By Jonathan Crouch
As the DS brand points out, beyond the motor industry, three of the world's top five luxury brands are French. Why shouldn't Gallic style be equally desirable when it comes to cars? You might think it is if you're prepared to consider this car, the DS brand's first bespoke design, the DS 7 Crossback, launched in 2017. How does it stack up as a used buy?
If you want a premium mid-sized SUV from the 2017-2022 period in the current market, you're not short of choice. But there's nothing quite like this, the DS 7 Crossback. We wouldn't blame you for being unfamiliar with the DS brand. Used on up-market Citroens in the 1950s, it was a nameplate re-introduced by that marque in 2010, before being announced by the company's PSA parent group as a stand-alone brand in 2014. For most of the next four years, DS models were little more than re-badged Citroens. This one though, launched in early 2018, was the company's first purpose-designed contender.
Under the skin lay much that was shared with mid-sized Peugeots and Citroens, but it was all covered with a thick sheen of Gallic gloss that could represent a refreshing alternative to the Teutonic ambiance that tends to dominate amongst premium mid-sized SUV models of this sort from this period. The DS people were quite clever about this Crossover's sizing too, using the usual PSA Group EMP2 platform, but stretching it so as to give this car most of the interior space you'd find in a 'D'-segment premium SUV (think Audi Q5 or BMW X3) but at a price closer to that you'd pay for a 'C'-segment premium SUV contender (think Audi Q3 or BMW X1).
There's a few signs of classic DS innovation too. Given the marque's heritage in pioneering suspension technology, it's appropriate that the highlight was a camera-driven active damping system that set new standards in this sector, recognising bumps and road undulations before you even reach them. Features like adaptive headlights and a 'DS Connected Pilot' package that gives you 'level 2' autonomous driving will be more familiar to buyers looking at the models of this kind, but this Crossback aimed to set itself apart with a uniquely sumptuous, tactile interior. The idea was to bring a bit of Louis Vuitton and Chanel to the mid-sized premium segment. Like the sound of that? Then maybe you ought to join us in checking out what's on offer here. The DS 7 Crossback sold in its original form until late-2022, when it was facelifted and renamed simply as the 'DS 7'. It's the 2017-2022-era DS 7 Crossback models though, we look at here.
What You Get
The DS 7 Crossback's detailing is very nicely done, particularly at the front end, the look of which was inspired by the avant garde 'DS Divine' concept car of 2014. We particularly like the exotically intricate 'DS Active Vision' LED headlamps, which emit a purple light when the car is unlocked, before pivoting by 180-degrees - in a nod to the original Fifties DS model's clever swivelling front lights.
The brand saves its boldest flourishes though, for the interior, which is intended to be an extrovert celebration of everything that's cutting edge in French fashion. Alcantara, open-pore wood inlays and leather feature in copious quantities appropriate to the Parisian-themed trim package chosen. Even the techno-fest that must rather incongruously fit in around all of this frippery can't escape the Louis Vuitton treatment. So the super-sized 12-inch infotainment touchscreen that struggles to fit in at the top of the centre stack gets a strange barrel-style crystal-like centre volume dial. And, like the 12-inch instrument binnacle TFT monitor, can be configured via a 'DS Sensorial Drive' feature to display its information in shades of either Cashmere or Titanium.
Even for a six-footer sitting behind quite a lanky front seat occupant, the legroom on offer should be quite sufficient. Headroom too is fine, providing you haven't got the panoramic glass roof which restricts it a little. The floor is a little high though, forcing your knees a little further upwards than they would normally be. At least though, it doesn't feature the kind of prominent centre transmission tunnel you get with many rivals, which makes fitting in a middle-seat passenger a little easier than it would usually be.
If there are only two of you, then the centre armrest can be folded down, revealing a couple of useful cupholders. As you'd expect, there are Isofix child seat mounts on the two outer seats, along with narrow door bins, twin USB ports, a storage cubby next to the twin central vents and netted seatback pockets. What else? Well the backrest reclines from 23 to 32-degrees in rake - electrically on the top model - which is nice for longer journeys. Unfortunately though, there's no sliding mechanism for the seat base, which is a pity.
Out back, there's an impressively large 555-litre boot capacity - that's definitely more 'D'-segment than 'C'-segment. Capacity isn't compromised with the PHEV drivetrain.
What to Look For
You'll need to buy carefully but the use of common Peugeot and Citroen parts means that reliability shouldn't be any worse than models from those brands. On the conventionally-engined models, there was a recall for cars built between 2017-2021 for cabling issues due to potential fuel leakages. And some 2020-built models were recalled due to a potential crack in the rear steering knuckles. With E-TENSE PHEV models made in 2019, there was a recall to correct incorrectly-aligned electrodes for the traction batteries.
Quite a few owners have complained that the suspension system is not properly calibrated, but DS has ignored that. Quite a few electrical issues came up in our survey, most commonly with the central screen, which is known to sometimes fail, glitch out or go blank; check its functions thoroughly. We've come across several start-up issues, one owner's alarm kept going off and there have been a number of reported battery problems. Otherwise, it's just the usual things. Check the alloys for scratches, the interior for child damage and require a fully-stamped service history.
(approx based on a 2020 DS 7 Crossback E-Tense 4x4 300 - Ex Vat) An oil filter is in the £4-£10 bracket. An air filter is in the £15-£80 bracket and a pollen filter costs typically between £11 and £36. A water pump is around £43-£81. A radiator is round £212. Front brake pads sit in the £26-£90 bracket; rears will sit in the £43-£63 bracket. Front brake discs sit in the £161-£165 bracket; rear discs are about £73-£85. A wiper is around £8.
On the Road
And on the road? Well at last with this DS 7 Crossback model, we got a car from this brand that rode something like a DS model should. The company has a history of supple springing that goes all the way back to the original Fifties DS saloon with its ground breaking hydropneumatic suspension. This car didn't have anything quite as complex as that, but the 'DS Active Scan' camera-driven active damping set-up fitted to the priciest trim levels did set fresh class standards, able to anticipate bumps and undulations before you even get to them, allowing the Crossback to waft over things like potholes and speed humps with silken ease. This set-up works only when you switch into the 'Comfort' driving mode that's provided as an integral part of this active suspension package. The other settings, included regardless of your DS 7's spec, are 'Normal', 'Eco' and 'Sport'. It's a pity 'Active Scan' doesn't work in 'Sport' because it would give this French contender an extra sure-footedness through fast secondary road corners that it currently lacks. Still, that's not the kind of driving this car responds particularly well to.
No, the DS 7 is at its best when you're wafting along and enjoying this Gallic model's more relaxed approach to life. Something you'll be better equipped for if, like most original DS 7 Crossback buyers, you opt for the 2.0-litre BlueHDi 180 diesel powerplant. Like all the conventional engines fitted to this car in its original form, it drives only through the front wheels. A mandatory part of the BlueHDi 180 package is the brand's EAT8 auto transmission which assists efficiency, allowing this variant to return 57.6mpg on the combined cycle and 128g/km of CO2. As for the other engines on offer, well at entry-level, there were two 130hp options, a PureTech petrol unit and a 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel. Further up the range sit auto-orientated 'PureTech 180' and 'PureTech 225' derivatives, both of which use versions of the same 1.6 THP petrol turbo powerplant - which also features in the clever 'E-TENSE 4x4 300' petrol/electric plug-in hybrid model. This electrified flagship derivative is the only DS 7 variant to feature all-wheel traction, but across the line-up, original customers could specify an optional 'Grip Control' system that optimises front wheel grip for light off road use.
Charismatic, elegant and satisfyingly rare, the DS 7 Crossback did indeed bring something different to the upper class part of the mid-sized SUV segment. It's an interesting confection this, relatively conservative in its overall exterior shaping but extreme and individualistic in its Gallic cabin demeanour.
Ultimately we like it most because it feels special - or at least it will for the right kind of buyer. That customer will love the painstaking attention that's been paid to almost every detail of this design. In some respects, the execution isn't perfect - but then, as we've remarked before when reviewing this boutique French maker's products and considering its competitors, there's something rather soul-less and clinical about perfection. The DS brand is about a 'Different Spirit' - a different way to go. Other marques have promised that: this car though delivered it.