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South Korea serves up a sweet treat with the new SsangYong Tivoli

WERE you asked to provide a list of South Korean motor manufacturers you might not include SsangYong, the country’s fourth largest and longest established car maker, despite the brand having been on sale in the UK since 1994.

It is fair to say that SsangYong’s early awkwardly-styled and aesthetically peculiar Musso and Korando 4x4s were an acquired taste.

However, the more recent Korando has proved a little more popular than the previous Rexton, Rodius and Kyron.

Now the Korean firm is all set to make the next step with this new Tivoli, arguably its best car yet.

The small crossover is built to take on the Kia Soul, Nissan Juke, Fiat 500X and others. Compared with past SsangYongs it is a positive stunner.

Its cute, on-trend, funky styling is as appealing as its many rivals, both inside and out.

SsangYong expects to sell about 1,300 Tivolis in the UK during the latter half of this year, and about 3,000 to 4,000 during its first 12 months, with a roughly equal petrol/diesel split, but this is not likely to bother established players.

The Tivoli has the choice of two engines, a 1.6-litre petrol with 128bhp or a 115bhp 1.6-litre turbo-diesel.

Both have manual or automatic gearboxes but only the diesel comes with the choice of two or four-wheel drive, while the petrol only comes in front-wheel drive.

The majority of cars in this class are only available with two-wheel drive, though, so it is unlikely to deter many.

With a 0 to 60mph time of 12.2 seconds and 106mph top speed for the petrol manual, it’s not about to win prizes for its lightning performance, but it officially returns 44.1mpg average fuel economy and 149g/km emissions which are respectable if not outstanding.

By comparison, the turbo-diesel manages the same increments in 11.9 seconds for the 0 to 60mph sprint, a 99mph top speed and a 65.7mpg average fuel economy, but the reality is that it boasts twice as much grunt as the petrol and produces its punch at much lower revs, despite having 13 fewer horses under the driver’s right foot.

On the road, the petrol cruises along comfortably enough with faster traffic, but the engine has to work hard to accelerate at higher speeds.

It is also mechanically noisier than you might expect, feeling a little unrefined by today’s standards.

By contrast, the turbo-diesel feels noticeably more eager at all speeds, and was quieter and much less busy on the motorway. Despite them being slightly heavier than the equivalent petrol models, they drive in a similar way.

That is to say they steer sweetly, tackle corners without excessive body roll and ride very comfortably.

Furthermore, the manual gear change action is also precise, while the brakes are powerful with a reassuringly progressive feel.

There is also the not-so-small matter of fuel economy.

Our test drives revealed a more significant difference than the official figures with 33.5mpg from a petrol automatic and a more frugal 52.3mpg from a diesel manual over the same route.

he only deduction is that a petrol Tivoli might be the preferred choice if you drive locally and rack up a low annual mileage, but for most the diesel is worth the extra £1,200 to £1,250. Creditably, there were no squeaks or rattles apparent in our two test cars, and the Tivoli's interior is a million miles from the swathes of cheap grey plastic which blighted past SsangYongs.

Instead there is a clean, attractive design combined with quality materials that belie the Tivoli’s low pricing.

There is also ample room for four, plus a small one at a pinch, and the decently-sized 423-litre boot can be expanded dramatically.

The Tivoli is available in three spec grades: SE, EX and ELX with on-the-road prices ranging from £12,950 for the SE petrol manual to £19,500 for the range-topping ELX diesel auto 4x4.

Both the EX and ELX grades have supple leather upholstery in an attractive range of colours with neat stitching, and there is no shortage of equipment.

Even the entry-level SE grade has cruise control, powered/electrically heated mirrors, ESP, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, LED running lights, alloy wheels, tyre pressure monitoring and a whole lot more as standard.

That said, it boasts little if anything in the way of equipment that is not available elsewhere.

Our Tivoli of choice is the manual diesel EX. It does not have the ELX’s integrated sat nav as standard, but is £1,400 cheaper.

However, with the cheapest 2WD manual petrol Mini Countryman, for example, at just £875 less than the highest spec 4WD auto diesel Tivoli, the newest SsangYong has much going for it.

LOGBOOK LOWDOWN

Price: £12,950 to £19,500

Engine range: Petrol – 1.6-litre; Turbo-diesel – 1.6-litre

Performance: 0 to 60mph in 11.9 seconds, 109mph top speed (1.6TD)

Fuel economy: 65.7mpg (1.6TD)

CO2 emissions: 113 to 167g/km

Rivals: Citroen Cactus, Fiat 500X, Peugeot 2008, Mini Countryman, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke, Kia Soul, Renault Captur

Rating: 8/10

For more information on the SsangYong Tivoli please click here

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