SsangYong’s all-new Tivoli crossover should help the brand double its UK sales by attracting a new breed of customers
For SsangYong the timing of the all-new Tivoli could not be better. Having spent the last three years re-establishing its fledgling UK business on the back of the Korando SUV and large Rexton 4X4, it now has a B-segment crossover to compete in the sweet spot of the car market.
The Tivoli is a significant car for SsangYong. It is the brand's first petrol model and the first to be offered without four wheel drive.
It is also a statement of intent as the first new model to be launched after its acquisition by Mahindra & Mahindra, the Indian engineering conglomerate, which has committed to a substantial R&D investment package that will see the introduction of a new car every year for the next three years.
The Tivoli will be the brand's biggest seller, accounting for 3,500 sales in 2016 when its total UK sales of cars and commercials are targeted to hit 6,500, a sure sign that UK CEO Paul Williams also expects growth from its existing model lines
“Since we started advertising the Tivoli on television we've seen enquiries and sales rise for all the other models. If we were to go backwards on any of our existing models I would regard the Tivoli launch as only a partial success. I want more sales of what we’ve got plus Tivoli. I'm not prepared to have a franchise that is a one trick pony.”
The Tivoli is also likely to be the car to accelerate the growth of the brand's small dealer network. It currently has 57 sites, operated by a mix of franchised owner-drivers and specialist used car sellers, and expects to grow to 65 by the end of the year. It will need even more to fulfil its ambitious growth plans.
Dealers started selling the 1.6-litre petrol version of the Tivoli in June but from now will have an accompanying 1.6-litre diesel model with which to significantly grow volumes in a sector evenly split between the fuels. A range topping AWD diesel, with a six-speed automatic option, will be added in late November and could potentially take 20% of sales: that's high for the segment but plays to SsangYong's dealers' strength in selling four wheel drive cars.
Tivoli sales got off to a flying start and already account for half of the brand's total volumes. Even though it has an aggressive sub-£13k entry point, most customers have opted for the top ELX spec costing £17,250. Furthermore around 30% of all buyers have chosen automatic and the My Tivoli personalisation package is proving popular. This all bodes well for dealer margins.
“Customers are buying the car because it is attractive and fit for purpose, not because it's cheap.” said Williams.
As a specialist 4X4 brand SsangYong has made a virtue of building a brand by offering affordable cars that serve a robust utility purpose. With the Tivoli, it now has a model that will be bought for emotional reasons and you cannot put a price on that.
Behind the wheel
The Tivoli unquestionably looks the part and it needs to be in a sector brimming with competition from the volume players. The exterior design is fresh and attractive with subtle bulges the front and rear alluding to its crossover aspirations. It’s prettier than a Nissan Juke and more distinctive than a Renault Captur. Despite its small exterior dimensions (just 4,195mm x 1795mrn wide) the interior is spacious with plenty of head and shoulder room in the front and rear. Indeed, even adults travelling in the back do so in comfort.
The cabin looks good and hints at future SsangYong interiors with its high quality fabrics and plastics and neatly laid out facia.
We tested the 2WD 1.6litre petrol (128PS) and diesel (115PS) options mated to six-speed manual transmissions. Both units are refined around town or when pushed along at motorway speed. But the best all-rounder is the diesel with the super smooth six-speed automatic, the same Aisin unit found in the Mini.
Most brands have a halo car at the top of their range; SsangYong, a brand that likes to do things differently, now has one as its entry point.
Engines: Petrol 1.6 (128PS); Diesel 1.6 115PS
On sale: August (AWD diesel due in November)
Rivals: Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, Vauxhall Mokka
For more information on the SsangYong Tivoli please click here