British Asia Network - Shahzad Sheikh
London 16 July 2019 - DS is now a separate spin-off brand within the PSA group - it's the equivalent of Lexus to Toyota, Infiniti to Nissan and another new one - Cupra to SEAT. And like those marques it has a more premium and upmarket remit. So whilst it's not a Citroen, there's a clear connection in the lineage - peer closely at the DS logo and you'll see its made up of three chevrons like those that form the famous French car maker's logo.
The DS 7 Crossback is a medium sized front-wheel drive SUV that rivals the likes of the Range Rover Evoque, Jaguar E-Pace, and Volvo XC40 but is a little larger. It was the first car wholly developed under the new brand so from the get-go they focussed on a luxury feel and build quality. Whilst it is based on a Peugeot 3008 platform it has a wider track and a longer wheelbase, plus its own suspension - I'll come back to that.
There's a choice of turbocharged engines including three petrol offerings - a 1.2-litre 131bhp with a manual transmission, and two 1.6 units both with an 8-speed automatic with either 181bhp or 225bhp. There are two diesel units - the 1.5 with 130bhp available with manual or the automatic, and the 180bhp 2.0 that we tested. It has 400Nm (295lb ft), can accelerate from rest to 62mph in 9.4 seconds and reach 134mph. Combined fuel consumption is 42.7mpg and CO2 emissions are 128g/km.
Trim levels include Elegance, Performance Line, Prestige and Ultra Prestige with prices starting from £27,790 rising to £45,625 for the range topper we tried. A more performance-orientated 300bhp Plug-in Electric Hybrid with All-Wheel Drive (the electric motors will drive the rear axle) will also be introduced next year.
Overall it's a handsome and stylish machine that manages a substantial stance and looks particularly potent with these dark trimmed wheels. But it's the detailed design touches that really engage on this car externally, particularly when it comes to the lighting. At the rear the diamond shaped scales in the taillights are sculpted inwards and present a 3D look to the lighting when switched on. These are replicated to an extent at the front and complemented with chrome grille surrounds and accents as well as an LED side light bar.
But the real party piece are those adaptive headlights themselves, an obvious tribute to the original Citroen DS which, in the 1960s was the first ever car to have adaptive lights. Essentially those swivelled to light up around corners as you turned. The new ones do a lot more. Three ice-cube -sized modules, rotate, wobble and do a little dance if you'll let them. But aside from showing off, they have multiple drive modes: in town they reduce intensity so as not to blind others but widen the beam; on country roads they increase intensity and narrow the beam; whilst on motorways they raise the lights to help you see further ahead a speed. If it's wet, they increase power but reduce intensity to avoid reflections from the road.
Clever stuff, but that's not all. Again, in a nod to the classic DS's fabled standard-setting suspension, this DS 7 Crossback has adaptive suspension that, in Comfort mode, employs a camera to 'read' the road ahead and instantly adjust the dampers accordingly to compensate for bumps and ridges. In practice you feel it through a slight sense of firming up over undulations to give better body control and less jolts. The standard ride is good too, though don't bother with Sports mode as it makes the ride too firm, increases steering weighting and makes the transmission unnecessarily eager.
So we've jumped ahead and moved onto the driving experience, which is not sporty but certainly refined and utterly manageable. It's a satisfying car to carry your family around in, and whilst rear visibility can be restrictive due to the large C-Pillars, 360-degree cameras help with parking and manoeuvring.
It also boasts all the latest drivers aids and safety features such as lane-keep assist, driver attention monitor and active cruise control which will stop and go by itself in traffic. Performance is adequate and the transmission suitably smooth featuring paddle shifts on the steering column. However this is a car that is best left to its own devices in full auto and full comfort.
In fact the interior astounds in an entirely different manner, and that's through the exquisitely crafted and presented cabin with unique features like pearl stitching on the soft-touch trim, the gorgeous B.R.M timepiece that rotates into view on startup, and the textured controls and unique toggle switches on the centre console. A configurable digital instrument panel and fully interactive centre monitor keeps you informed and in charge of the car's features, including connectivity (it even has its own phone app), sat nav with traffic and fantastic 14-speaker Focal Electra sound system.
Rear passengers will also love the space and comfort, with their own A/C vents and dual USB power supplies as well as reclining seat backs. And there's 628 litres of cargo capacity - with a two-level floor and 60:40 split folding rear seats that can be dropped flat by pulling on levers in the luggage compartment - just make sure your camera bag isn't obstructing the seat as I did when filming the video review!
Overall this is a real feel-good offering from the French car market that employs Gallic elegance and intricate design to delight and engage in a way that other family SUVs completely fail to do. And yet it doesn't short change you at all in terms of kit and opulence for this segment. Serene - and thrifty - on the motorway, yet handy around town and capable of enticing some seriously envious glances from the Agarwals across the road, it presents a strong alternative to the shortlisted SUVs you may have been considering. That is if you're chic enough for it!