DS Automobiles became a global brand in its own right in 2014 and before that the DS label was used for higher spec Citroen models.
Of course the DS branding is even older going back to the futuristic and iconic Citroen DS Saloons launched in 1955. Today the DS Automobiles brand is positioned within the PSA Peugeot-Citroen Group as their global premium label ahead of mainstream Peugeot and Citroen now positioned to provide quirky, fun and comfortable models.
Currently in the UK the DS Automobiles range consists of the DS 3 supermini Hatchbacks and Cabrios, the mid-sized DS 4 Hatchback and the DS 5 Crossback and now the range topping large DS 7 Crossback. Production of the existing Citroen based DS 4 and DS 5 models ceases at the end of this year and these will be replaced in due course with purpose-built DS models.
The prices of the DS 7 Crossback premium SUV range start from £28,050 and rise through nine variants to £43,535. These on-the-road prices may rise marginally when the manufacturer adds in the cost of the new higher VED road tax rates. This year the UK will have around 60 DS individual bespoke dealerships in operation and in keeping with its target to be considered a premium brand the emphasis will be on customer service. The ever growing numbers of premium competitor models for the DS 7 Crossback to contend with includes the Audi Q3/Q5, BMW X1/X3, Range Rover Evoque, Jaguar E-Pace and Volvo XC40/XC60.
Currently the DS 7 Crossback range is available with three engine options – the new PSA Group 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder BlueHDi 130hp turbodiesel with a six speed manual gearbox, the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder BlueHDI 180hp turbodiesel and the 1.6-litre 4-cylinder PureTech 225hp turbo petrol unit and the latter two units are available with new 8-speed automatic transmissions as standard. All versions are only front wheel drive but there is the £400 option of Advanced Traction Control and next year a 296hp petrol-electric hybrid version with four wheel drive will join the range.
Depending on the engine chosen there are Elegance, Performance Line, Prestige and Ultra Prestige trim and equipment levels. In addition there is the usual comprehensive list of extra cost personalisation options, trim finishes plus an Electric Seat Pack, Night Vision Pack, Easy Access Pack, Connected Pack, Urban Pack for auto parking, a Modularity Pack (a two position boot floor) and £1,000 will get you the electric opening panoramic sunroof but that is standard fit for the Ultra Prestige trim level.
All variants are well equipped in keeping with its premium brand ideals. The entry levels models have 18-inch alloy wheels, LED rear lights, cruise control, lane departure warning, rear parking sensors, a powered tailgate, dual zone air-con, keyless entry and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, DAB radio and smartphone integration. The sportier Performance Line versions gain 19-inch alloys, LED headlights, electrically folding door mirrors, Alcantara upholstery, a 12.0-inch touchscreen with voice recognition and sat-nav plus a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster in front of the driver. Prestige level gains more chrome finishes for the trim and controls, front parking sensors, reversing camera, wireless phone charging, electrically adjustable ventilated and massaging front seats, Nappa leather upholstery and DS advanced safety functions. The top level Ultra Prestige spec additions include 20-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, a Focal sound system and adaptive cruise control. Active Scan Suspension which pre-empts bumps and adjusts the suspension is standard on some models or a £1,000 option for others but it’s not available at all for the 1.5-litre 130hp BlueHDi derivatives.
Next to specification high on the list of must-haves for premium brand SUVs is the styling. Does it have kerb appeal, is it desirable, and is it the latest must-have motoring accessory? Fashion over function can rear its head in this sector. Externally the DS 7 doesn’t look that different from the new Peugeot 5008 large SUV and to be fair they both use similar components. However whereas the 5008 has seven seats the DS 7 has only five so that allows for added rear seat legroom for the three rear seat passengers and there is also a large 555-litre boot which expands to 1,752-litres with the rear seat backs folded down. At the front is a large grille with an extravagant under-bumper vent flanked by large recesses for the fog lights. It’s very much of a front view in keeping with what you see with large Audi SUVs
Inside the DS 7 is quite different to the Peugeot 5008. It’s more glitzy, perhaps garish with the Prestige spec version I tried with Tivoli quilted ‘pleather’ door panels, quilted leather seat upholstery but fortunately there are other upholstery and trim designs available.
The bling continues with etched chrome finishes, a prominent B.R.M clock top centre of the fascia with the start/stop button beneath and two lines of chromed window controls positioned in the centre console. Centrepiece of the dashboard is the 12.0-inch touchscreen and underneath that is a confusing line of buttons which in the main give short-cuts to many functions operated via the touchscreen.
But as with many PSA Group vehicles too many functions such as the heating and ventilation need to be adjusted by using the touchsceen instead of simple, easy and safer to use conventional dashboard controls. Stalks mounted to the steering wheel column but hidden from view operate lights, indicators and cruise control. In many cases the DS 7’s interior is fashion over function so in the end it could very quicklybecome dated.
To go with the Prestige spec level my DS 7 first test drive opportunity was with the new 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder BlueHDi turbodiesel engine. This new 130hp unit is the first of a range of lower emission diesels that will eventually replace the current and long servicing 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 and 120hp units. This new more powerful direct injection turbodiesel engine produces 300Nm of torque from 1,750rpm but with lower emissions and improved fuel economy. In my test vehicle the official Combined Cycle figure is 68.9mpg with CO2 emissions of on 107g/km. This means that with the new VED road tax and Benefit-in-Kind
Tax changes introduced in April mean the First Year rate is now £165, it was £140; the Standard rate remains £140 but BiK rises to 26% instead of 23% rate. During my week-long test the consumption was nearly 22mpg less than the official figure so what an owner would have saved on tax costs would have been spent on more fuel.
The overall conclusion, given its only adequate performance with an official top speed of 121mph and a zero to 62mph acceleration time of 10.8-seconds, is that this new engine is just a bit too small in capacity terms to power such a large vehicle. It just has to be worked that bit harder to propel this large 1,420kg kerb weight, 4,570mm long and tall SUV on motorways or cope with winding country roads.
Around town traffic it was certainly more at home with the computer showing 52mpg but cruising on open roads at 60 to 70mph soon brought that figure down to a fairly constant 47mpg. However the new unit felt smooth and refined and in a smaller SUV vehicle such as the Peugeot 3008 it would be less hampered by bulk.
I would suggest going for the 180hp turbodiesel engine, or if petrol power is preferred, the 225hp unit will be more suitable and both come with an automatic gearbox as standard which is more in keeping with a potentially premium quality SUV of this size.
In keeping with its upmarket perceived status the ride comfort was good and the handling well-balanced. The steering feedback was tuned more towards ‘nice driving’ than any pretences of living up to its ‘Sports’ labelling, as in its SUV or Sports Utility Vehicle category. It’s certainly not ‘Utility’ either because of its lavish spec and glitzy interior design and use of trim and materials.
We know where the new DS 7 is being aimed at in terms of positioning in a very competitive and competent premium SUV market sector. For now, until we see proven demand, it just misses that target but time will tell.
DS 7 Crossback large SUV, 1.5 Prestige BlueHDi 130 manual £34,435 (£37,685 as tested with options)
Engine/transmission: PSA Group’s new 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder direct injection turbodiesel, 130hp, 300Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual, 2WD
Performance: 121mph, 0-62mph 10.8-seconds, Combined Cycle 68.9mpg (47mpg on test)
CO2 107g/km, new VED diesel road tax First Year rate £165 then £140 Standard rate, new BiK company car tax rate 26%
Insurance group: 23E Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles
Dimensions/capacities: L 4,570mm, W 1,895mm, H 1,625mm, kerb weight 1,420kg, boot/load space 555 to 1,752-litres, 5-doors/5-seats
For: Stylish exterior with upmarket kerb appeal, high specification, roomy with plenty of rear seat legroom, plenty of ‘bling’ and ‘glitzy’ interior finishes, comfortable and easy to drive, low tax costs for a large SUV
Against: The youthful interior trim finishes might not appeal to some more conservative buyers, confusing control buttons, muddled infotainment controls, hidden control stalks, new 1.5-litre engine is not muscular enough for a vehicle of this size and weight, poor real-life fuel economy, ungenerous warranty.
© David Miles