- Still cheap to buy
- Still looks good
- Punchy performance
- Still a Ssangyong
- Some cabin vibrations
Ben Griffin drove the more safety-minded Ssangyong Tivoli in and around the Millbrook Proving Ground to see if the budget crossover is still worth a punt.
With probably the least badge appeal of any manufacturer and having driven the original Rexton, our expectations weren’t just low for the Ssangyong Tivoli – they were positively subterranean.
But we ended up feeling like you could justify buying one. It was cheap enough to give rivals a run for their money, pretty enough to appease the style-minded and involving enough to drive. No wonder, then, around 2,200 Brits have been brave enough to take the plunge.
One of the areas where the Tivoli was unable to compete with its competitors was safety, which is why the 2017 Tivoli we just spent the day driving comes with numerous electronic goodies. The sort that aim to keep you alive – and earn it a better Euro NCAP rating.
The Ssangyong Tivoli is the manufacturer’s first B-segment vehicle designed to take on the many, many crossovers already available.
In its 2017 guise, the mid-range EX model comes with Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking. We tested the latter at 20mph and 30mph and it kept us from driving over an inflatable car.
Ssangyong’s autonomous emergency braking systems works like that of its rivals. First, it warns you of an impending collision, then pre-arms the brakes to ensure you stop as quickly as possible. If you fail to stop, the Tivoli does the braking for you.
Another new addition is Lane Departure Warning, which gives you an audible warning if you start to creep over a white line without indicating.
Lane Keeping Assist takes things one step further and keeps you within the lines at up to 111mph (not that you can ever reach that as the top speed is 109mph). The steering provides resistance if you try to override it and will bleep at you if you keep your hands off the wheel for too long.
Then there is Traffic Sign Recognition, which lets the Tivoli recognise the speed limit and warn you if you go over it, while High Beam Assist dims the high beam automatically if an oncoming car is detected. All are standard on the range-topping ELX.
The alloy wheel designs have been tweaked for a fresher look and the steering wheel now offers rake and reach adjustment, allowing you to get more comfortable.
Another change is to do with the ventilation, which is said to have been improved for those up front, while the rear seats can now be reclined. The boot (from 423 litres), meanwhile, has a new two-position base to help with storage.
As for the rest of the car, it is business as usual. So expect loads of head room, ample leg room and an exterior that manages to turn more heads than you would expect. Even if you dislike how it looks, you can appreciate the fact it is bold.
What about the engines?
You get the same choice of a 1.6-litre diesel or a 1.6-litre petrol that can be paired up with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed Aisin automatic (except in the case of the entry-level SE). Nothing new here, nor have the output figures changed.
The petrol is still quieter than the diesel, but offers weaker fuel economy and is less punchy. On paper the diesel sounds glacial, but it can speed up with pleasing enthusiasm once the turbo spins into action.
When paired up with the manual, which could be smoother yet offers a solid gear change, the Tivoli is actually more involving than a couple of its rivals. Pleasant sums up the handling best, which we would take over mundane any day.
Those who want the automatic will see a hefty drop in fuel economy so it is worth avoiding, although the difference is reduced in the case of the petrol.
Out of the two, the diesel is the most sensible choice (47.9mpg combined for the ELX we were in), but diesels may come under fire and so more of a case can be made for the petrol alternative, which happens to be cheaper to buy.
Our diesel car made a rather noticeable vibration noise when changing between third and fourth gear caused, presumably, by a loose plastic component or two in the cabin, ruining an otherwise peaceful ride if you keep the revs down.
The ride itself is capable of smoothing out small imperfections, but more serious undulations can cause quite a din and unsettle the car. There is also noticeable body roll and the steering gives zero feedback, but it does grip well.
Some of the plastics in the largely ergonomic cabin look particularly cheap, but the lower price puts you in a more forgiving mood and adding a bit of colour via the My Tivoli customisation helps draw the eye away from the unsightly areas.
Which model is best?
It is worth going for the EX model if you care about safety as that comes with the aforementioned autonomous emergency braking system and enough goodies to keep you entertained without making undoing the value for money advantage.
Pick of the bunch is the EX diesel with the six-speed manual. Avoid going for a fancy metallic (in this instance, white) as that adds £500/$650. The £400/$520 styling pack, which paints the roof, alloy wheels, spoiler and mirrors in black, is more tempting.
Standard equipment on the EX includes the seven-inch infotainment display, reversing camera, dual zone climate control, full leather interior and 18-inch alloy wheels. ELX adds keyless go, navigation and front, automatic wipers, automatic headlights and rear parking sensors.
Keep it sensible and there is a strong chance your Tivoli will undercut rivals such as the Citroen C4 Cactus and Nissan Juke by a substantial sum (but not the Dacia Duster) and can even come out cheaper than some smaller cars.
Then there is the five-year unlimited mileage warranty. Ssangyong assures us the terms and conditions are less strict than its rivals, which means you should get most issues repaired without having to complain too strongly.
Should I buy one, then?
The safety improvements of the Ssangyong Tivoli help keep it competitive. That and the fact it looks good, drives sufficiently well, comes with a solid warranty and is cheap to buy will be all the persuasion some buyers need to go against the grain.
- 1.6-litre e-XDi 160 turbo diesel
- 113bhp (115PS)
- 221lb/ft (300Nm) from 1,500rpm
- 0-62mph in 12 seconds
- 113g/km of CO2
- 65.7mpg (combined)