BY BRIAN BYRNE
DS WAS initiated to become a premium brand from the PSA Peugeot-Citroen group, which subsequently expanded as Stellantis to include Opel, Fiat, Chrysler, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Maserati, Dodge and Vauxhall.
I can’t help thinking that DS has become fairly lost in all that.
But even if lofty aims of developing a new premium brand haven’t succeeded — yet — the DS7 Crossback is a good car in the overall Stellantis space. It should be — it is underpinned by the platform and powertrains already well considered in its equivalents from Peugeot, Citroen and Opel.
The differences are in the detail and the style elements aimed at setting the DS7 apart from its close cousins.
These include Bespoke DS brand trimmings on the outside, notably a distinctive grille and logo with significant use of chrome on front, side and rear. Inside there’s a plush design in the seating and lots of silvered switchgear on the centre console, as well as a special dash-top timepiece from French luxury watchmaker BME Chronographes that rotates open when the engine is switched on. The overall sense does reach to a higher level, though DS hasn’t yet achieved the same kind of differentiation as, say, Audi from Volkswagen or Lexus from Toyota.
I’ve reviewed the DS7 before — it has been around since 2017. Not a lot has changed about it yet, but the reason I drove it again recently was because it now has a plug-in hybrid option. As it happened, my driving pattern of that week meant I was able to test this feature close to how PHEVs should be used.
There’s a lot to like about being behind the wheel of the DS7. That level of plush it does have is pleasant. There’s a sweep to the dashboard that enhances the sense of space. That analogue BRM timepiece offers a bit of old-school redolent of a gentleman’s club. And there’s something really smart about the DS logo, which I have liked since they first came up with it.
The information screens have good graphics — I particularly like the small detail of how the digital speedometer shifts from white to blue as the hybrid powertrain flicks in and out of electric driving. The centre console switches take a bit of getting used to, and I’d really like some knobs for climate control, but that’s just not the way with this group, most of the time.
The car is sublimely comfortable to drive. It defaults to electric power until the PHEV battery has gone down to about 12pc, then it becomes a standard self-charging hybrid. For my time with the car, charging it overnight from my 13A socket outside the front door, I actually drove almost all of the time on the battery, because my journeys were all local.
The 50km EV range claimed proved to be absolutely accurate. Indeed, I left the car back with most of the petrol that had been in it when I picked it up.
If an owner’s week of driving is similar to what mine was, it’s where a PHEV will shine ... and if there’s a long journey to be done at the weekend, well, it’ll still be very thrifty overall.
The primary engine in the DS7 PHEV is the 1.6 petrol, originally a joint development by Peugeot-Citroen and BMW, and with the electric motor here, there’s a total of 225hp available, completely appropriate to the car. The transmission is the eight-speed Aisin automatic, which is a smooth unit and contributes to an overall thrifty fuel consumption.
The driver assist packages are comprehensive – as they should be in a car that tilts towards a premium cachet.
But I found myself feeling much more positive about the DS7 if I ignored any thought about it comparing to the established luxury brands. Somewhere from behind the back seat there’s a ghostly French-accented premium designer asking ‘Are we there yet?’. Eh, non. Pas encore ...
What I liked: The essential DS7 beyond the notions.
Price: DS7 from €31,045; review car €60,645.