seats.
We tested out many of the advanced driver assistance systems that DS uses to distinguish the 7 Crossback from its competitors but weren’t particularly impressed with any of them. The car’s ‘piloted’ lane-keeping assist system is unhelpfully fussy about keeping the car dead-centre in its lane; its adaptive cruise control offers no option to automatically adjust your cruising speed as posted limits change (whereas others do) and won’t automatically stop short of undertaking traffic in an outside lane (where others will); and the graphical resolution of the various parking and night vision cameras can be surprisingly poor.
In the 7 Crossback’s defence, it offers better second-row passenger space than many of its opponents, and boot space is a useful 555 litres. But anyone paying a premium-level price has a right to expect much more from the interior than that, and better seating comfort than the slightly flat and hard-cushioned front seats provide.