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SsangYong Tivoli

This Nissan Juke rival from South Korea provides stacks of kit for a modest outlay, but does it offer much more than that? We’ve got six months to find out.

            Now here’s a thing. You know the small SUVs that are all the rage at the moment? I can’t help feeling there’s a bit of ‘emperor’s new clothes’ about them. Sure, you get to sit a few centimetres higher than you would in a regular supermini, but the rest of the packaging is just the same – worse, in some cases. You’re paying a lot for style over substance.

            Then there’s the SsangYong Tivoli, the latest arrival to the market and one that aims to take on the likes of the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Mazda CX-3 not only on price and value – traditional strong points for South Korea’s fourth-largest car manufacturer – but also on interior space. And we’ve got the next six months with one to see if it succeeds.

            The Tivoli, you see, is a baby crossover that really is halfway to being a family SUV. It’s the first all-new offering from SsangYong since it was taken over by Indian giant Mahindra in 2011 and (whisper it quietly) it’s not a bad effort at all. It sits on an all-new platform and gets fresh 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines, developed in house.

            You can have four-wheel drive, if you want, or swap the standard six-speed manual gearbox for a six-speed auto that’s the same Aisin unit used in the latest Mini. The CO₂ emissions on the diesel aren’t stellar by class standards but, at 113g/km for a two-wheel-drive manual, they’re respectable enough.

 

               

SSANGYONG TIVOLI 4X4

            The Tivoli, you see, is a baby crossover that really is halfway to being a family SUV. It’s the first all-new offering from SsangYong since it was taken over by Indian giant Mahindra in 2011 and (whisper it quietly) it’s not a bad effort at all. It sits on an all-new platform and gets fresh 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines, developed in house.

            You can have four-wheel drive, if you want, or swap the standard six-speed manual gearbox for a six-speed auto that’s the same Aisin unit used in the latest Mini. The CO₂ emissions on the diesel aren’t stellar by class standards but, at 113g/km for a two-wheel-drive manual, they’re respectable enough.   

            Starting from scratch has allowed SsangYong to make the Tivoli relatively large for the class. Two adults can actually sit in the rear seats, behind two adults up front. The boot capacity is a commendable 423 litres, which is a little more that you get in a Skoda Yeti and quite a bit more that in a Citroën C4 Cactus or a Juke.

            The Tivoli has the makings of a practical family car, in other words – and you can’t say that about many small crossovers. We’ll leave you to make up your own mind on the styling (it has split opinion here), but a few of the obvious small-SUV trademark touches are there: floating roof (thanks to blacked-out C-pillars), lots of daytime running lights, roof rails and just enough wheel arch cladding to hint at off-road ruggedness.

            Tivoli prices start at a vaguely ludicrous £12,950 for a two-wheel-drive manual petrol SE, which still brings air-con, cruise control, Bluetooth, seven airbags and 16in alloy wheels. However, we’ve gone for a reasonably high-spec diesel model, for a number of reasons.

       

                

            First, going for a plusher edition gives us a chance to try out more of the toys. Second, having tried both engines, I much prefer the diesel, which spins up reasonably smoothly and has the torque to even feel brisk from time to time. The non-turbocharged petrol engine feels limp by comparison and continually needs to be worked hard.

            Third, diesel fits better with SsangYong’s existing customer base. Indeed, despite SsangYong’s desire for new conquest customers, I’d be surprised if the Tivoli still doesn’t end up with a disproportionately high percentage of diesels in its sales breakdown.      

            Finally, even the ELX trim that we’ve chosen doesn’t actually cost that much. The on-the-road price is £17,250 and we’ve added £900 worth of options to that figure: blue metallic paint (£500) and a styling pack (£400) that brings tasty 18in alloys and a contrasting colour on the roof and door mirrors. Sum total? Just over £18k, or about the same as a low-spec Mazda CX-3. We’re probably talking a couple of hundred quid per month on a PCP finance deal, with a sensible deposit and mileage.

            ELX is properly loaded, too. Most Tivolis get a crisp 7.0in touchscreen display in the centre of the fascia, but ELX adds TomTom navigation software and a reversing camera to the same system. It also brings full leather seats, heated front seats, keyless go, dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, automatic headlights and wipers, folding side mirrors and front and rear parking sensors. You’d be looking at £20,000-plus for a mainstream rival with anywhere near this level of equipment.

            In truth, though, that sort of value proposition isn’t really anything new to SsangYong. What we’re here to discover is whether Tivoli really is the car that deserves to bring fresh customers for the brand, beyond its usual clientele of caravan towers, vets and farmers. This means that mere numbers alone won’t be enough over the next six months. We want a bit of surprise and delight during everyday use as well.

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SsangYong Tivoli 1.6 Diesel ELX

Price: £17,250

Price as tested: £18,150

Options: Metallic paint £500, Styling Pack (18in diamond-cut alloy wheels, contrasting roof and door mirror colour) £400

Economy: 50.9mpg

Faults: None

Expenses: None

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