DS 7 Crossback long-term test: the cockpit concept

Published: 16 October 2019

► Living with a DS 7 Crossback
► Just what exactly is it?
► Colin is trying to find out

Month 4 of our DS 7 Crossback long-term test: bring on the jams

Here's something that's new to me: rugby being played in blazing sunshine. Here's something not so new: the traffic in the Twickenham area being incredibly, ridiculously heavy (not least because in the same area you also have Kew Gardens and the Oval cricket ground). In fact the whole journey down the M1 and round the North and South Circulars was horrendously busy. But the DS 7 Crossback was superb. The climate control worked a treat, the leather seats stayed comfortable, the tinted rear windows made a difference, the sound-deadening kept the outside world at bay and the audio system (which links very readily to phones and other devices via Bluetooth if you can't face doing battle with the inaccessible USB slot) kept us entertained. It's no dynamic hot-shoe, but the DS is brilliant in a traffic jam.

The interior was also very much the focus when I had a couple of days in a different version of the DS 7, a diesel in Ultra Prestige spec, with Opera cabin trim, in a shade of gold well suited to the car's curves.

The engine was the more powerful of the two turbodiesels, the Blue 180, making less power but more torque than my red petrol. Its claimed combined fuel consumption of 42.7mpg is easy to achieve. That's got to be down to the fact that this is a car that's happiest being driven slowly. Try to hurry it and it gets harsh and clunky, so you ease off. My petrol DS is also a car that you don't push hard, but that's more a case of it rewarding smooth driving, whereas the diesel discourages rapid driving.

So I'm reassured that I already have the best engine. But there were several other differences between the cars where I'd vote gold rather than red. The sunroof, for instance, the absence of which makes my car seem a bit gloomy. And the electronic boot opening and closing mechanism, which means no more sprained wrists on the awkwardly angled handle. And the heated seat control has moved: rather than my knurled dial awkwardly placed in the phone charging area, this is built into the touchscreen, just under the main temperature control. The package also includes DS Connected Pilot, which brings lane keeping assist and active cruise control, an audio upgrade, 20-inch wheels and nappa leather in the cabin.

But there's a price to pay: £45,485, about five grand more than mine. My engine in this trim would be £140 cheaper than the diesel. Either way the sums involved are on the high side.

By Colin Overland

Logbook: DS 7 Crossback Prestige PureTech 225

Price £39,530 (£40,280 as tested) 
Performance 1598cc 4-cyl turbo petrol, 221bhp, 8.3sec 0-62mph, 141mph 
Efficiency 36.5mpg (official), 31.2mpg (tested), 136g/km C02 
Energy cost 18.2p per mile 
Miles this month 1493
Total miles 13629

Month 3 driving a DS 7 Crossback: you drive our car

DS7 Crossback you drive our casr

What's that squelching sound? That'll be the can of worms PSA opened when it resurrected the DS name, once the badge on a stylish, innovative, slightly peculiar Citroën made from 1955 to 1975. Used since 2010 as part of the model name for some of the quirkier Citroëns, it's now a brand in its own right.

The first standalone DS, the 7 Crossback, here meets a reader panel that includes two people with original DS experience under their belts. Our mission: find if there's a real link to DSs of yore, and how well it works as a modern crossover.

The creaking ruin
It's all about comfort these days for CAR's increasingly decrepit Colin Overland. He's been won over by the cosseting Crossback but suspects our guests won't see past the bling.

The potential buyer
Stuart Adam owns a Volvo XC60 and is gagging for a change. Will the DS be practical enough for his family and business needs?

The classic buff
Phil Bell is going to be hard to convince: he knows his DS heritage, and his taste in modern cars veers towards sporty coupes, not crossovers.

The eccentric
Hugo Wilson's car ownership CV goes big on Citroën CXs and XMs; will the DS 7 recapture some of that lost quirkiness?

Phil Bell

Phil Bell is immersed in the world of authentic classic cars, and he's not buying the notion that this is a continuation of the classic DS heritage. He's driven a couple of originals, and for him the 7 Crossback is interesting not as a reincarnation of that heritage, but as a thoroughly modern car that could bring the reliability and convenience not always provided by older cars.

And, as he's still recovering from a recently broken ankle, he's particularly alert to the car's ease of use, with its smooth petrol engine and eight-speed auto 'box.

Phil, whose usual transport is a 2002 BMW 325 Ci Sport, says: 'The original DS was the most advanced car of its time when it was launched. Sensational! I've driven two or three of them, and they more than lived up to expectations. The modern ones have a lot to live up to. The way they looked, comfort, design...

'I must admit I smiled cynically when I heard it was being reintroduced as a brand. Modern DS is nothing like as radical. It's trying to be distinctive in its feel, and anti-German in the way it rides so softly, bar the odd lateral lurch when it hits a bump. Inside it's nicely trimmed and the metal details have a nice look and feel. DS could have gone further in being a bit more leftfield. It's quite cautious. Some of the details aren't so much stylish and classic as just chintzy.'

Driving it was a pleasant surprise. 'It should feel different from my 3-series, and it does. That extra layer of softness is OK – you flow with it.

'I thought it went very well for its weight. It's a good size for people, if not for luggage – there it falls victim to the shape of the body. There's plenty of room for two adults up front and two or three in the back, but you'd end up fitting a roofbox for their bags.'
Having to turn the over-harsh lane assist off every time you restart is annoying: 'It's a bit nannying.'

Phil sums up: 'To drive, it's very pleasant. It's not the car for my tastes or needs, but I would recommend it to someone looking for a crossover. They should drive it. It's a lot of money, though.'

Hugo Wilson

Hugo Wilson has no time for ordinary. He's got form with quirky French cars, and indeed quirky cars in general, having also owned a couple of Fiat Multiplas and currently a Qubo. Does the DS 7 Crossback tickle his French fancy? Or does he see straight through the visual fripperies and just regard it as a big modern lump?

'I ran Citroën CXs and then XMs for 15-20 years. You bought cheap at high miles and ran them until they broke. One CX was very good, but the other gave me endless grief. The XM was really nice, but after coming from the CX it didn't feel so Citroëny. When the second XM had run its course I discovered that there were no longer weird Citroëns, so I switched to Multiplas.
'I really like cars, but liking cars doesn't mean you have to go down a fixed route, the performance route. I don't need a car to be exciting – I get that from motorcycles – and I'm happy for it to be wafty. I want the interior to be fantastic. That doesn't need to involve a ton of gadgets. The Multipla was a really good place to be, and the CX was great with its drum speedo and rocker switches – but everything was intuitive.

DS 7 Crossback cornering

'I've driven original DSs. I liked the way they were so swoopy, yet you sat high up, like you do in this. In this, though, there's no logic to the design, and the interior space is bad for a car of this size. When you've driven Multiplas, with no central tunnel, you wonder what all this bulk by your left leg is for. This makes terrible use of space.

'And it's a DS in no sense. There's an element of emperor's new clothes about this. There's no connection to the original DS. That said, although I'm disappointed by the weird mismatch between the hype and the reality, it works well.'

Stuart Adam

An eclectic history of car ownership – taking in three Vauxhall Astras, a Renault Megane RS, a VW Passat CC, a Mk1 Audi TT and much more besides – has led Stuart Adam to a Volvo XC60. And he hates it. He reckons it's a 'Friday afternoon' dud.
'It's on its second clutch, the flywheel has been changed, the air conditioning has been out twice, the driver's seat is loose. I've recently test driven the Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail, and I looked at a Discovery Sport but couldn't get a deal. But the XC has been such a bad experience that it's probably put me off soft-roaders. Now I really like the idea of a hybrid saloon. A used 530e plug-in hybrid tops my wish list. But then my wife would really like a used BMW i3. Cars matter to me, and I really worry that I'm going to make the wrong decision.' So could the DS lure him back towards crossovers?

'I like the Frenchness that they're playing with, although I'm glad they've avoided the equivalent of the flags on the Mini's tail lights. I'm not that bothered by the classic DS – I prefer modern cars, and here they're clearly doing something very different and quite modern, with no nods to the old ones.

'The interior stands out for me. It's not as exciting outside, although there's some theatre in the lights.' The eye-catching interior has some issues, though. For instance, you can't actually see the cruise control switches. 'I guess that's because they're trying to keep the steering wheel clean, but it means you're taking your eyes off the road. And the cubby in front of the gearlever is very fiddly, with a lid that wants to trap your fingers and a USB slot that needs a contortionist's wrists to reach.
'But I like the weight of the steering, and I like the ride. It feels softer than my Volvo, and yet it leans less through corners. The DS generally feels better set-up.

'It's a nice experience, with a few foibles. I could see myself in there.'

By Colin Overland

Logbook: DS 7 Crossback Prestige PureTech 225

Price £39,530 (£40,280 as tested) 
Performance 1598cc 4-cyl turbo petrol, 221bhp, 8.3sec 0-62mph, 141mph 
Efficiency 36.5mpg (official), 31.2mpg (tested), 136g/km C02 
Energy cost 18.2p per mile 
Miles this month 1062
Total miles 10659

Month 2 living with a DS 7 Crossback: Thames excursion

You know that thing people say about crossovers (as opposed to serious 4x4s), that the only time they go off-road is to mount a pavement outside a prep school? In the case of this particular crossover, it wasn't quite a prep school, it was around the corner from a Harley-Davidson specialist in Southend, and I wasn't trying to mount the pavement but park neatly next to it. But it didn't go well.

I failed to notice how uneven the pavement was where I was about to open the driver's door, and it scraped the black-plastic bottom section – barely visibly, but I know it's there.

DS 7 Crossback seats

It's a reminder, should one be needed, that the DS 7 is all about on-road comfort, at which it continues to excel. The excursion to the Thames estuary was part of a week of daytrips and parental chauffeuring, where the easy access, comfortable chairs, subdued ambience and refined ride all made friends. An old mate, who's put his frenzied Renault 5 GT Turbo days behind him, had a good poke around and started considering one as the replacement for his Audi A4. Nobody's terribly sure what it is, but to spend time with it is to like it. (The count of other DS 7s I've spotted since getting this one has, by the way, doubled to two.)

By Colin Overland

Logbook: DS 7 Crossback Prestige PureTech 225

Price £39,530 (£40,280 as tested) 
Performance 1598cc 4-cyl turbo petrol, 221bhp, 8.3sec 0-62mph, 141mph 
Efficiency 36.5mpg (official), 31.2mpg (tested), 136g/km C02 
Energy cost 18.2p per mile 
Miles this month 1062
Total miles 10659

Say hello to our DS 7 Crossback long-termer

It takes 28 days between this DS arriving at CAR and me seeing my first other DS 7 Crossback on the road. It's quite a moment. I do a double take. My jaw drops a fraction. I very nearly wave. And I'm astounded by how huge it looks.

Now, finally, I understand why so many pedestrians and other drivers react so strongly to the sight of the French crossover. I had thought it was just confusion over the badge – a squiggle that says DS if you know it says DS, but even then still requires a high degree of swottiness to process and position correctly, like when you see a Honda wearing an Acura badge in the US. That's not the main thing, though; the simple, now-obvious explanation is that it's as visually arresting as a Bentley Bentayga or any big current Lexus.

The car-wash team that give it a thorough sprucing up, who see enough cars to get very blasé, are fascinated by the DS 7 – their first, it goes without saying. Seeing it through their eyes, the Crossback is rich in unusual details. Mine is in Prestige spec, which brings 19in grey alloys, a black grille and chromed roof rails and window frames.

Prestige involves a good balance of electronic helpfulness: it will discourage you from drifting out of your lane, but it won't try to drive for you; the cruise control is basic; it doesn't volunteer to park for 
you, but it does have a useful array of sensors and cameras.

DS interior trims have their own names. Mine is Rivoli (named after the Rue de Rivoli, a street in Paris with a high concentration of upmarket frock shops), which involves a lot of stitched leather and machined metal. It's like a gussied-up version of the old Citroën C-Crosser/Peugeot 4007/Mitsubishi Outlander.

DS 7 Crossback side

All bar the most basic of DS 7 Crossbacks has a big central touchscreen and big digital instrument screen, with customisable graphics that go big on diamond motifs and have a strong Art Deco/ancient Egypt vibe that would make Hercule Poirot feel right at home.

Mine also has a ludicrous rectangular analogue clock that swivels into view when you turn the engine on. Ludicrous because it has a 4 and an 8 instead of a 3 and a 9, and ludicrous because the central touchscreen has a big digital time display precisely six inches away.

The least striking aspects so far are the normal car things – the engine, the chassis. Our DS uses PSA's 1.6-litre turbo four in 221bhp form, driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It's not particularly quick or particularly economical. You wouldn't want one of the less powerful engines. The imminent hybrid might be the answer.

I like it a lot. I like telling people what it is and why it's not a Citroën, even if my explanation is different every time. If you're DS-curious, or even a DS owner, and can help me understand what the whole DS thing is all about please get in touch so we can compare notes. Meanwhile, I'll be keeping a count of how many other DS 7s I see.

By Colin Overland

Logbook: DS 7 Crossback Prestige PureTech 225

Price £39,530 (£40,280 as tested) 
Performance 1598cc 4-cyl turbo petrol, 221bhp, 8.3sec 0-62mph, 141mph 
Efficiency 36.5mpg (official), 31.2mpg (tested), 136g/km C02 
Energy cost 18.2p per mile 
Miles this month 1902
Total miles 9597

By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions