Entirely conventional, which brings good and bad. We tried the 1.6 petrol as a manual and an automatic, and it didn't feel like a particularly sweet unit with either gearbox. It has a decent enough power output, at 124bhp, but the torque is a modest 116lb ft and with no turbocharger, you need to work the motor hard to get these figures out of it. It's calm at idle but develops a harshness at around 3000rpm that never really goes away, and even with six gears, the manual version will still be pulling beyond those revs at a British motorway cruise. In this respect at least, the Tivoli does feel a notch behind mainstream small SUVs such as the turbocharged three-cylinder Renault Captur.
The auto feels a little bit more sophisticated. The transmission itself is the same gearbox used by the latest Mini, and it shifts smoothly and quickly, helping to spare you the worst of the engine noise. The software is relatively cautious, though, and it's still not as quick to kick down as we'd like.
SsangYong is planning to offer the Tivoli with selectable steering weights (dubbed Comfort, Normal and Sport) but like almost all similar systems, it seems a waste of a button - a single, better-judged set-up would be a preferable solution. Still, in Sport mode there's a decent amount of weight and it's accurate enough for most everyday situations. Just don't expect the sort of communication that could bring enjoyment on twistier road.
The Tivoli will be offered on either 16in or 18in wheels but judging from our brief drive at SsangYong's factory test track and in traffic-clogged Seoul streets, there's little to choose between them. The suspension (McPherson struts up front, torsion beam at the rear) does a decent job of dealing with larger road imperfections, such as manhole covers, but it feels unable to settle entirely at speed, with noticeable patter. At least body roll is kept in check.
The cabin is easily the best offering yet from SsangYong and up there with many of the Tivoli's peers, thanks to a mix of gloss-black and dense soft-touch plastics on most of the fascia. Lower-end editions will get a lurid orange screen for the stereo, but higher-end editions will be offered with a crisp seven-inch touchscreen that can incorporate sat-nav and, oddly, play video and audio files from your smartphone via an HDMI connection.
The Tivoli feels more practical than many other small SUVs, too, with enough rear leg and headroom for six-footers to contemplate more than the shortest of journeys, and a boot capacity of 423 litres, just a little down on that of a Captur.