The new SsangYong Tivoli is yet another entrant into the supermini-SUV class, but it marks an important milestone for the Korean brand, which has always lived in the shadow of Hyundai and Kia. While SsangYong’s previous efforts have lacked the quality, design and tech to make an impact in the UK, the Tivoli bucks those trends and majors on value for money, too.
Unlike the manufacturer’s current line-up of four-wheel-drive workhorses, the Tivoli is tailored to what modern customers are asking for – putting fashion above off-road ability. We were given the keys to a left-hand-drive car in the UK months before it arrives in showrooms to see if the brand can really shake up the compact crossover market.
It certainly has the looks to take on the class leaders. The Tivoli flies in the face of SsangYong’s weirdly styled models like the old Rodius, heading in a more contemporary direction. Marginally longer, shorter and lower than a Nissan Juke, the newcomer is a smart-looking car. In fact, its shapely wheelarches are similar to the Juke’s, while the bluff front end resembles the Kia Soul’s. A MINI-like floating roof (which is available in contrasting black or white for an extra £400) completes the cohesive mix of European, Korean and Japanese styling.
However, it’s on the inside where the Tivoli marks a massive change for SsangYong. Gone are the heaps of flimsy plastics finished in depressing black, and in comes a design that bursts with character, colour and substance. The dash is made of good-quality plastics, twinned with silver and shiny black inserts, while a seven-inch touchscreen on mid-spec EX and top-spec ELX models brings it a dose of modernity.
A chunky, multifunction steering wheel and soft leather seats (standard on mid and top-spec Tivoli’s) add a touch of luxury.
There are still smatterings of shiny, scratchy plastics lower down, but the overall quality is a match for the Juke or Renault Captur.
It’s roomy, too. There’s plenty of space up front, while three passengers can sit comfortably in the back thanks to a near-flat floor. There’s loads of legroom for six-footers, and the boxy roofline results in plenty of headroom. Open the tailgate, and you’re greeted by a 423-litre boot. This puts the Tivoli up with the best in the class – easily beating the Juke’s 354-litre boot capacity and just 32 litres down on the Captur’s.
SsangYong has kept things simple by only offering two engines – a 126bhp 1.6-litre petrol or a 1.6-litre diesel with 113bhp – along with two or four-wheel drive and six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.
We drove the petrol auto, and it’s here where the Tivoli’s strong case falters a little. Although refined at idle and low speeds, the petrol unit sounds thrashy over 4,000rpm.
Performance is perfectly adequate, though.
Our 126bhp model covers 0-62mph in exactly 11 seconds, and while that’s half a second quicker than a Juke 1.6 CVT petrol, the Nissan returns 44.8mpg compared to the Tivoli’s 39.2mpg. CO2 emissions of 167g/km also mean you’ll be paying more road tax, at £205 per year compared to the Nissan’s rate of £145.
The diesel fares better with emissions of 113g/km in the two-wheel-drive manual model, but it costs £1,250 more than the petrol in the equivalent spec.
On the move, the six-speed box switches between gears smoothly and is the same unit MINI uses. It’s far more refined than the Juke’s CVT, but takes its time to change ratios.
On our short test route, the Tivoli impressed. There’s a rigidity to it that is similar to far more expensive cars, and the steering is accurate. A ‘Flex’ system offers different levels of steering assistance, yet like a lot of other Korean cars, it’s largely unnecessary – leaving it in ‘Normal’ is fine.
But what gives the Tivoli an advantage over its competitors is just how little SsangYong is charging. Prices kick off at just under £13,000, with our top-spec ELX coming in at £17,000. And with a fully loaded equipment list consisting of heated leather seats, 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav and a reversing camera, it makes the Vauxhall Mokka and Mazda CX-3 look rather expensive.
For more information on the SsangYong Tivoli please click here