First drive: DS 7 Crossback
DS has launched its first standalone car in the form of the DS 7 Crossback SUV. It's pretty late to the SUV market, but is one of the best-looking on sale. AOL Cars gets behind the wheel to see if it's good enough to compete in this fiercely competitive market.
What is it?
DS Automobiles has for the past few years sold rebadged Citroens – limiting its success. That is until now - the French manufacturer has launched its first car that was solely designed to be a DS – the DS 7 Crossback. It will be hoping it can hold onto its image of producing premium cars at affordable prices with this SUV, and build on what has been a somewhat disappointing start for the company, since the brand split from Citroen in 2014.
While the DS 7 Crossback might be an all-new model, it still takes advantage of the PSA alliance, meaning that underneath the DS 7 is effectively a Peugeot 3008 – no bad thing. It's an excellent starting point, and DS adds some impressive safety tech, decent quality interior materials and some particularly quirky design touches to it.
Inside, you get two good-sized screens, with a customisable digital instrument panel a welcome proposition on a car at this price point. It is also pretty useful at night, when it doubles up as a display for night vision, allowing you to spot people walking in the road far quicker than you would notice them without the technology.
What's under the bonnet?
Three engines are available from launch – two diesels and one petrol. Most of our time was spent in the 174bhp 2.0-litre diesel.
It was rather noisy and lacked refinement, meaning it didn't really fit with DS's premium image, although it was far better on the motorway. It will return a claimed 57.6mpg on the combined cycle. A smaller 1.6-litre diesel is also available.
As for the petrol, it produces 221bhp, returns a claimed 58mpg and uses a new eight-speed automatic transmission.
In 2019, a petrol-electric hybrid version will also join the line-up, using know-how gained through DS's Formula E team.
What's it like to drive?
On the road, the way the DS 7 drives is hugely surprising. The DS Active Scan Suspension is ingenious, as it scans the road ahead for any bumps and potholes and prepares the suspension, ensuring a super smooth ride.
However, it works best on cars riding on 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels and in comfort mode. If you opt for the glitzy 20-inch wheels, or put it in sport mode, it begins to feel unsettled. Yet, if you leave it in comfort mode, it works excellently and it even handles well on the twisty stuff – albeit with a bit too much body roll.
See also: Living with the: DS 4 Crossback
How does it look?
While DS has had its significant flaws since it separated from Citroen, one area it has always done well in is with the look of its cars. The DS 7 Crossback is no exception, adding a bit of well-needed flair to the somewhat mundane and average SUV market.
Quirky details such as elaborate tail lights that have a pattern fitting with that of a concept car and twisting and turning LED headlights. While the overall package is a bit flat on the road, these small details really help to lift the image of the DS 7 and give that attention to detail image that DS is after.
What's it like inside?
On premium cars, two things really stand out for buyers – the badge and the interior. While DS can't do much about the former, it can do something about the latter – and it has.
DS Automobiles has certainly upped its game on the inside, and while it is still not up to Audi interior levels, it's a welcome improvement. Two large screens dominate the cabin, adding flair and modernity to it – the only exception being entry-level cars that do without this dual screen set-up.
Four trim levels are available, each packing an individual design. Our Prestige-spec car came with quilted leather that left a lovely classy feel, while a quick look inside a Performance Line DS 7 showed it having a sportier Alcantara dashboard.
What's the spec like?
DS Automobiles has certainly been generous with the spec on the DS 7. As standard you get 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and an eight-inch touchscreen. It also has driver aids such as automatic lights and wipers, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking.
It's only the base spec car that comes without the clever suspension set-up, too, with higher spec cars also getting LED headlights, 12-inch twin digital displays and leather upholstery.
It's good value for money, though. With prices starting at £28,050 and ending at £43,585. In other words, you are getting an Audi Q5 rival for Q3 money.
If you have ever been in a DS before the DS 7 Crossback, you will instantly notice the improvements in quality and driving dynamics. While parts of it are not up to German quality levels, it's an impressive go at its first own car. Value is on its side, too, as you get far more car for your money than you ever would if you were considering a BMW, Mercedes or Audi SUV. While it might lack a bit of polished precision, its looks, ride comfort and price make it hard to ignore if you're in the market for a mid-size SUV.
Base price: £28,050
Model (as tested): DS 7 Crossback
Price (as tested): £39,335
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Max speed: 134mph
0-60mph: 9.7 seconds