IAIN ROBERTSON 

As if to prove that national pride can be demonstrated in its products, reports Iain Robertson, the DS7, produced by Parisian PSA Group, avoids the “haw-he-haw” and draped onions in a characterful and all-French style statement of great merit.

One of the core aspects that made French cars so eminently desirable to British new car buyers over the years has been their invariable sense of national pride. By nature, the French possess a phenomenal sense of style. It is evinced by their fashion houses, the way in which French people dress, their food, their wines and even their horticulture. Of course, it could be termed ‘superficial’ to look at France in this way, after all, neither the Brits nor the French have exactly engendered themselves to each other in political terms and we do have an unfortunate history of unhappy battles. Yet, truth be known, we all love France (just as they have an enduring respect of Blighty) and things that are French.

Sadly, not so long ago, French carmakers seemed to adopt a keenness for Germanic technology and marketing skills. They even carried elements of it into their advertising programmes. In some ways, it was understandable. After all, the steamroller progress of the German volume brands has been all-consuming and potentially damaging to a number of other national marques. Citroen, for so long regarded as a manufacturer of quirky, yet immensely characterful motorcars, appeared to sell-out to that unwitting ‘Teutonic superiority’. In fact, the last Citroen cars that displayed more than a soupcon of Gallic style were the C5, Xsara and Xantia models…if you can remember them.

Recognising but trying hard not to confirm that an Audi-esque opportunity existed in creating a new line-up in DS, the early models (DS3, DS4 and DS5) suffered from having been badged initially as Citroen and, despite the consumer admiration for the bling-laden Citroen DS3, which led to a positive sales reaction, the rest of the range seemed to turn-off more potential buyers than switching them on. Sales plummeted, not helped by having only a small number of DS dealers in the UK network.

Yet, as I have proven recently, the new DS7 is a mindset-changer. With this in prospect, introducing a Francophile colleague, who owns two C5 models that he treasures but also holds strong cynicism towards DS, I sampled the Opera luxury trim version of the DS7. While hardly a Damascene change of heart, he settled readily into the drive and declared that he could discern the distinctive Gallic nature of the car’s delivery. He was immediately impressed by the car’s effortless cruising ability and the ride comfort, for which all French cars were once renowned but which has been engineered by the outstanding KYB Japanese damping specialist into DS7.

“It’s deliciously smooth,” he stated. “It has to be the smoothest and most controlled suspension of any French motorcar of the past couple of decades.” In fact, he was on-point with that statement. The DS7 does waft along effortlessly and, while it is not in the ‘magic carpet’ mode of a C5, or any of its forebears, it lacks the harsh and nuggety edge of the majority of German motorcars and remains well-damped and fluent at all speeds. Interestingly, both body roll and suspension dive are virtually absent and what remains does not upset the natural deportment of the car.

While he remained critical of the exterior styling, towards which I am slightly more forgiving, his views on the interior of the DS7 were no less than exemplary. He loves the application of the ‘DS’ form on switchgear and speaker grilles and is full of praise for both dashboard layout and the main switchgear familiarity, while being grateful that DS has not carried over the faintly ridiculous ‘i-cockpit’ currently being applied to most Peugeot models from the same group.

From a perspective of economies of scale, DS has no option but to utilise familiar Citroen and Peugeot switchgear, as it helps to keep prices (and profitability) within sensible bounds, electrics and electronics being such expensive core features. However, DS has already made an interior décor statement with its high-end watchstrap seat patterns employed as options on several of its models. This uniquely French approach results in seating that is not just good to look at but also exceptionally comfortable to sit on. Again, my colleague concurred that the seats in the Opera trimmed DS7 were what he regards as ‘typically French’.

He also agreed with me that incorporating advanced electronics, driver aids and connectivity should be concomitant with high-end French motorcars. Fortunately, PSA Group motorcars do not suffer from the side-lining electronic antics of the DS7’s forebears. He was also impressed by the five-door body’s accessibility and space on offer, noting that a get-you-home spare wheel is located beneath the split-height boot floor, with its useful bumper-level load point. Yet, he also screwed-up his face, when encountering the calisthenics of the spinning and dancing LED headlamps at start-up, as he felt that a few years down the road, there is always a possibility of individual element failures that could prove costly to repair, or replace, especially when meeting MOT requirements. Yet, he could not deny the truly Gallic quality of their fitment.

One of the DS7’s more endearing features is the dashboard timepiece located just above the ‘start:stop’ switch. In Opera trim, it is a BRM clock. Bernard Richards Manufacture (BRM) is based only a few miles from Paris, which surely helped its case for inclusion. It is a watch brand that is renowned for impeccable engineering standards and it fits well with the aspirations DS has for its brand, hence the association. It also flips, to ensure that it does not attract the attention of the miscreant.

Sampling this latest version of the DS7, in an alternative trim to the Performance-Line model tested recently, merely confirms to me that DS is on a positive course. That it now has another convert to its mission is grist to the mill.

Conclusion:    Helped by superb build quality and a choice blend of Gallic characteristics, while dealer discounts, where available, will reduce the list price of £46,030 for the car pictured, you can be certain that, if it were your choice of new car, you would be impressed and satisfied by the DS7.