At the launch of the latest addition to the SsangYong line-up, there was an understandably upbeat atmosphere. Buoyed on by the company's most successful year yet, when 1,542 cars were registered last year, the launch of the Tivoli is a great opportunity for the firm. It's the first all-new car to be developed since SsangYong was purchased by Indian industrial giants Mahindra and Mahindra, and has been previewed at motor show after motor show as a concept car, having been developed under the X100 codename. Set to rival the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Vauxhall Mokka, SsangYong's new car is not also cheaper, but also boasts an industry leading five year warranty with limitless mileage.
You may have seen SsangYong's advertising campaign for the Tivoli, with marketeers re-arranging the letters of the model's name so that it reads I LOV IT, however, there's nothing cheesy about the formidable package that SsangYong's engineers have created. There's a newly designed 1.6-litre diesel engine under the bonnet and it's a real cracker. It's lively, delivers perky performance and is utterly flexible, delivering lots of torque from low spaced ratios that mean you don't have to continually row up and down the gait to make decent progress. The steering is reassuringly weighty and can be adjusted by choosing one of three modes normal, comfort or sport - with our preference for the normal setting. Ride comfort is a mixed bag and this entry-level car with 16-inch wheels does deliver a more comfortable set up than cars fitted with bigger wheels. But at motorway speeds the Tivoli never settles down properly, feeling unsettles and jiggly over larger ruts and undulations, though on urban roads and at moderate speeds, potholes and bumps are soaked up relatively well. One of the Tivoli's biggest attributes is its strong grip and surefootedness, especially in the wet conditions we experienced during our test, while handling is best described as safe and predictable, remaining flat through tight bends.
The cabin of the Tivoli is never going to win any awards for plushness, however, there's a smattering of semi-soft plastics and the interior has a pleasing air of honesty and solidity about it. The metal embellishments and piano black detailing lift the ambience enormously, delivering an attractive and stylish cockpit. Space for oddments is a strong point, with large door pockets, a handy tray in front of the gear lever and storage available above the glovebox. The driving position is usefully elevated, giving a good view all around the car, save for the usual pillar intrusion that most cars suffer with when looking over your shoulder. Luggage space is well catered for at 423 litres, though there's a relatively high sill to lift your cases over. But the real ace in the pack is the amount of occupant space on offer, both in the front and back, with generously proportioned head, leg and knee room. It's particularly pleasing considering the car's compact dimensions, with this baby SsangYong offering considerably more space inside than the class leader, the Nissan Juke.