The best French SUV on sale right now isn’t available here. It’s not even on sale in France. In fact, the DS 6 can only be bought in China. The newcomer, also built in China, is pitched as an affordable alternative to smaller premium models such as the Range Rover Evoque (Aurora in China) and gives Citroen’s upmarket DS brand its first SUV contender.
One of the first things you notice is the lack of any Citroen badges. The DS signature is used liberally, but all traces of its less grand parents have been removed to better position DS as a standalone brand in the country.
The car certainly wouldn’t look out of place in the UK. The chunky profile would give any potential Volvo XC60 or Nissan Qashqai buyer pause for thought, and the chrome detailing beloved of Chinese owners has been given a more tasteful matt finish in details like the roof rails that carry on down the rear pillar.
Inside there’s certainly more leather you’d find in an equivalent UK car, extending to the dash board and door cappings in this top-of-the-range Prestige edition. It’s all good quality though, as are the buttons and also the rubber-edged dials that operate the temperature controls. The only duff note comes when you have to rest your hand on the dubious-quality fake wood while operating the 7-inch touch screen it surrounds.
Far more Chinese is the choice of powertrain. There’s no diesel option – instead the DS 6 comes with Peugeot Citroen’s 1.6-litre petrol turbo with either 158bhp or 197bhp mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.
There’s no four-wheel-drive either – instead electronic ‘Grip Control’ is said to optimize front-wheel traction on different terrains. You can even indicate which terrain you’re about to tackle via a Land Rover-inspired centre-mounted dial, but we doubt there’ll be much call for the ‘cactus’ setting…
We drove the 158bhp version and discovered the engine was the weak link. Cars of the DS 6’s 4.5-metre length and 1.5-tonne weight cry out for a torquey diesel and that proved true here too. Overstretched, the four-cylinder unit becomes too vocal.
Everything else is much better. There’s a nice heft to the steering and the roll is well contained in the corners. We can thank the DS’s German rivals for conditioning Chinese buyers into liking a more European driving experience, and it showed here. As far as we could tell on the newly paved roads, the DS 6 rides well too. There was no heavy lurching under braking for example, something that would indicate it was sprung too softly.
Price-wise the DS 6 is good value starting from the equivalent of £20,142, compared to £37,170 for the Audi Q5. Generous equipment includes leather seats, satellite navigation, keyless entry and tyre pressure monitoring on four of the six models. Our £28,350 car also came with a rear-view camera, electric boot opening and even a massage function on the front seats.
Chinese owners demand good rear-seat space, even when driving themselves, and the DS 6 certainly delivers this. There’s also a generous 500-litre boot, even if ours was dominated by a Denon-branded sub-woofer for the premium stereo.
Citroen says there’s no chance of the car coming here, which is a shame – bigger DS cars have been disappointing in the main, but this one is an exception. Let’s hope we’re in line for the DS 6 Mk2.
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