What Car? says...
Fashion, design and good food all spring to mind when we think of France, but what about the DS 7 family SUV? Well, it’s fair to say that it's not as widely recognised as the Eiffel Tower, but perhaps this latest version will get its name tripping off the tongues of more UK car buyers.
Since its original launch, the DS 7 has lost the ‘Crossback’ portion of its name, its trim levels have been shaken up and its engine line-up has been rethought to move with the times. DS is now putting more emphasis on electrification and low emissions.
You can still have a diesel engine, but there are also three plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) to choose from, each of which combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with either one or – in four-wheel-drive versions – two electric motors.
Inside the DS 7, the lessons of haute couture are plain to see: the design is interesting and eye-catching, with a wide range of shapes and forms, and mostly high quality materials chosen to lift the ambience.
There is also a smattering of high-end features, including active suspension and adaptive headlights. They help the DS 7 compete with such stars of the premium SUV world as the Audi Q3, the BMW X1 and the Volvo XC40 – as well as enabling it to trade punches with high-achieving mainstream contenders such as the Mazda CX-5.
Read on through this review and we’ll let you know exactly what we think, comparing the DS 7 with those rivals in key areas such as performance, handling, interior quality, comfort and reliability. We’ll also tell you which engine and trim we think makes the most sense for the money.
Then, when you’ve chosen the right make and model for you, don’t forget you can find the best deals on pretty much any new car using our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. They list plenty of new family SUV deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Take a look at the DS 7’s range of engines and you can really see the emphasis DS as a brand is putting on becoming fully electrified by 2026. True, there’s no full electric car version, but there are three plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants. The only conventional option is the 128bhp 1.5-litre diesel (badged BlueHDi 130).
Sitting at the top of the range is the mightily powerful E-Tense 4x4 360, which pairs a 197bhp petrol engine with two electric motors, giving you four-wheel drive and an impressive total output of 355bhp.
If you’re a company car driver looking to save on benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax, the more moderately powered E-Tense 4x4 300 and E-Tense 225 models will be more suitable, thanks to their lower price tags and BIK ratings.
The E-Tense 225, which gives you a total of 222bhp, will officially sprint from 0-62mph in 8.9sec. That’s more than acceptable for day-to-day driving and much better than the diesel’s rather pedestrian 10.7sec time – although the diesel is a fine motorway cruiser, with better overall power delivery than the PHEVs.
All E-Tense PHEV models default to an electric mode when setting off, and left to its own devices, that provides smooth acceleration that’s enough to trundle along with low-speed urban traffic. Hybrid mode maximises your electric driving across a journey, but progress isn’t as smooth.
The hesitant automatic gearbox is one problem. When you try to move off rapidly, you often have to wait for it to get its act together and the engine to kick in. If you squeeze the accelerator pedal too hard, you can end up lurching forward.
It’s less noticeable in the more powerful 300 and 360 versions, which have 0-62mph acceleration times of 5.9sec and 5.6sec respectively. The downside is that neither model manages to blend petrol and electric power convincingly – the Lexus NX 450h switches between the two much more seamlessly.
The DS 7 feels most at home on motorways. For a family SUV that’s engaging on a twisty road, you’ll want to look at the far more composed and dynamic Audi Q3 and BMW X1. Still, the steering feels accurate and the weighting is consistent enough for you to point it where you want to go. That is, until you hit a mid-corner bump, which will upset the car’s composure. Still, grip levels are perfectly acceptable, and the car hangs on gamely even if you’re a bit ham-fisted.
Sports car handling isn’t necessarily a priority in an SUV, though: comfort is higher on the agenda. To this end, the two PHEVs with four-wheel drive come with Active Scan suspension (optional with the other engines), which uses a camera to read the road surface and, when in Comfort mode, adjust the suspension to suit.
With Active Scan suspension, the ride is more supple than that of the Q3 S Line or X1 M Sport with big alloy wheels, but the tech can’t quite mask the side-effects of the top-spec DS 7’s 21in wheels. Potholes are jarring at low speeds and there’s an irritating fidget on motorways – something you won’t experience in the NX.
Trim levels with smaller wheels help to combat those issues, taking some of the sting out of potholes and settling the motorway ride.
The brakes are responsive and progressive, making it easy enough to slow down smoothly. That said, some PHEVs, including the NX, are even better. Wind noise is well suppressed on models fitted with the Focal Sound system that brings thicker laminated side windows.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The DS 7's interior is eye-catching, with interestingly shaped switches and snazzy trims. Even entry-level Performance Line has swathes of Alcantara covering the dash, with full leather available as a (pricey) option.
It’s up-to-date technologically, too, with a 12.3in digital driver's display that can be customised to show the information most useful to you, including a large sat-nav map. That adjoins a 12.0in infotainment touchscreen that can be personalised by choosing ‘widgets’ for the home screen. There are buttons along the bottom edge for switching between menus, but their small and touch-sensitive, making them tricky to hit accurately when you're driving.
The software is fairly swift when switching between menus, but too many functions – including the interior temperature setting – are controlled using the touchscreen, rather than user-friendly physical buttons. The Lexus NX does at least give you a pair of dials for adjusting the air-con.
In terms of quality, the interior is hit and miss. It looks opulent enough, but on closer examination, the lower reaches of the dashboard are dominated by hard, scratchy surfaces. What’s more, most of the 'chrome' on show is actually plastic – not what buyers will be expecting in a family SUV aiming for premium status, and priced to compete with the Audi Q3, the BMW X1 and the Volvo XC40.
On the plus side, DS gives you plenty of adjustment for the driver's seat and steering wheel, so getting comfortable shouldn't be hard, especially on plush trim levels that provide heated and even massaging front seats. You sit quite high up, so visibility is good in all directions and you won’t struggle to see out at junctions or when you’re changing lanes on the motorway.
To make sure parking is a doddle, rear parking sensors come as standard on every version. Upgrading to Performance Line+ adds front sensors and a reversing camera, while top-spec La Premiere adds a 360-degree camera.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The DS 7 is a sizeable SUV, and there's loads of room in the front for tall adults. Front-seat storage is generous, too: the door bins are a decent size and are carpeted to stop your stuff clattering around.
Performance Line+ models and above give you a useful cubby in front of the gearlever (with a wireless phone-charger if you go for Opera trim or above). The glovebox is tiny, but there's a cavernous cubby between the front seats, topped with a comfortable armrest.
The rear seats offer decent leg room, but there's not much space for feet under the front seats. The floor in the back is quite high, too, forcing passengers into a slightly unnatural seating position. On the plus side, there’s no central hump in the floor for the middle passenger to straddle. If you avoid the panoramic roof option, there's lots of head room.
The DS 7 has 555 litres of boot space, and that applies to all models (the hefty batteries of the E-Tense plug-in hybrids don’t have any effect on loadspace). That doesn't make it the load-lugging champion among its rivals, but it can still match the Nissan Qashqai by taking seven carry-on suitcases.
Unlike with the Audi Q3 (and several other family SUVs) you can't add sliding rear seats to enable the boot to be extended forwards at the cost of passenger space. The rear seats split 60/40, rather than the more useful 40/20/40 arrangement the BMW X1 comes with as standard, but you can get a reclining rear bench and a variable-height boot floor with higher trims.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The DS 7's starting price is quite reasonable if you consider it against premium family SUVs. The cheapest model (a 130 BlueHDi Performance Line) costs less than the cheapest equivalent Audi Q3 diesel. The cheapest of the plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), though, start at about 10% more than the equivalent Q3 PHEV or equivalent BMW X1. Be warned that most DS 7s, and especially the plug-in hybrid models, perform poorly for depreciation, however.
Equipment is generous across the range. Even the entry-level DS 7 Performance Line gets 19in alloy wheels, cruise control with speed limiter, keyless start, a 12.3in driver display, LED interior lighting and the rear parking sensors, infotainment and other useful kit.
Stepping up through the range, Performance Line + adds electrically adjustable and heated seats, a heated windscreen and some nicer leather interior bits. Rivoli (the next step up) continues that trend of nicer materials but also adds massaging front seats. Esprit de Voyage is based on Rivoli, with largely cosmetic differences, but it does also add ventilated seats.
Then you have the really fancy trims: Opera and La Premiere. Opera adds ventilated front seats, wireless phone-charging, an electric tailgate and an electric panoramic roof. Meanwhile, top-spec La Premiere adds 21in alloy wheels, night vision, an upgraded Focal Electra stereo system and the 360-degree reversing camera we spoke about earlier. However, those versions are seriously expensive, overlapping the larger Audi Q5 and BMW X3 on price.
The engines are clean and frugal by class standards, although the diesel should only be on your shopping list if you’re covering enough miles to justify it – that is to say, a lot. Company car drivers will want to stick to the PHEVs, due to the low CO2 emissions that come with their ability to drive on electricity alone. Indeed, even the most powerful E-Tense 4x4 360 slips into the 8% benefit-in-kind band.
Reliability wise, the latest DS 7 was too new to feature in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey but Citroën (the parent company of DS) managed to place 11th out of the 32 included manufacturers. That places it above key rival brands including Audi (21st), BMW (16th) and Nissan (25th).
For peace of mind, every DS comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, matching Audi’s offering. It also matches the length of BMW’s warranty, but not its unlimited mileage. On top of the normal warranty, PHEV DS 7’s come with an eight-year battery warranty.
Safety experts Euro NCAP awarded the DS 7 its top five-star rating, but that was the old version back in 2017. Closer inspection of the scores shows that the DS 7 performed better than the Q5 when it came to protecting child occupants but wasn’t as good at protecting adult occupants in the front. Either way, both are better than the X1 because its rating has now expired.
In terms of active safety aids, all versions come with automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, lane-keeping assistance and driver attention alert. Adaptive cruise control and semi-autonomous lane positioning assist are optional on all but the entry-level trim, but standard on range-topping Opera and La Premiere trims
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We think the DS 7 to go for is the Performance Line+ trim with the E-Tense 225 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) engine. That combination helps to keep costs down while still giving you plenty of standard equipment and a powerful engine that should keep running costs at bay. If you often drive long distances, you might also want to consider the entry-level diesel engine.
The DS 7’s most powerful plug-in hybrid (PHEV) engine – the E-Tense 4x4 360 – gives you four-wheel drive and 355bhp. The entry-level diesel gives you 128bhp, and the two more modest PHEVs deliver 222bhp and 296bhp.
Yes, if you choose the Performance Line+ trim or above. In Rivoli trim, the seats will also be able to give you a massage, while the two top trims also have seat ventilation.
|RRP price range||£36,785 - £59,100|
|Number of trims (see all)||5|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||diesel, hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||161.1 - 53.3|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£2,261 / £2,475|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£4,523 / £4,950|