Why it’s horses for courses as new DS7 Crossback takes on the field
I seldom bet. The odd time I've put a few euro on a horse, I've invariably lost. I go on sentiment, in the Grand National for example, and cling to the forlorn hope of a 100/1 chance coming up trumps.
I don't bet either when I am asked for advice about what cars you should buy (no one asks about horses). I use the form book. If something has good, reliable pedigree, it gets relevant mention. But what does one do with something that is brand new to the race? Something that has yet to show?
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That's the dilemma I faced with this week's review car, the DS7 Crossback compact SUV. DS is now a stand-alone stablemate of Citroën and Peugeot, among others, in the PSA group. The brand is taking its first steps. It takes time for new entries to gain traction. But time is something in scarce supply considering many rivals are household names of proven quality.
This Crossback is a mix of SUV and coupé. It's bigger than your ordinary compact crossover and smaller than your next size up, so it straddles segments. I like that - a major plus of the car was the amount of room in the cabin.
This is the first model the marque has designed from the ground up. For me, it could have used that licence to greater effect. I'm not a fan of the rather burly, blocky look. But then again, it is different; unconventional, as they say. Which is something I had to keep reminding myself of over the course of extensive drives across the country.
But when unconventional extends to the driving position, I draw the line. I was never close enough to the steering wheel without being too close to the pedals. And the buttons for the electric windows are erratically strewn, meaning I had to chase across the central console to open the passenger's front and rear side. Nitpicking? Yes, but persistently annoying too.
I must say, though, we had loads of room. It is ahead of most in that department and had an extensive 555-litre boot.
However, while I had it in different driving modes, I felt the intrusion of thump and bump over potholes and gouges on rougher roads and surfaces. On the motorways, it was a far more comfortable proposition - but then most cars are these days. The same applied to the engine; it wasn't the quietest at low speeds and higher revs, but smooth and silent while cruising.
The big-screen interface and row of buttons beneath didn't appeal; too cluttered and took too much time to do basic things such as alter the temperature. Some people love that sort of thing - I prefer simple and easy.
So far so not-so-great? I wasn't madly impressed. Never quite warmed to it. I'd have doubts about putting my money on its nose. I think I'd opt, or wait, for the imminent new Mercedes GLC (or possibly the new Lexus UX or BMW X3) from a field which also includes front runners such as the BMW X1, Audi Q3/Q5, Jaguar E-PACE/F-PACE and Volvo XC40.
But hold on there...
This is where this whole first-runout exercise needs to be put in context. This is where I run the risk of being negative about something simply because it has yet to prove or improve itself. Leave aside hopefully unfounded concerns about residual values for the moment (major concerns for any car of course). Instead, let's realise that for DS generally, and this Crossback in particular, the only way to chase down new buyers may be to adopt an intrinsically different approach. And that means risking a fall or stumble at one of the many hurdles - some posed by the likes of yours truly here.
What about the person who isn't as bothered about coming in a bit behind the leaders? The one who wants an alternate run for their money and to eschew the conventional? DS expect up to 100 people to buy one this year. That's not a bumper number, but a good start for sure and who am I to say 'No' to them?
Especially since we can not overlook what is a compelling mix of price and equipment levels. These are major, major factors.
And as they expect a majority of punters, sorry buyers, to be high-mileage drivers, diesel takes predominance. My car was powered by a 180bhp 2-litre and had loads of pulling power. I reckoned on 57mpg over a variety of drives, so there is no doubting its frugality of consumption.
I've been trying to avoid the following cliché but there is no escaping it. The DS is about horses for courses. Or not, as the case may be.
For me? I'm not a gambler so I'd stick with the tried and proven because the DS just doesn't do enough for me.
For you maybe? Well, expect a decent and different sort of run for your money.
Facts & Figures
DS7 Crossback Compact SUV:
2-litre 180bhp diesel; 8spd auto, €270 tax; €49,745. Range €36,000-€60,245. DS Inspiration Performance Line spec includes 19in alloys, leatherette seats, alcantara dash, 12.3in instrument cluster, 12in HD touchscreen, satnav, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, ergonomic driver seat, high-beam assist, auto air con, rear-parking sensors, two rear Isofix points.