SsangYong treads new ground with its compact crossover, the Tivoli.
The SsangYong Tivoli takes the fight to compact crossovers like the Nissan Juke and the Renault Captur with budget pricing, a gutsy 125PS engine and build quality the like of which you wouldn’t credit at this price point. As long as SsangYong can promote this car effectively, it could be their breakthrough vehicle.
SsangYong has a problem. It doesn’t sell enough cars. Last year its Korean compatriots, Kia and Hyundai, shifted more vehicles in the UK alone than SsangYong does around the entire world. For a car company that competes in the budget sector, moving small volumes is fatal. Even with the financial backing of Indian giant Mahindra and Mahindra, SsangYong knew it had to do something and fast.
It had no real experience of building cars in the classes that make the massive numbers, so the Ford Fiesta, the Volkswagen Golf and the rest of their ilk were safe from assault. But what if it could turn its experience in building cost-effective all-wheel drive vehicles to the rapidly-growing crossover sector? Surely it could give cars like the Nissan Juke, the Skoda Yeti and the Renault Captur something to chew on? That’s the logic behind its latest venture, the Tivoli.
The Koreans certainly haven’t done things by halves here. This is no cut-down Korando chassis with a bunch of ancient carry-over engines. The Tivoli has had some serious investment thrown at it and it shows. The chassis is all-new, albeit hardly adventurous in its suspension design, with MacPherson struts up front and a space-efficient torsion beam rear end. There’s a choice of two 1.6-litre engines, a 128PS petrol unit and a 115PS diesel. Buyers can select either 2WD or 4WD model variants.
The 1.6 petrol unit will get to 62mph in a relatively relaxed 12 seconds and is offered as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. Pay a little more and you can pair this engine with a six-speed automatic, which is the same unit as seen in the latest MINI, albeit with a bit less sportiness built into the shift logic. Longer term plans could well see three and four-cylinder turbocharged powerplants find their way into the Tivoli. Other items of note? SsangYong’s introducing a selectable weight steering system with Comfort, Normal and Sport settings and some surprisingly big wheels. Go for the smaller alloys if you value ride quality.
The Tivoli is one of those cars that the longer you look at it, the more design influences you can see. There’s something of the Kia Soul in its overall proportioning, with a Nissan Juke-like rear haunch, a front end that’s modern Renault in a good way, some Citroen DS3 about the rear three quarter and an interior that’s glitzy in an upper-model Vauxhall way. There’s nothing about this car that says SsangYong and, to many, that will be a good thing. Perhaps the Koreans need to work a bit at developing their own family look. It’s not there yet, but the Tivoli is by no stretch of the imagination a bad looking car.
Nor indeed is it a cheap looking one. The detailing such as the floating effect roof, the satin roof rails and the materials quality of the interior are at least as good as, if not better than, many of its mainstream rivals. The cabin certainly feels as if it’s been the recipient of better quality dash panels and seats than, say, a Nissan Juke. The boot measures 423-litres to the parcel shelf, which is perfectly adequate in this class.
Prices start at around £13,000. That means a Tivoli can undercut a rival Nissan Juke, which starts at around £13,500 - though not by much. Do remember though that you’re not really comparing like with like, the Nissan getting a 95PS engine, fully 30PS down on the SsangYong’s powerplant.
Even stepping up to the next engine up in the Juke range, the 1.2 with 115PS, doesn’t bring power equality with the Tivoli, and Nissan wants around £15,000 for the cheapest one of these. Suddenly you begin to see why SsangYong are so bullish about making huge gains in sales. Renault’s Captur doesn’t fare any better by comparison. A TCe 120 version of one of those starts at over £17,000, albeit with an automatic gearbox. There are SE, EX and ELX trim levels, but all Tivoli versions get 16” alloy wheels, cruise control, a stop/go system (on the petrol version), Smart steering (with normal, comfort and sport modes), an RDS/Bluetooth radio and seven airbags.
The running cost returns of this car are better than you might expect. The 44.1mpg combined cycle figure for the 1.6-litre petrol-powered manual car is about the same as you’d get from a rival TCe 120 Renault Captur. The petrol model’s CO2 figure is rated at 149g/km in manual form and 167g/km in auto guise. Both variants improve on the 40.4mpg showing you’d get from a less powerful 115PS Nissan Juke 1.2-litre rival. The Tivoli features more of an SUV-type shape than its competitors too. We think there’s room in the market for a car with a low asking price, but which doesn’t look or feel cheap.