SSTAY YONG | Stick with South Korea for great-value motors — and go for the Tivoli to get your money’s worth
Spacious family car now features safety kit to bring it in line with more expensive European rivals
YOU have to feel sorry for South Korea.
Imagine living next to the world’s biggest lunatic — a chubby 12-year-old in a charity shop suit itching to turn the western world into a purple smudge with his radioactive toy box.
Whenever we’re talking about that part of the planet it’s always about North Korea thanks to Kim Jong-un*. South Korea doesn’t get a look in.
The country is like the kid in the family who doesn’t get any attention because their “challenging” younger brother is always throwing his dinner up the wall or shaving the family pet.
And that’s a shame, because South Korea has a lot going for it — not least SsangYong cars.
When you think about South Korean cars, you think Kia and Hyundai.
Those brands (same company) used to be among the cheapest in the world.
But, over recent years, prices have been edging upwards as they win awards and take advantage of dissolving brand snobbery.
But this has left a gap in the European market for quality yet cheap motors imported from the east, and SsangYong — South Korea’s oldest car manufacturer — has filled it.
This week it launched the facelifted 2017 Korando, a mid-sized SUV, as well as the addition of some up-to-date safety tech on its existing Tivoli — the jewel in SsangYong’s crown.
The Tivoli is itself a good-looking, spacious family car, which can be snagged in XLV form, adding a bigger boot (but making it less handsome).
But let’s get Korando out of the way first. I have driven the entire SsangYong range, and the Korando is the model which most feels like its budget price tag.
It’s true you get heaps of value for money, with prices starting at just £17k for a car which can tow a caravan, fit five comfortably and swallow 1,300 litres of stuff in the boot. But driving it is a deflating experience.
Steering is baggy, overly light with naff-all feedback, and in corners it just wants to sit down and not get up, like a toddler throwing a tantrum.
That said, if you like your cars all-singing, all-dancing in terms of optional extras, for three grand less than the price of an entry level Audi Q3 you buy a fruit salad of tech.
The £22k ELX spec comes with — deep breath — 7in colour touchscreen with nav, heated front and rear seats, daytime LEDs, hill start assist, electric tailgate, tyre pressure monitors, leather throughout, USB and HDMI ports, cruise control . . . and so the list goes on.
It looks decent enough, and its Euro 6-compliant 2.2 turbo diesel engine is economical, though never exciting. If comfort and practicality are the top of your requirements, you will be hard pressed to find something better value.
But if it were my money, I would take the Tivoli.
This also comes in a 4×4 option, and while it doesn’t have the ground clearance of the Korando, it’s plenty rugged enough for rutted lanes and boggy campsites.
It now features safety kit to bring it in line with more expensive European rivals — including lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition and one of the most effective autonomous emergency brake systems I have ever been demonstrated.
It is spacious inside and costs just £13k.
And setting it apart from the Korando, it drives very nicely indeed.
To my mind, if you are going to go budget, do it in style.
* If you don’t hear from me next week, I have been knobbled by the North Korean secret police.