- Spacious for its size
- Generous standard equipment
- Not as striking as the Juke
- Quality falls behind the best in class
- Bland to drive
With Kia and Hyundai now threatening to out do established mainstream manufacturers (such as Vauxhall and Ford), the time has come for SsangYong (yet another South Korean manufacturer) to make its mark in the UK. The SsangYong Tivoli is central to this aim, its built on an all-new platform to compete with cars such as the Nissan Juke, Ford EcoSport and the Vauxhall Mokka in the ever-popular (and still growing) small crossover market.
While the Tivoli can’t match the striking styling of the Juke, this is arguably the best-looking SsangYong yet, and the company is claiming to have taken massive strides on the inside, too. The car will also come loaded with kit, including an optional seven-inch central screen on the dashboard.
The Tivoli will be launched with a 1.6-petrol engine to start, which will be joined in October by a frugal diesel of the same capacity and the option to fit four-wheel drive.
Despite offering four-wheel drive, SsangYong has designed the Tivoli primarily to conquer the urban jungle – where its raised ride height should prove a boon for navigating congested city streets and loading child seats or elderly relatives.
The Tivoli is based on a new platform and as a result it is one of the most competent models in the SsangYong range.
While there’s nothing revolutionary in the interior, it represents SsangYong’s best effort yet. Plastic quality on the whole is pretty good (for SsangYong), although you don’t have to look too far to find the kind of scratchy materials that wouldn’t get near a Volkswagen.
The dashboard is dominated by a seven-inch screen that is used to operate much of the car’s systems as well as providing a display for the reversing camera and offering the ability to play video. It is standard fit on mid-range models and, in top-of-the-range trim, comes complete with TomTom sat-nav, too.
SsangYong Tivoli interior space
Interior space is excellent with room enough for a family of four, making the Tivoli significantly more roomy than the Nissan Juke.
SsangYong Tivoli boot space
The crossover has a 423-litre boot that’s significantly bigger than the Nissan Juke’s (354 litres), but smaller than the Renault Captur’s 455-litre load bay.
SsangYong is well known for making big SUVs, so the smaller Tivoli helps the Korean car maker break away from that mould. The crossover seems to be the most accomplished car that SsangYong has ever built.
It’s said to corner without too much body roll. The downside is that testers report the ride isn’t as settled they’d like. It has a tendency to bounce around, especially at the rear. Where it loses on the tarmac it regains off it – the Tivoli is one of the few small SUVs to get an all-wheel-drive system that actually works. There is a Land Rover style knob in the cabin that splits power 50:50 and the electronic traction control sends power to the wheel that most needs it without too much commotion. A nice surprise from Ssang Yyong.
SsangYong’s Smart Steer system can be adjusted for lightness via three presets – Normal, Comfort and Sport, with the latter mode offering the best compromise. It’s not too heavy and the added resistance makes the Tivoli feel more planted.
The Tivoli is powered by a newly developed 1.6-litre petrol engine that makes 124hp and 116lb ft of torque or a 1.6-litre diesel, with 113hp and 221Ib ft of pulling power.
SsangYong Tivoli petrol engine
It’s a naturally aspirated petrol engine, with maximum power coming in at 6,000rpm, while peak torque arrives at 4,600rpm. That leaves the mid-range a bit gutless, a problem the Nissan Juke (with its meaty turbocharged petrol engine) doesn’t have to worry about. Getting from a standstill to 62mph takes 12.0 seconds.
With average fuel economy of 44.1mpg (39.2mpg in the automatic), the Tivoli falls behind the 1.2-litre petrol Nissan Juke, which can crack 50mpg. Emissions are 145g/km compared to the Juke’s 129g/km.
SsangYong Tivoli diesel
The diesel Tivolo joined the range after the model’s launch, but looks to be the better option. While the 0-62mph takes exactly the same time its increase in torque (105Ib ft compared to the petrol model) means you don’t have to work the engine as hard to make decent progress. It’s also quite a lot cheaper to run thanks to fuel economy of 65.7mpg and CO2 emissions that mean road tax comes in at just £30/$45 a year.
Both four-wheel drive and front-wheel drive versions are available, while buyers can choose between a standard six-speed manual or automatic. Fitting a traditional automatic gearbox means acceleration is smoother than the CVT unit in the Juke. The auto comes with three driving modes – Eco, Power and Winter as well as a button on the gear lever that lets you control shift manually. Reviewers conclude the gearbox is best left in auto to do it’s thing.
While full specification will be revealed closer to the car’s launch in June, all the Tivoli’s trims get six airbags and ESP as standard. Move up the ladder, and higher variants get an additional airbag for the driver’s knees.
Construction-wise, over 70 per cent of the Tivoli is made from high-strength steel, so the vehicle should have a sturdy structure. As it’s built on an all-new platform, we would expect the Tivoli to hold up well when it is crash tested by Euro NCAP.
If there’s one area the SsangYong can’t afford to under-perform, it’s the value for money it represents. Priced from £12,950/$19,425, you have to concede the Tivoli is quite a lot of metal for the money and undercuts key rivals like the Nissan Qashqai and the Jeep Renegade.
Basic SE models get alloy wheels, cruise control, stop/start, variable steering weighting and Bluetooth preparation. For an extra £1,650/$2,475, buyers can move up to EX trim and get leather upholstery,larger alloy wheels, climate control, heated front seats and an infotainment system including a reversing camera.
Top-spec ELX models get the full range of powertrain options including an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive. Front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, tinted windows and a TomTom navigation system complete this £1,400/$2,100 upgrade from EX trim.
Go-faster bits include polished aluminium pedals, illuminated kick plates in the door sills and carbon-fibre-look wing mirrors.
The Tivoli is yet to reach the market, and a lot of its success will depend on how SsangYong prices it – tradition dictates that it will undercut the competition by at least £1,000/$1,500.
For now, the petrol-engined Tivoli seems to be a good effort, and while it might not be the best among the compact crossovers, it surely stands a chance to compete with its rivals.
SsangYong will offer the Tivoli with a five-year/unlimited mileage warranty, which isn’t just one of the best on offer, it also shows the brand’s faith in its products and the hard work that has gone into making it.