What is it?
Cast your mind back to last year's Frankfurt motor show and you may recall that Ssangyong revealed a concept dubbed the XLV (for Exciting Lifestyle Vehicle) Air. It was essentially an elongated version of the firm's small SUV, the Tivoli, which has since found approximately 63,000 homes around the world.
The Air Concept hinted at a seven-seat layout but the final production version we're driving here (in Spain) seats five without the option of adding a sixth or seventh perch. However, because the XLV has the same wheelbase as the standard Tivoli but nearly 24cm more length beyond its C-pillar, it now has a much larger boot, at a claimed 720 litres.
Ssangyong hopes the introduction of the XLV will take Tivoli-based sales nearer the 100,000 mark worldwide, although it feels UK buyers will expect a higher specification. As such, the XLV is only available with the firm's pricier 113bhp 1.6 e-XDi160 four-cylinder diesel, with manual or automatic gearboxes and the options of both two and four-wheel drive.
Standard equipment is generous, with features such as leather seats, climate control, sat-nav, keyless entry and seven airbags thrown in. As a result, while the XLV won't have a headline-grabbing entry price of the sorts enjoyed by its smaller stablemate, it should still start from around a very reasonable £17,000.
What's it like?
Despite being slightly larger and heavier than the standard Tivoli, there's little difference between the way the two drive. It remains average on the road, and considering the XLV's added space and practicality, you could argue that it now sits closer to rivals such as Skoda's Yeti and Renault's Kadjar, making its faults more prominent against these better-sorted rivals.
Ssangyong's 1.6 diesel has just enough get up and go to make for simple town driving, and overtaking can be done in confidence should the need arise. It's a fairly uneven power delivery though, and this is undoubtedly one of the noisiest diesel engines in its class, with considerable vibration sent back through the steering wheel, gear lever and pedals.
Few small SUVs prove engaging to drive, and the Tivoli XLV certainly doesn't change that. It manages to keep its body neat and tidy when asked to corner at speed, but none of the steering's three settings prove communicative, just unevenly weighted and too keen to self-centre.
The taut suspension also keeps the body nicely in check over crests, but the standard-fit 18in alloys make the ride fidgety at low speeds and motorway expansion joints send a thwack through the cabin. The XLV falls down on wind noise at higher speeds, too, which can be heard rushing around its mirrors, while the large alloys and tyres are a constant audible nuisance.
What it lacks on the road it makes up for inside. Four tall adults can sit comfortably, with the rear passengers enjoying excellent head and knee room and two-stage adjustable backrests. The driver sits a little high even with the seat set as far down as it'll go, but the generous steering wheel adjustment and decently supportive front seats make it acceptable.
When reading Ssangyong's press material you'd be hard pushed to miss the XLV's 720-litre boot figure - it's hammered home. In truth, that measurement is from the base of the boot to the roof, so not in line with the more common measurement taken from floor to tonneau cover. We're yet to be given the industry standard figure.
Nevertheless, UK cars come with only a tyre inflation kit as standard rather than any kind of spare wheel, so even up to the XLV's luggage cover, the space is impressively deep and wide - albeit with quite a pronounced load lip and average access. Specifying a space-saver or full-size spare wheel and foam insert tray will eat into its load space considerably. At least folding down the 60/40 split rear seats leaves a flat surface, provided the standard adjustable boot floor is set accordingly.
With its standard leather seats, the XLV is certainly the finest quality interior Ssangyong produces. Again, in standard Tivoli form, it's a cabin that more than holds it own next to cars such as the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur. Next to Qashqais, Yetis and Kadjars its impact is less pronounced, but there's an acceptable amount of soft, textured surface higher up, considering the price. The XLV's 7.0in touchscreen TomTom-based sat-nav is less responsive but no less intuitive than any Nissan or Renault effort.
Should I buy one?
Just like its smaller sibling, the XLV fails to shine next to SUV rivals of any size in the driving department. Its ride and handling are average at best, while its refinement in diesel form is towards the lower end of the class spectrum. Even in this cleanest manual, front-wheel-drive form, it falls short of its rivals for CO2 emissions, with a claimed 117g/km.
However, it is impossible to ignore the fact that, spec-for-spec, the XLV is considerably cheaper to buy than any Qashqai, Yeti or Kadjar, yet it will carry more luggage (even taking into consideration Ssangyong's hyperbole) and is every bit as roomy inside for passengers. Keep the XLV as cheap as possible - as it is here - and there's genuine value to be enjoyed.
Ssangyong Tivoli XLV 1.6 D manual
Location Madrid, Spain; On sale now; Price £17,000 (est); Engine 4 cyls, 1597cc, diesel; Power 113bhp at 3400-4000rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 1500-2500rpm; 0-62mph 12.0sec; Top speed 109mph; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1405kg; Economy 62.8mpg (combined); CO2 and BIK tax band 117g/km, 23%