From £28,095
The Citroen spin-off brand’s first bespoke model is out to convince us it’s a premium offering

Our Verdict

DS 7 Crossback 2018 road test review hero front

PSA’s luxury brand takes on the established order with its new SUV flagship, which comes with plenty of Gallic charm

7 October 2019
DS 7 Crossback 2019 long-term

Why we’re running it: To see if Citroën’s luxury offshoot has finally built a car with the right mix of integrity and premium feel to take on the German, British and Swedish elite

Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a DS 7 Crossback: Month 3

Meeting the family - 2nd October 2019

I recently had a chance to get the DS 7 alongside its DS 3 Crossback sibling. Although ‘my’ SUV seems the better resolved product, I wish it had some of the smaller car’s distinctive design touches. Separately, turns out the DS 7 does have a variable boot floor, meaning I could’ve had a better night’s sleep in it after the Reading Festival...

Mileage: 6120

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Upmarket SUV goes up against a cheaper but related Citroën - 18th September 2019

Premium sells these days, as we know. You can thank the proliferation of tempting monthly lease deals getting models such as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class into the UK’s top 10. The German ‘big three’ are dominating the sector and, as such, it’s not easy to set up shop with a new nameplate.

Our DS 7 is the first ‘proper’ DS – that is, the first that isn’t simply a rebadged Citroën, with a bespoke look inside and out. But, as is typical these days, its underpinnings are more humble than appearances suggest. It uses the same platform and mechanicals as mainstream siblings from the PSA Group, including its closest relation, the Citroën C5 Aircross.

I wanted to find out if the sharing of oily bits is really noticeable any more, or if the 7 feels just too similar to its cheaper stablemates. As luck would have it, Alistair Clements has been running a C5 Aircross for our sibling title What Car? at the same time as I’ve been running the 7. Swapping for a few days gave us both a chance to compare these two back to back to see if the DS merits its £8000 price jump.

Both of these family SUVs are distinctive to look at, but it’s the 7 that steals a second glance from more passers-by on account of its eye-catching lighting graphics. Is it pretty, or groundbreaking? Not quite, but it creates sufficient intrigue that I’ve had a few strangers come up to me to ask what it is. It’s not a situation Alistair has had in the Citroën: it’s attractive enough, but in a derivative rather than standout way. Interior differences are more profound.

Although the C5 Aircross isn’t lacking in terms of outright build quality next to the 7, it instantly feels less plush. The DS still gives off a sense of occasion after thousands of miles behind the wheel. It’s a new level of material richness and cabin design for the PSA Group and the thickly padded leather seats are supremely comfortable. The 7 is ever so slightly roomier, too.

There’s not much between them in terms of tech. Both have the same driver assistance systems and, although the 7’s infotainment screen is a lot larger and clearer, the actual software isn’t any cleverer. The Citroën scores a point with slightly better usability. Details such as having to hold the button of the 7’s annoying lane keep assist function down for a few seconds every time you get back in (and you usually forget until it first activates on the move) is irksome.

Interestingly, the Citroën claws back a victory on the road. Both are softly sprung, but the Aircross’s progressive hydraulic damping means it cushions you from rough roads and potholes more convincingly. By comparison, the DS has quicker steering and a bit less body roll, but it’s still a long way from being any fun to drive. Comfort is the name of the game for both and it’s the cheaper French effort that wins out.

The DS would triumph in the refinement stakes were it not for our car’s diesel engine, which sounds raucous and feels strained next to the Aircross’s 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol. In fact, the engine remains my biggest bugbear with the 7, being short of both the performance and refinement we’d like to see in a near-£40,000 car.

Overall? It’s personal preference more than a convincing win but, for me, the Citroën’s honesty, value and smoother ride appeal more than the DS’s glitz and glamour.

Love it:

Perceived quality You’ll struggle to find an SUV cabin that looks or feels more special for the cash. It’s a new level of material quality for the PSA Group.

Loathe it:

Small details Ergonomic details irritate, such as the effort needed to turn off lane keep assist and the lack of a toggle switch for instrument brightness.

Mileage: 5520

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Boot proves more spacious than you think - 11th September 2019

Mostly, the DS 7 pounds the M3. But recently, its line of duty was extended when poor planning meant I spent the night huddled in the boot after a day at Reading Festival. It was not fun: there’s enough room for a sixfooter to lay flat but, when folded, the plush reclining rear bench leaves a chunky step in the boot floor. My side still hurts…

Mileage: 5080

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Life with a DS 7 Crossback: Month 2

Unexpected service warning is a cause for concern - 21 August 2019

Passing 4000 miles in the DS 7 has brought about a warning saying it’s due a service – which is odd given the official service intervals specify four times that mileage. The car is insistent that we have another seven months before the full year is up since it left the factory, but still the warning is there. Whether this is deliberate or indeed a fault, we’ll be popping into a dealer.

Mileage: 4042 

Life with a DS 7 Crossback: Month 1

Welcoming the DS 7 Crossback to the fleet - 10th July 2019

It’s generally accepted that the French have the small car game down to a T. Renault, Peugeot and Citroën have all enjoyed great success with their respective mass-market superminis over the past few decades. But at the other end of the market, it has been a very different story: the statement that ‘nobody buys big French cars’ is a well-worn motoring adage for a reason.

Citroën’s last attempt was the curvaceous C6, which sold as many in seven years of its existence as the brand had hoped to sell in one. But things have changed in the past few years. The PSA Group took the plunge in launching a separate luxury brand, DS, and after a few years of flogging lightly tweaked Citroëns, DS has its first bespoke model, the 7 Crossback, on sale for over a year now. In that time, DS has already sold more of these than Citroën ever did C6s.

So have the French, for the first time in decades, built a large, posh car that the public actually wants? We’re going to be running DS’s flagship SUV for a few months to see if it can really get under our skin and deliver the quality and engineering substance that’s in such abundance at this end of the market.

Initial impressions are good, but not outstanding. DS’s designers have plenty of heritage to tap into but no immediate styling legacy, so they could start with a clean sheet. But, of course, attempts to make large cars of the Gallic variety look otherworldly haven’t really pulled in the punters. The 7 Crossback reflects that. The shape is largely a derivative of most other premium mid-sized SUVs, which is perhaps disappointing, but the detailing at least is unique and eye-catching.

The exterior lighting has drawn the most comments from friends and family so far. Every model gets cool, layered 3D-effect rear lights and our Prestige spec also has intricately detailed LED front lights, featuring three light modules that rotate through 180deg as part of a light display when you unlock the car. It’s more of a gimmick than anything else, but it’s details such as this that help elevate the 7 Crossback above and beyond its platform-sharing Peugeot and Citroën siblings.

The interior is more successful at looking and feeling a cut above, to my eyes. It’s here where DS has really tried to portray the avant-garde, high-class image it is chasing. And it has done so pretty well. The design is elegant and attractive and the main touch points on the dashboard, centre console and doors all feel pretty plush, with much of it covered in rich-feeling leather.

Granted, poke around the lower half of the cabin and you’ll find some scratchy plastics, although there are still a number of ergonomic flaws that I’ll detail in further reports. There are a few neat touches you won’t find in a mainstream SUV, though, such as a BRM clock that swivels out of the dash on start-up and interior lighting that can be activated with a wave of the finger. Small details, yes, but details that haven’t lost their appeal after several weeks of using this car for my daily grind between Newbury and Twickenham.

One feature that I’ve yet to put to much use is the space on offer. This is the ace up the 7’s sleeve because it’s priced to compete with cars such as the Volvo XC40 and Jaguar E-Pace but is considerably roomier than most. I’ve not heard a peep from longer-legged passengers in the back yet but that, along with the boot space, will be put to a sterner test later this summer as the holiday season beckons.

It perhaps speaks volumes that I’ve got to this point in the report without even mentioning the way the 7 Crossback drives. I should also qualify here that DS sent us a 222bhp petrol-powered model to test initially before it was switched for the 128bhp diesel we have here. Whereas the petrol unit has decent punch in reserve, this base diesel has so far felt (and sounded) strained when trying to get up to speed briskly or attempting an overtake. The fine but unremarkable 45mpg figure so far reflects how hard this unit has to work to shift such a large, tall car.

Thankfully, the rest of the experience behind the wheel encourages a relaxed pace, anyway. It has clearly been tuned with comfort in mind. The plushly padded seats are the first hint of that. Soft suspension means a fair amount of pitch and wallow, but that translates to a largely supple ride, even if, like many SUVs, it’s too busy and unsettled at lower speeds. It’s nothing like as bad as the petrol-powered car, though, which ran 20in wheels and thumped and crashed far too much for my liking.

With 2000 miles added already so far, we’re starting to uncover why you should – and shouldn’t – consider this alongside the established premium competition. More on that in the next report.

Second Opinion

The idea of Citroën’s divine Déesse being reinvented as a French version of Lexus sits slightly uncomfortably with me, so I approached the 7 with some scepticism. And, though it’s still early days, I remain unconvinced. The DS feels like what it is: a mid-range Citroën wrapped in chrome and lined with leather. It just feels a bit flimsy in a class with premium Germans that’d seemingly survive a nuclear holocaust.

Alastair Clements

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DS 7 Crossback BlueHDI 130 Prestige Automatic specification

Specs: Price New £36,875 Price as tested £37,470 Options Metallic paint £595

Test Data: Engine 4 cyls, 1499cc, turbocharged diesel Power 128bhp at 3500rpm Torque 221lb ft at 1750rpm Kerb weight 1420kg Top speed 121mph 0-62mph 10.5sec Fuel economy 68.9mpg CO2 107g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Comments
14

7 August 2019

A sat nav/control screen below the air vents making you avert your eyes from the road longer than neccesary, the smallest buttons (below sat nav) I've ever seen in a car in my life, no full set of physical heater controls (that I can see)  and finally a clock that can revolve so as you can't see it unless you've the ignition on.

7 August 2019

Once i believe the idea of a 'prestige' car was one better built. Like a Mercedes in the 1970s compared to mass market stuff. But clearly thats not the case any longer or a Toyota would carry more  prestige than anything German, but clearly it doesnt so now its just a badge.

At least the germans still let you add the spec you might want, but PSA with DS still bundle it all together. Want nice sets? Have to have ugly kid glass and wheels that ruin the ride. Want a manual box, that will be the low powered diesel then. So i think the DS7 fails before its even turned a wheel. But even if it were appealing, how does it cost so much for such a small engined slow thing?

It will probably do better than the Citroen C6, (only a little) but it doesnt deserve to

7 August 2019

Overpriced Citroen, I do not see how could anybody buy this with that engine. Maybe for 6-8k less, and that is a BIG maybe.

7 August 2019

Not a vehicle to buy with your own money.....

7 August 2019

Having looked at a DS7 it really is rather good. If you don't want a typical and by sheer volumes, a less than prestige,  German crossover suv, I think it makes sense.  I'm looking to change cars in the next 6 months and while behind the Germans,  Europe wide sales have the DS7 out performing it's Alfa, Jag and Lexus equivalents. The choice of engines is down to you, I guess if they don't sell enough they stop making that variant. 

8 August 2019

"Europe wide sales have the DS7 out performing it's Alfa, Jag and Lexus equivalents" Nope, Evoke sales in Europe for June were 3,800 the DS7 score a lowly 2,600.   And that's despite the Evoke being in short supply in June because it was a new model in short supply, they'd normally net around 5,000 sales

8 August 2019

DS sold 6700 units in June 2019, a sharp increase over 6/2018.

The DS7 sells a little short of 30.000 p/a units total. 

PSA makes money on that volume. In fact PSA is - by far - Europe's best performing car manufacturer. H1 2019 profit stood at €3 bn, and more importantly, the profit margin was a mind boggling 8,7%. Up from 8,2% over 2018. In fact, PSA INcreased it's profitability where mainstream brand suffer. Better even, Benz posted a €1,5 bn loss, Audi tanked (margin below PSA) and BMW dropped. The market will see 2 new Different Spirit models in the next 18 months.

8 August 2019

In response to original point they sold 2,600 in Europe for June, well behind the Evoque.

 

13 September 2019

In the UK they 429 DS7's between Jan 19 Q1.  XC60 sold 2,885 in the same period and Q5 3,392.

 

13 September 2019

And how many of the 429 sales were registered by DS or their dealers? Real sales numbers must be tiny. However if you want an SUV no one else you know has (or knows what it is), and that you dont see every day, it looks like the DS showroom is where you should go.

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