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Road Test: SsangYong Tivoli 1.6 SE

Version Rating: 4 out of 5
Model Rating: 5 out of 5
In the UK we’ve got Land Rover. The Americans have Jeep. Japan’s car industry is full of firms renowned for building strong, capable off-roaders. But despite Hyundai and Kia selling cars in huge amounts in the UK, the 4x4 brand on top in Korea is actually Ssangyong. It's been building such vehicles since 1954, and the SsangYong Tivoli is its latest offering. It’s Korea’s cheap Jeep.

Low list price

With this base-spec 1.6 petrol SE model weighing in at just £12,950, cheap is the operative word. There are only two similar cars we can find cheaper – the Dacia Duster and the Kia Soul – but neither offers anywhere near the same value once you’ve dissected spec and running costs. The Suzuki Vitara is actually its main rival, but the SZ4 spec - similar to SE on the Ssangyong - costs £13,999.

Standard equipment on a Tivoli SE includes air-con, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity and keyless entry. You also get seven air-bags and the firm’s five-year warranty for added peace of mind.

No optional extras

Since it comes with such a lot of kit, SsangYong doesn’t really do optional extras, save for a couple of styling packs and paint finishes - though not on SE cars. This is as ‘base’ as it gets and it’s refreshing to see a genuinely appealing entry level proposition rather than pared-down box.

Those looking to tow might be interested in the £650 tow bar, though. It has to be removable, which is why it’s so expensive: the rear foglight is obstructed otherwise, which means MoT failure.

But if you’re towing you’ll want to go for the diesel anyway; its superior torque output means a 1,500kg braked towing weight compared to the petrol’s 1,000kg.

Efficient 1.6 petrol

Don’t discount the 1.6-litre petrol though. With 126bhp and 160Nm of torque at 4,600rpm, the Tivoli will accelerate from 0-62mph in 12 seconds and finish at 106mph. You do have to work it quite hard to get there though.

It's accenhtuated by the noise the engine makes when the revs rise – you notice the lack of sound-deadening that’s necessary to sell cars at this price - and it certainly can't rival a Ferrari for aural accompaniment.  

Still, this is a low-cost car, and its fuel economy reflects that. SsangYong quotes a claimed average fuel economy of 52.3mpg, and according to the on-board trip computer we managed to hit that figure over a route of mixed driving without even trying. 

With CO2 output pegged at 149g/km, this isn't really a viable company car. You'll want the 113g/km diesel for that. Car tax (or VED) for this petrol model is payable in band F for 2015/16, which means £145 per year. 

You can have a six-speed automatic on other trim levels (costing £1,000 more) and part-time four-wheel drive too (for another £1,250) but not on base-spec cars.

Verdict

If only for the sheer value for money on offer, it’s difficult not to like the petrol SE Tivoli. It’s an honest, characterful car with genuine talents and lots of kit.

The diesel engine is fractionally nicer to drive, though, and an automatic gearbox seems to suit the car better. Top-spec ELX also gets you a huge amount of standard equipment, though at £18,250 it’s considerably more money.

We think the SE represents the better-value option, even if it’s not the better car. An introductory PCP finance deal of £159 per month sweetens the deal further, too.

For more information on the SsangYong Tivoli please click here

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