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First Drive: DS 7 Crossback

By / 7 months ago / Large, Medium, Road Tests, Small / No Comments

Is the first DS SUV redefining the segment, or just following the crowd? Alex Grant finds out.

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SECTOR SUV   PRICE £28,050-£43,535   FUEL 56.5-68.9mpg   CO2 107-135g/km

Fledgling French brand DS prides itself on being different to the mainstream; an identity defined by a ‘Spirit of Avant Garde’, claimed to be forged from memories of Citroen’s unmistakeably non-German luxury cars of old. But it’s not averse to ticking that most conventional of boxes, and launching an SUV.

Pretty much a prerequisite product these days, the DS 7 Crossback is the range flagship. A luxury SUV aimed at the BMW X1, Range Rover Evoque and Volvo XC40 (though it’s larger than all of them), coming to the UK with ambitions of around 5,000 units per year, just over half of which will go to fleets.

That’s not an easy task. DS faces the challenge of conforming to norms of space and flexibility in this segment, without simply ending up as a ‘me too’ product. Hemmed in by the confines of an SUV silhouette, a lot of the ‘Avant Garde’ features here are skin deep; shimmering plastics, watch strap upholstery and diamond motifs on the exterior lights, switchgear and graphical displays. It’s perhaps trying a bit too hard in places, but there’s enough here to mark itself out without alienating conquest customers.

Mechanically similar to the Peugeot 5008, though with a more sophisticated rear suspension setup, it’ll come to the UK with a choice of 130bhp or 180bhp diesel engines, or a 225bhp petrol. DS reckons the demand will be weighted towards the two high-performance units, both of which have an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and either the sporty-looking Performance Line or luxury-focused Prestige trims. This puts the core of the range between £35,000 and £40,000, with claimed residual values predicted to be only slightly behind the usual suspects, so contract hire rates ought to be more favourable than previous big French cars.

Don’t ignore the petrol engine. There’s a sizeable price and fuel consumption sacrifice for moving up from the 130bhp diesel, presumably because the higher-powered engines have an automatic gearbox as standard, and the 225bhp petrol is almost as efficient as the equivalent diesel. Given that it’s also cheaper, significantly quieter and more tax-efficient, it’s worth looking into.

Probably the best fit for fleets, most useful equipment comes in at Performance Line, as do the flamboyant LED headlights which swivel and dance into life as you unlock the car, then re-shape the beam to suit the conditions ahead. All 180bhp diesels also get the brand’s clever active suspension, which monitors the road surface and configures itself accordingly, though annoyingly only in one of the four available driving modes. It’s a £1,000 option otherwise, unless you move up to Prestige, while partially automated driver assistance functions come in on the top-level Ultra Prestige trim.

Customers should find little to complain about. The bulky centre console limits space up front, but there’s plenty of room in the back and a sizeable boot with under-floor storage. DS also loses some tech points for the slightly laggy touchscreen, low-res reversing camera, and an unintuitive dashboard layout, which puts important controls on touch-sensitive buttons that give no feedback when pressed. Materials you actually touch, however, are high quality. Ride comfort isn’t unpleasant on its biggest wheels, though is much better on smaller ones and quieter too.

OK, so it’s not laden with ‘Avant Garde’ design and technology, but the DS 7 Crossback ticks enough of the SUV boxes without being a giant leap for those moving out of familiar rivals. All DS has to do is make sure – in an ever-expanding part of the market – its newcomer doesn’t go unnoticed.

Highlights

  • 296bhp, 40g/km plug-in hybrid due in 2019, with 30-35-mile electric range.
  • LED headlights, navigation and digital instruments on most UK cars.
  • Offered with Grip Control system, but no four-wheel drive version.

What we think

The DS 7 Crossback does everything most SUV customers will want from it. But this is a segment full of familiar names, of which DS isn’t one, so it could perhaps have pushed the boat out a little further to stand out from the crowd.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.