SsangYong Tivoli - Third report. It slips under the radar, but crossover has plenty to shout about.
In today’s over saturated, information rich age, brand awareness is more important than ever. Thanks to the Internet and wide-reaching advertising, companies are vying to grab the attention of buyers and become the next household name. However, one car marque that’s always struggled to make that leap in the UK is SsangYong.
We’ve touched on the Korean brand’s image in previous reports, but it’s been a dominating theme throughout our time with the Tivoli. Friends, relatives and even strangers in the street have all asked what it is – “It’s a SsangYong” is fast becoming my unwanted catchphrase. Even then, the familiar reply is either “never heard of it” or “I didn’t know it still sold cars here”.
SsangYong has been selling SUVs, 4x4s and pick-up trucks in the UK for more than two decades now, yet even when its vehicles were marketed under the name of fellow South Korean company Daewoo from 1999-2002, nobody really noticed.
This identity crisis never used to be a problem when it sold no-nonsense vehicles to those in the know or commercial fleets, but now it’s more of an issue as it tries to tackle one of Europe’s most popular new car sectors – the cut-throat crossover market.
It’s fortunate, then, that the Tivoli is arguably the most competitive car the brand has ever produced. Almost everyone who’s driven or sat in it has reacted positively, including some of my most car-savvy friends. At first, I was convinced it was because the company and car are so unknown that nobody expects much in the first place; but now I’ve realised it’s because it’s a genuinely capable small SUV.
SsangYong’s 4 star review from Auto Express
Wednesday 13th April 2016
Arguably, there are more desirable cars in this sector. The Tivoli isn’t unattractive – it’s just that the likes of the Renault Captur and Mazda CX-3 are far more likely to get you noticed. The SsangYong appears a little awkward from some angles, while the mass of tailgate badging in different fonts is just plain messy. Still, the gloss-black alloys and roof that come as part of the £400 Style Pack on our ELX-spec test car make it look classier than its £17,250 price suggests.
And, inside, the Tivoli proves that you don’t have to compromise on space, either. There’s a considerably bigger boot than in a Nissan Juke, and even with three passengers across the back seat, we’ve had few complaints. But there is one thing we’d like to see SsangYong improve when it facelifts the car: the dash design. It’s pretty solid and there’s no shortage of kit, but the hard plastics and fiddly buttons wouldn’t look out of place on a budget-brand stereo. The lack of reach adjustment on the wheel is also frustrating for taller drivers.
At least the seven-inch touchscreen is slick and easy to use – it could teach some more established brands a thing or two. We’ve had no complaints about the Tivoli’s motorway cruising abilities over the last 8,000 miles, either. The punchy diesel gives enough overtaking urge, while the seats are comfortable and it’s reasonably refined. Despite a modest 113bhp, it feels quite lively through the gears once the turbo gets up to speed. However, you’ll have to put up with a harsh, gravelly engine note when accelerating, and the engine isn’t as refined as units found in more expensive rivals.
You’re not going to get excited by the handling, either. It’s tidy and stable, rather than particularly thrilling, but we still wish the ride was a bit smoother around town. You get used to it the more you drive, but sharp bumps still unsettle the car.
Overall, though, these are flaws we’re happy to put up with during what has been a generally surprising time with SsangYong’s new star.
Essentials - SsangYong Tivoli 1.6D ELX 2WD
On fleet since: November 2015
Price new: £17,250
Engine/torque: 1.6-litre 4cyl
Options: Style pack (£400)
Insurance*: Group: 19 Quote: £318
Any problems? None so far
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for
a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxfordshire,
with three penalty points.
Second opinion: ”The Tivoli is well equipped and comes with a five-year warranty, so it’s no surprise that it’s attractive to buyers who want to maximise their money. You’d hardly call it pretty, but adding the £400 Style pack with its black wheels and roof won’t break the bank.” James Disdale, Road test editor.
Tivoli is impressively practical: rear provides more than enough space for three adults, and the boot is bigger than some rivals’.
We like: While wheel doesn’t adjust for reach and quality could be better, there’s no faulting the kit on board. The infotainment system is pretty easy to use, too.
We don’t: The Tivoli can look pretty awkward from some angles, while the badging on the tailgate seems messy with a variety of overstyled fonts.
Verdict: We’re still impressed by what you get for your money in the Tivoli. We’ve had no major problems, and it’s proven practical and up to every job we’ve asked of it. This is a car that helps to put SsangYong on the map as a real alternative in the new car market.
Click here to download a brochure of one of our current models.