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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.