The new 7 Crossback is a crucial model for DS. Can this stylish French car compete with large five-seat SUVs from established premium brands, in the form of the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60?
*** Note : £1 = $1.43 (correct at time of post)
Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 quattro SE S tronic
- List price £38,760
- Target Price £36,109
In Sport trim, the Q5 is our favourite £35k-plus large SUV. Is this entry-level SE also a winner?
DS 7 Crossback 2.0 BlueHDi Performance Line
- List price £36,335
- Target Price £35,783
Bored with the usual premium SUV options? DS’s new model might just be your saviour.
Volvo XC60 2.0 D4 AWD Momentum
- List price £37,955
- Target Price £34,890
Plusher XC60 trims haven’t excelled, but this entry-level version might make more sense.
“Shoot for the moon,” they say, “and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” And why not indeed; it’s good to have verve and ambition, and that’s kind of where we find ourselves with DS.
Not familiar with the brand? Here’s a quick biography to bring you up to speed. DS began in 2009 as the premium sub-brand of Citroën, with its name taken from the beautiful, ahead-of-its time 1955 Citroën DS. In 2014, it became a brand in its own right, sitting above Citroën and Peugeot in the PSA Group hierarchy. So far, its range has consisted of models formerly badged as Citroëns. The 7 Crossback is the first car the brand has developed from scratch and its first large SUV, making it the most important DS to date.
Is it any good? Well, we’re about to find out. It’s similar in size to the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60 and, when specified with a 2.0-litre diesel engine and in all-but-entry-level Performance Line trim, similar in price. So, we’re testing it against these two popular choices to find out if it’s really heading for the moon or merely destined to languish somewhere in the ether.
Driving – Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Getting to the moon in any of these three might take you a while; they don’t exactly feel rocket-powered, although they’re no slouches, either. The Q5 is the quickest off the mark, leaving the XC60 following in its wake, despite the fact that the two have identical peak power and torque figures.
There’s not a huge amount in it, but the XC60 lacks that last morsel of punch, most likely due to its slushier eight-speed automatic gearbox; the Q5’s seven-speed dual-clutch unit pings through its gears much more readily.
The 7 Crossback has a similar eight-speed automatic gearbox to the XC60. It uses this to good effect but is hampered by the fact that it’s the least powerful car here and front-wheel drive only.
So, while the other two, with their standard four-wheel drive systems, whizz off smartly, the 7 Crossback loses time scrabbling around for purchase. Once rolling, it’s a match for the XC60 but not quite the Q5.
While the Q5’s gearbox is responsive at speed, it’s a pain when you’re parking. It needs a few miles per hour on the clock to engage properly, so when you’re nudging carefully into a spot, the car tends to lurch disconcertingly towards nearby bumpers or walls.
The XC60 has the opposite problem. Its use of a regular auto ’box means that it, like the 7 Crossback, is wonderfully smooth when parking or crawling in slow traffic, but it’s the most frustrating of the three in kickdown. Boy, does it faff – only for a second or so, but that seems an eternity when you have a pressing job to do, such as overtaking a dawdling car. It isn’t something you simply get used to, either; you must learn to drive around the problem.
The 7 Crossback doesn’t have any gearbox vices, but it does have the least satisfying brakes. There’s a lot of initial pedal travel and not much pressure, so it’s all too easy to embarrass yourself with an overly abrupt halt. The Q5’s firm brake pedal feels the most reassuring, while the XC60’s is the easiest to modulate in stop-start traffic. All three cars stop effectively, though.
The XC60’s engine is quite clattery if it’s running while you’re stationary, but once it gets past 1500rpm the noise is less intrusive. It never entirely dies away, though.
The 7 Crossback’s engine is the roughest, although it’s not so bad that it will make you grimace; you just feel some vibration at idle and it sounds the coarsest under acceleration.
Audi’s engineers, on the other hand, must effect some kind of refinement alchemy upon their four-cylinder diesel engines, because no other manufacturer seems able to produce anything as hushed as the 2.0 TDI unit. It emits nothing beyond a mild murmur, no matter how aggressively you poke it with your right foot.
In fact, the Q5 is the quietest car all round. All three cars suffer some road noise, but, unlike in the others, it’s only an issue over coarse surfaces in the Q5. The XC60 isn’t far behind in this regard, while the 7 Crossback’s bigger, 19in wheels generate the most drone over rougher roads.
The XC60’s large door mirrors tend to whip up wind noise from lower speeds than the others, but it doesn’t really annoy. Wind noise intrudes the least in the Q5, while the 7 Crossback’s harsher squall at higher speeds irks the most.
All three cars have generally commendable ride comfort, but they’re not perfect and you’ll need to specify your suspension wisely. For the nearest thing to perfection, you’ll want the Q5 with the optional (£2000) air suspension. Thus equipped, it has easily the best ride of any large SUV.
Our Q5, however, was on the standard passive Comfort Dynamic suspension, making it the firmest car in this test. As a result, it trips over particularly feisty fissures in town and shimmies the most along rippled sections of motorway. These are the extremes, though; generally, it’s firm but compliant, and it’s the least prone to seesawing up and down along undulating roads – something the 7 Crossback has a habit of doing.
In this 2.0-litre diesel guise, the 7 Crossback comes as standard with an adaptive suspension system called Active Scan. This uses a camera to evaluate the road ahead and adjust the suspension’s stiffness accordingly. In Comfort mode, it’s just too relaxed; it gets so floaty at times on the motorway that you can become quite overwhelmed by the gentle bobbing motion, and it’s not significantly comfier than the Q5 on urban roads. Normal setting strikes a pretty happy balance.
Fitted with optional (£1500) air suspension, the XC60 rides well. We weren’t enamoured with this set-up last time we tried it, but that was on a car in sporty R-Design trim with 19in wheels. The entry-level Momentum model here has smaller 18in wheels, and its ride is significantly better. So, the XC60 is pillowy on the motorway and shaves the edges off all but the nastiest of bumps around town. The worst you’ll find is that if you hit a succession of jagged peaks, a hollow resonance is channelled through the car’s body. This is a rare occurrence, though, and it’s more an uncouth sound than an uncomfortable sensation.
The XC60 may be the most comfortable of our trio, but it’s definitely not the keen driver’s choice. There’s something rather elastic about the way it reacts to your inputs, from its numb steering and lazy turn-in to its lumbering body control, which feels like it’s playing catch-up with every change of direction. It’s fine when you’re simply ambling around, but the XC60 isn’t a car that likes to be rushed.
That isn’t the case with the Q5. For a weighty SUV, it displays sweetly adjustable, balanced handling that allows you to place the car with precision. Okay, there isn’t a great deal of feel filtering up from the road to the steering wheel, but the build-up of weight as you wind on lock is linear and wholly likeable.
In addition, the Q5 has easily the best body control, although you still sense it swaying left and right. On range-topping S line models, you can opt for stiffer S Sport suspension at no extra cost. We’d take this over the standard set-up, because it provides better body control for no real penalty in ride comfort, but it isn’t available on lower-spec models.
Where does this leave the 7 Crossback? Somewhere in between, but closer to the XC60’s way of doing things. Its body leans as much as the XC60’s, but it hangs on more gamely through corners, albeit with less traction on the way out, due to its lack of four-wheel drive. As grip alternates between the front wheels under acceleration, the steering wheel tugs about in an off-putting way. Otherwise, the 7 Crossback is easy to drive but not that much fun.
Behind the wheel – Driving position, visibility, build quality
Broadly speaking, all of our SUVs are virtuous in this department. Each has a height-adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel that adjusts for rake and reach, but the XC60 reigns supreme. It’s the only one with electric seat height adjustment, its steering wheel has the greatest range of movement and its driver’s seat is the most comfortable. Like the 7 Crossback’s, the seat also has electric lumbar adjustment, which is a £250 option on the Q5.
Which is better of the other two depends on your build. Some of our testers found the Q5’s steering wheel could do with a touch more height and reach extension, while others noted that its driver’s door armrest is too short to use if you’re tall and have the seat right back. Nevertheless, the Q5’s driver’s seat, like the XC60’s, provides first-rate support, particularly in corners.
Less so the 7 Crossback’s. Its rather narrow seat doesn’t hold you as well through corners, leaving you hanging onto the steering wheel. Otherwise, though, it impresses, with a fine range of adjustment and comfy armrests.
The 7 Crossback comes with a configurable digital instrument display; you can have a large sat-nav map, media, the trip computer and the usual array of instruments. A similar set-up is available in the XC60 for £375, but Audi’s Virtual Cockpit isn’t available on the Q5 in SE trim.
What you do get in the Q5 are physical buttons to change the climate control. This might sound obvious, but the XC60 and 7 Crossback require you to fiddle around with the touchscreen to perform simple acts such as changing the temperature.
All three cars are relatively easy to see out of and are fitted with rear parking sensors as standard. The Q5 also gets front parking sensors, while a rear-view camera is optional on all three.
An important aspect of SUVs like this is how premium they feel inside. The Q5 unquestionably has the finest finish, with millimetre-perfect gaps between trims and buttons that click meticulously. The XC60 is still right up there in terms of material quality, though, and most will find its minimalist look more elegant. The 7 Crossback is less cohesive in its design than the other two, and while material quality in the main is decent, it’s pretty lowly in places.
Normally we eulogise about Audi’s MMI system, but less so here. It’s still dead easy to use, thanks to its rotary dial controller down by the gear selector and its snappy menus, but it’s not that well specified in SE trim. You don’t get the handy touchpad for handwriting sat-nav addresses, the screen is a relatively small 7.0in and sat-nav isn’t standard. The stereo sounds decent, while a 19-speaker, 755-watt, surround-sound Bang & Olufsen system is optional.
You get all the bells and whistles on Performance Line models, including sat-nav and smartphone mirroring, which allows you to use phone’s apps via the car’s huge touchscreen. But DS’s system is the worst to operate; it’s laggy and jerky as you scroll through lists, the menus are overly complicated and the touch-sensitive buttons along the bottom simply don’t respond at times. The standard stereo sounds good; a 14-speaker, 515-watt Focal upgrade is also available.
Volvo’s portrait screen is unique here in that it operates like a tablet computer; you sweep from side to side or down to access different screens. That sounds fab, but using a tablet while driving would be illegal, and Volvo’s system is certainly fiddly on the move – especially because the software isn’t as responsive as it could be. At least the menus are easy to work once you’re used to them. The optional Bowers & Wilkins stereo is pricey but sounds superb.
Space and practicality – Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot
Was your nickname at school ‘Lurch’? If so, fear not, because you’ll have no trouble fitting in the front of any of these cars; all have head, leg and elbow room to spare.
Each also has enough space for two tall people in the back. The Q5 has the least knee room, while the XC60 and 7 Crossback provide a similar amount. The 7 Crossback offers the most rear head room, followed by the Q5 and the XC60, although an optional (£1200) panoramic sunroof didn’t help matters in the latter’s case.
A middle rear seat passenger will be happiest in the 7 Crossback. Its floor is almost flat, whereas the others, particularly the Q5, have tall, wide floor humps to straddle.
The Q5 takes the spoils for boot space, though. It took the most carry-on suitcases (nine) – one over the XC60 and two more than the 7 Crossback, and that was with the latter’s optional dual-height boot floor at its lowest setting.
While neither of the other two offers that feature, the Q5 has something even more useful: the option of sliding and reclining rear seats (£350) that allow you to lengthen the boot at the expense of rear leg room. Choose this and you also get the added flexibility of 40/20/40-split rear seats instead of the standard 60/40 arrangement. The other two cars come with a 60/40 split only.
Q5 can take the most carry-on suitcases; with the optional sliding and reclining rear seats all the way forward, you get even more luggage space, plus a 40/20/40 split. All three cars offer lots of front head and leg room, and the Q5 has plenty of storage space, too. It’s the only car here with the option of sliding and reclining rear seats (shown), which allow you to prioritise rear leg room or boot length.
- Boot 550-1550 litres
- Suitcases 9
Arona has the narrowest boot, but you’ll fit lots more in it than you will the Kona’s. A height-adjustable boot floor comes as standard. Best for rear knee room, although foot space could be better. It’s also rather annoying that the rear door pillar is right beside your head, because it means you have to crane your neck forward to get a good view out of the window.
- Boot 555-1752 litres
- Suitcases 7
XC60’s boot is a practical shape but shallower than the Q5’s. As standard, all three cars’ rear seats split 60/40, but the XC60 and 7 Crossback have the bonus of a ski hatch. Panoramic sunroof (£1200) eats into front head room, but it’s still fine for a six-footer. It’s slightly worse in the rear, so check before you buy. On paper, there’s more rear leg room than in the 7 Crossback, but in reality, both feel very similar.
- Boot 505-1432 litres
- Suitcases 8
Buying and owning – Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security
At first, the 7 Crossback appears to be the cheapest cash buy, but after discounts it will cost you nearly £1000 more than the XC60. The Q5, meanwhile, will end up the most expensive by about £400.
On a PCP finance deal, the XC60 is again the cheapest, just undercutting the Q5, while the 7 Crossback is significantly costlier than both. It’s the same order for leasing costs, too. Much of this disparity is because of the 7 Crossback’s markedly heftier depreciation, which also makes it by far the most expensive to buy and run privately over three years.
It’s not all bad news for the 7 Crossback, though. Its lower CO2 emissions make company car tax a lot more affordable, especially compared with the XC60.
Each car comes with a decent amount of standard equipment, but the 7 Crossback has the most, including adaptive suspension, a digital instrument display, 19in wheels, privacy glass and a heated windscreen – all optional or unavailable on the others.
A word of warning regarding options: all three cars start off below £40,000, so you’ll pay road tax at £140 per year. But if you add enough options – for example, the Q5’s excellent air suspension – to tip the list price over £40,000, you’ll incur premium-rate tax of £450 per year. And think twice about adding Advanced Traction Control (£400) to the 7 Crossback, because it comes with all-season tyres that ruin the low-speed ride.
All three cars have a high safety standard, with five-star Euro NCAP ratings and strong scores in each category. But the XC60 has one of the best adult occupant protection scores going, at 98%, and the most standard safety aids, including lane-keeping assist.
The DS 7 Crossback is a creditable package for a brand taking its first foray into the premium SUV market, standing out from the crowd and offering plenty of toys and passenger space. But it has flaws, including its infuriating infotainment, mixed interior quality and relatively pokey boot. And, most importantly, there are better rivals that will cost you significantly less.
One is the Volvo XC60. While we’ve previously criticised its ride, it’s very comfy on 18in alloys and air suspension. The XC60 also has a superb driving position and a well-finished interior, plus it’s one of the safest cars around. It’s just not for you if you want even a little driving fun.
That’s an area in which the Q5 scores. It’s one of the most genial SUVs to stroke along a back road, yet its ride on standard suspension remains reasonable. Add in the general air of refinement and swish interior and you’d be hard pressed not to be impressed.
1st – Audi Q5
For Tidy handling; best performance; plushest interior; biggest boot
Against Stingiest kit list; least rear seat space; firm ride on standard suspension
Recommended options Air suspension (£2000), Rear Bench Seat Plus (£350), lumbar adjustment (£250)
Specifications: Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 quattro SE
- Engine size 4cyl, 1968cc, diesel
- List price £38,760
- Target Price £36,109
- Power 187bhp @ 3800-4200rpm
- Torque 295Ib ft @ 1750-3000rpm
- Gearbox 7-spd dual clutch automatic
- 0-60mph 8.0sec
- Top speed 135mph
- True MPG 41.0mpg
- Gov’t fuel economy 56.5mpg
- CO2 emissions 132g/km
2nd – Volvo XC60
For Best driving position; soft ride (on air suspension); exceptional safety standards; low finance costs
Against Relatively poor fuel economy; wallowy handling; fiddly infotainment
Recommended options Air suspension (£1500), smartphone mirroring (£300)
Specifications: Volvo XC60 2.0 D4 AWD Momentum
- Engine size 4cyl, 1969cc, diesel
- List price £37,955
- Target Price £34,890
- Power 187bhp @ 4250rpm
- Torque 295Ib ft @ 1750-2500rpm
- Gearbox 8-spd automatic
- 0-60mph 8.8sec
- Top speed 127mph
- Gov’t fuel economy 55.4mpg
- CO2 emissions 144g/km
3rd – DS7 Crossback
For Good high-speed ride; best rear seat space; well equipped
Against Poor infotainment; smallest boot; heavy depreciation
Recommended options Advanced Safety Pack (£875), Modularity Pack (£150)
Specifications: DS7 Crossback 2.0 BlueHDi 180 Performance Line
- Engine size 4cyl, 1997cc, diesel
- List price £36,335
- Target Price £35,783
- Power 178bhp @ 3750rpm
- Torque 295Ib ft @ 2000rpm
- Gearbox 8-spd automatic
- 0-60mph 9.4sec
- Top speed 134mph
- Gov’t fuel economy 57.6mpg
- CO2 emissions 128g/km