EVER heard of SsangYong? It’s a South Korean firm that went bust in 2011. Oh no! And you’d fallen in love with all their beautiful and stylish cars.
Fabulous creations like the SsangYong Rodius, which was so hideous it quickly earned the nickname The Odious Rodius.
Or how about the Rexton, which would have been better re-badged the Wreckston. No, that greenhouse on wheels wasn’t pretty either.
Then there are unforgettable offerings like the Korando or the Kyron, which were hard to forget, however much their owners tried. You can still buy the Rodious, Rexton and Korando, which have been completely re-styled and don’t look like they’ve fallen out of the Ugly Tree any more.
SsangYong have gone one step further with the Rodious by giving it a new name, the Turismo. Now I’m not saying any of these cars were bad, just terrible to look at, because I’ve never driven a SsangYong ... until now.
Called the Tivoli, it’s the first SsangYong to be made by the company’s new Indian owners, Mahindra & Mahindra, who are better known for producing tractors. And so they should be, because they’re the world’s biggest tractor making company.
The first thing you notice about the Tivoli is its looks. It’s genuinely pretty, but given SsangYong’s reputation, you expect that’s just about all you’ll get. And you’d be wrong.
Choose from two 1.6-litre engines, petrol or diesel, with front wheel drive or, if you live in a swamp, four-wheel-drive, which 100% of air heads want, but 99% don’t need.
Pleasant Once again you expect the engine to come from the left-overs bin of a major car maker. And once again you’d be wrong. Both engines are brand new, with low emissions and excellent economy.
The car that turned up on The Sumptuous Drive That Leads To Fowler Towers was a top-spec, frontwheel-drive, ELX diesel.
SSANGYONG’S WONGA WONDER
Thursday 31st March 2016
The engine sounds a bit rough when you start it up, but what diesel doesn’t? It soon settles down to be a pleasant, capable and extremely fuel efficient cruiser, while an immense 300Nm/222lb of torque provides instant power from just 1,500rpm making it a surprisingly quick car if you need it to be.
Which, of course, most owners couldn’t care less about. They’re after value for money, that’s why you’ll find them in a SsangYong. Without even trying, my little Tivoli averaged an excellent 50mpg and as that was mostly around town and close to it’s urban figure of 55mpg, that’ll do for me.
Obviously, then, its interior is a let down. Sorry, wrong again. With blue-stitched leather seats and a mountain of kit as standard it’s brilliant.
Most of the dash and doors come in a mix of soft-touch trim, silver-trimmed switches and instruments and expensive looking piano black.
Meanwhile the dashboard background lighting can be adjusted to suit your mood. Choose black, blue, red, yellow or green, while the steering wheel can be adjusted for sport, comfort or normal settings.
The interior is light, bright and far smarter than you’d expect from a value-for-money motor. Leg room is excellent, especially for rear seat passengers, and the back seats fold down to leave a five feet deep loading area.
Badge Sadly, though, that leads me to two problems with the Tivoli. First off the rear seats don’t fold flat and leave a huge ledge to haul stuff over which is annoying and unnecessary.
Secondly, despite its excellent touchscreen radio, you won’t get DAB, which is not even an option and is extremely annoying when you’re missing the cricket on Radio Five Extra.
Still, if you’re not a cricket fan and you only take bendy stuff to the tip, you’d agree with the badge that the makers stuck inside the back window.
It said: “Tivoli” and next to it the word was spelled backwards.
SsangYong Tivoli ELX diesel.
PRICE (on the road): £17,250. Range: £12,950 - £19,500.
ENGINE: 1,597cc, alloy head, iron block, 16-valve, DOHC, direct injection diesel turbo with intercooler and variable valve timing (115hp, 300Nm/222lb torque).
TOP SPEED: 109mph.
MPG: Urban: 55.3; extra urban: 72.4; combined: 65.7.
CO2: 113g/km. Tax Band C;
£30 pa road tax.
INS GROUP: 19.
HERE’S how the SsangYong Tivoli ELX diesel fares image-wise.
REAR MIRROR MONSTER: Lack of a radiator grille could easily get it mistaken for an electric car. Swish, smooth, but hardly threatening.
BACKSIDE BEAUTY: Extremely smart, with unusual lights and an equally unusual badge.
PLAYTIME PLEASER: Sat-nav, twin-zone climate control, cruise control, trip computer, keyless start and entry, heated front seats, heated door mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, auto lights and wipers, touchscreen stereo with steering wheel controls, Bluetooth, USB, Aux and HDMI connections.
NAUGHTY NIGGLES: Steering wheel radio controls are so near the rim I kept accidentally turning off the sound, which puzzled me at first.
TASTY TOUCHES: Extra 12-volt socket in the boot to go with the one in the front. Door mirrors fold in when you lock the car. Posh diamond-cut alloys are standard.
FAST OR LAST: Quick but noisy when pushed. Best as a comfortable cruiser.
WONGA WONDER: Huge amount of standard kit, cheap to run and an unlimited mileage five year warranty. Great value.
WOULD AN ESSEX GIRL LIKE IT? A Sang What? Looks good though, dunnit.For more information on the SsangYong Tivoli click here