Road test: SsangYong Tivoli
A bargain, and good enough to have mainstream rivals worried.
What is it?
The SsangYong Tivoli is a small crossover to rival the Mazda CX-3, Nissan Juke and Renault Captur. There’s a choice of petrol or diesel models.
How safe is it?
As yet there’s no rating from Euro NCAP, but all models have front, side and curtain airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, stability control and ISOFIX child seat fittings.
Who should buy one?
If you appreciate smart styling, value and practicality, the Tivoli has a lot going for it. This should be the car to bring SsangYong to a wider audience.
Road test by David Motton published 21 November 2015
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
SsangYong has been steadily improving the way its cars drive, and although it’s not perfect the Tivoli is the Korean brand’s best effort yet.
Forget the big, heavy, old-school 4x4s SsangYong is better known for, the Tivoli is much more pleasant to drive. Around town the compact size is a clear plus, and on twisty roads the Tivoli corners neatly and grips well, although it doesn’t show the verve and dynamism of a Mazda CX-3.
The steering is reasonably direct, and the level of assistance can be varied at the push of a button. SsangYong calls this feature Smart Steering, but after a few miles of switching from one to the other we settled on the ‘Normal’ mode, which was light enough for easy parking without feeling over-assisted at speed.
It’s a shame the suspension is too firm and fidgety. Whether riding on 16-inch alloys fitted to the entry-level SE or the 18-inch wheels on EX and ELX cars, the ride is definitely the Tivoli’s weakest point.
Fingers crossed that four-wheel-drive versions will ride better than the two-wheel-drive models we had the chance to test drive. That’s likely because the 4×4 has a more sophisticated multi-link rear-suspension system that ought to deal with bumps better than the torsion beam used on front-wheel-drive Tivolis.
Buyers have a straight choice between a 1.6-litre petrol and a 1.6-litre diesel. The petrol has 128bhp, which you’d think was enough for strong performance in such a small and light car. You do have to rev the engine hard if you want to get a move on, though.
We preferred the 113bhp diesel. It may have less top-end power compared with the petrol, but it has far more punch in the middle of rev range. It’s reasonably quiet, too, with no irritating vibration through the pedals or gear lever.
Good news if you prefer autos to manuals – both the petrol and diesel are available with a smooth-shifting six-speed auto.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
The Tivoli is not a big car. It measures just under 4.2 metres from bumper to bumper, which means it’s not much longer than a supermini. Inside, though, SsangYong has made the most of the Tivoli’s small footprint.
The driver and front-seat passenger have room to get comfortable, although it’s a shame the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach as well as rake. The standard of finish is a step up on what you might expect from SsangYong; it feels like a mainstream car rather than a budget one.
Rear-seat space is excellent for such a small car, with enough room for a passenger of 6’3” to sit behind an equally long-limbed driver. Very few rivals are anything like as accommodating.
The boot is relatively short and there’s a pronounced lip to lift bags over, but it’s easily big enough for most families’ weekly shops. With a capacity of 413-litres, it’s much bigger than a Nissan Juke’s but not as large as a Renault Captur’s.
Commendably, SsangYong has fitted the same safety kit to the cheapest versions as to range-topping models. There are dual front airbags with a passenger off switch (so a rearwards facing child seat can safely be used in the front of the car), as well as side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags. Stability control is standard, and there are ISOFIX child seat fittings for the outer rear seats.
The SE comes without a luggage cover, but it does have remote keyless entry, a trip computer, all-round electric windows, cruise control, 60/40 split rear seats and manual air conditioning. EX spec is the best value, with a luggage cover, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and a seven-inch touchscreen. ELX models have sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors and more.
With a starting price of £12,950, the SsangYong is one of the cheapest cars of its kind. In truth, it’s even better value than it first appears when you consider how well equipped it is and the standard five-year warranty. The petrol with a manual ‘box returns 44.1mpg on the combined cycle and the diesel manual 65.7mpg. Some rivals beat those figures, but that’s offset by Tivoli’s bargain price tag.
WE SAY A bargain, and good enough to have mainstream rivals worried.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62mph in 12 seconds
Economy: 65.7mpg combined
Insurance: Group 19
Tax: Band B (£0 first year)
Figures for the Tivoli Diesel 2WD EX