DS 7 Crossback one

haute SUV

DS 7 Crossback, 18-plate, front, action
DS 7 Crossback, 18-plate, front, static
DS 7 Crossback, 18-plate, side, action
DS 7 Crossback, 18-plate, interior
DS 7 Crossback, 18-plate, rear, static
DS 7 Crossback, 18-plate, rear, action
DS 7 Crossback, 18-plate, boot
DS 7 Crossback, 2018, night vision, pedestrian
DS 7 Crossback, LED headlights

The French know how produce fine wine. Their food is legendary and the nation's haute couture is definitely haute.

But one area that has so far eluded Gallic brains is how to successfully manufacture and sustain a premium car.

Sure, in the 50s and 60s they had the Facel Vega with its dignified styling and hulking great American engines, but that was a long time ago. Before that there was Delage and Delahaye, but both faded away.

Since then, Citroen has endeavoured to lure buyers from BMW and Mercedes with the graceful C6 saloon and Renault also gave it their best shot with the Avantime, an angular coupe-come-saloon. Both attempts failed.

Now, however, the PSA group, ie Citroen and Peugeot, has gathered its best brains under the DS banner to produce the DS 7 Crossback, a rival to the hugely successful Range Rover Evoque and other style-oriented SUVs such as the Audi Q3 and Q5, the Jaguar E-Pace and Volvo XC40.

It is the first new from-the-ground-up model to emerge from DS, although the marque kicked off in 2014.

Unlike previous French challenges to the luxury market, the DS 7 is rather conservatively styled with smoothly elegant lines that could have come from an Audi or Mercedes designer.

It does, however, have a myriad of detail touches - mainly in the cabin - that make its stand out from the pack.

With prices ranging from £28,050 to £43,535 there is a choice of four trim levels and a range of two diesels, and one petrol, with the introduction of a more powerful 300bhp petrol-electric, four-wheel-drive model next year.

Although the hybrid, whih will cost in the region of £50,000, is the only all-paw version, other models are offered with PSA's own and very effective traction control as an extra.

By the end of this year there will be 60 individual DS dealerships in Britain offering a bespoke service to buyers.

Space within the cabin a generous with large front seats a plush facia and a futuristic array of switches set on the centre console. Materials are classy and elegant giving the DS 7 a real sense of occasion.

The stop-start button is set high on the dash and above it is a square retro clock which revolves into the view of the driver and passenger on start up. Nice touch.

A large 12-inch touchscreen occupies centre stage. I found that the window lift controls were positioned just an inch or so from the handbrake button - a bit too close for comfort, surely.

Head and legroom is ample front and back, and the rear floor is flat so three abreast can be carried comfortably.

The boot holds 628 litres of luggage which is good for the class and there's an adjustable floor to arrange, according to your baggage demands. Fold down the rear seats and there's 1,752 litres of cargo space.

First up I drove the least powerful model, a 1.5-litre, 129bhp turbo diesel. This new engine is coupled to a six-speed-manual gearbox, the only manual in the range.

The engine is pleasantly refined and pulls well in high geared giving little sign of its diesel origin except for offering ample torque.

Not only is mechanical noise subdued, but there's little else to disturb the peace. Body roll is kept well in check and it holds the road impressively, although the front wheels can be made to scrabble if too much power is applied.

Steering is biased more towards comfort and insulation with little feeling being transferred back to the helm.

Among the DS 7 Crossback innovations is Active Scan suspension to provide a cosseting ride. A windscreen mounted camera surveys the road surface 20 metres in front of the car and passes the information on to sensors to adjust the ride settings.

Another feature which is a serious safety measure is a night vision display which uses a heat sensitive camera to pick out moving objects ahead, such as animals, cyclists or pedestrians that might not be easily visible to the human eye.

Then there's the fancy LED headlights each comprising three rotating modules to adapt the illumination to suite the road ahead.

The more gutsy 180 diesel obviously has more low down clout but the difference between the two engines didn't seem great over the test route.

The big plus for many will be that the larger unit comes as standard with an eight speed automatic gearbox - a transmission that fits the luxury nature of the DS 7 Crossback.

Luxury brands are rarely born overnight, so it will take time to judge the impact of PSA's venture, but few can doubt that the DS 7 Crossback is a genuine contender in the surging prestige SUV sector and car that has been well-thought out, beautifully made and offered at a reasonable price.

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