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DS 7 Crossback – Prestige PT 225 EAT8

I’ve been searching for a while now, but cannot find any inkling as to whether the DS 7 is a full-blooded SUV or simply a faux by four. More than 20 pages of press material strewn across my desk, and yet I’m none the wiser. Is DS hiding something?

I discover that the car is front-wheel drive, but no thanks to any vehicle spec sheets. That explains why Citroën, sorry—DS— has buried that fact somewhere; I’d probably want to draw attention away from it, too.

“But look—it comes with a big shiny watch!”

Front-wheel drive SUVs are completely pointless in my eyes. If you need the space, an estate will be cheaper and more fun to drive. You’ll spend less on fuel and general maintenance, too. Purchase some winter tyres if you really need the grip. If ground clearance is a must then why not go for a proper 4x4? A front-wheel drive SUV is neither brilliant on the road, nor particularly capable off it. In theory, it is the worst of both worlds.

I have another bone to pick, but again this is not exclusive to the DS 7. The trend of engine downsizing has understandably proliferated in recent years. By reducing the size of the engine, CO2 emissions fall and fuel economy typically rises. It is unequivocally better for the environment, and for your wallet. But just like any sugar free variant of your favourite fizzy drink, a small engine with a turbo whacked on isn't the same as the real deal.

A big SUV should have a big engine, but our top-spec model features a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol. It does not feel slow by any means—0-60 is dealt with in around 8.5 seconds. But it just doesn’t feel quite right for such a large vehicle to share the same engine as a family hatch. It’s something we all need to get used to, though.

SOURCE: DS Automobiles

The DS 7 is quite handsome, and those LED headlights are fantastic. When unlocking the car at night you’re greeted to a solo performance as each individual bulb slowly rotates 90 degrees, essentially performing an about-turn to face the road ahead. Those black insets remind me of the ‘morette’ headlight mod that was popular on the Peugeot 106 and 306.

It is also the French Presidential vehicle—check the weird video of Macron hanging out of its sunroof in the pouring rain. I can only assume this was a ploy to differentiate the more exclusive DS brand from its parent company. You’re unlikely to have heard of DS Automobiles unless you happen to own the DS 3 hatchback, the DS 4 (a larger hatchback), or DS 5 (a stretched hatchback). It ruins the element of exclusivity when you have to explain that the DS is in fact just a rebadged Citroën.

Upon opening the weighty driver-side door, which also closes with a satisfying thud, you’re greeted by a sea of quilted leather. As for whether it is real or faux leather, I don’t really care, it’s just very comfortable. The front seats automatically adjust, and seemed to position me exactly as I would like. They also retreat slightly to provide more leg-swinging space upon exit and entry. Since handing the car back and returning to my analogue daily driver, I have found that this was a feature I really missed. Rear legroom is also ample, allowing for adults sat three-abreast without complaint.

A chronograph watch face takes centre stage, rising from the dash when the engine is started. You may find this adds a few minutes to each trip as you turn the engine on and off several times in order to see it again. A giant infotainment touchscreen dominates the dash, and our model arrived with Apple CarPlay. All switchgear is weighty and metallic to the touch, making it feel like you are sat in a fighter jet. Glacial windscreens on cold mornings were swiftly dismissed by the blowers, which seem to heat up at a ridiculous rate. So too do the heated seats, which can achieve medium-rare status in a matter of minutes. Annoyingly though, there’s no automatic boot release/shutter system, but load space is large enough that weekend luggage for two does not intrude into the back seats.

SOURCE: DS Automobiles

A flat-bottom steering wheel would suggest the vehicle has a sporty nature, as would the ‘sport’ button to your left. Don’t be fooled, though. The DS 7 may have 225bhp and 221lb/ft torque but it is not suited to spirited driving. Overtakes are effortless, but aggressive cornering is met with significant body roll and understeer. It’s almost as if the car would benefit from power also being delivered to the rear wheels…

The eight-speed gearbox is smooth once up to speed, but tight parking manoeuvres are hampered by a lurchy first gear. It really is stomach churning when inching out of a tight space without denting the lovely Jaguar F-Type in front. That aside, my week with the DS 7 would best be described as ‘serene’. It is an immensely comfortable car in town and on motorways, but take care to avoid any potholes as it may cause your spine to take on the rigidity of a loose pile of rocks.

Alas, motorway driving does raise a number of unsettling issues. I’m all for driver assistance systems, provided they enhance the driving experience and are intuitive. Unfortunately, I found the DS 7 to suffer from toothless driver alerts that do too little too late.

Forward collision warnings are not explicit enough to warn a distracted driver that may have looked away from the road ahead. Even with the dials directly in my line of sight, the warnings simply blend in with the background. What is the point? It’s like trying to catch your mate’s attention from the across the bar by yawning. In other vehicles, driver alerts can be so intrusive they verge on assault. It is irritating but effective at helping to prevent a crash, which would arguably be more annoying. Maybe there is a middle ground somewhere.

Stretches of the M4 are lined with average speed cameras. The DS 7 recognises each individual beacon as a speed camera, and issues an inexplicably loud alert, each and every time. As a first time user, there was no intuitive way to remove these alerts. I found myself fiddling with various in-vehicle menus to try and disable them, the traffic sign recognition system, or even find a ‘mute’ setting. It turns out that you have to wait for the ear shattering ‘bong’ (issued by what is overall a rather lovely surround sound system) and then immediately adjust the volume.

Overall, the DS 7 is a more luxurious alternative to other models in PSA Group’s lineup, but I found the Peugeot 5008 to be a more attractive all-rounder.