From £12,2706
New rival for the Nissan Juke will bring an appealing price to match its funky looks, but it feels ordinary to drive

Our Verdict

Ssangyong Tivoli

We drive Ssangyong's new small SUV, which isn't up with the best in class but is certainly worth consideration as a budget option

14 January 2015

What is it?

It's a hugely significant vehicle for SsangYong, the 'other' South Korean car company after Hyundai and Kia. The Tivoli is a major model for a number of reasons. For starters, it's the first all-new offering from SsangYong since the company's near-collapse and subsequent takeover by Indian giant Mahindra. Secondly, it has the potential to take SsangYong into a whole new market, because the Tivoli is a baby SUV that will rival Nissan's Juke and Renault's Captur, the style-focused models which are a world away from caravan-towing large SUVs and pick-ups. Thirdly, SsangYong has somehow managed to get its entry to this expanding market ready long before anything from the Volkswagen empire (or, dare we say it, a serious offering from Ford).

Designed by an 'Italian consultancy', the Tivoli is a chunky 4.2m-long hatchback that appears to have all of the design cues required in the burgeoning small SUV sector. It has a pronounced roof angle like a Range Rover Evoque (or a Kia Soul, come to think of it), complex surfacing on the side panels and sizeable haunches over the rear wheel arches. Will it appeal to everyone? No. But there will be enough colour choices and contrasting roof colour options to allow the sort of personalisation that's popular in small SUVs.

In practice, it's a five-seater that will be offered with one of the most comprehensive-looking mechanical line-ups in the class. The Tivoli will be launched in June as a front-wheel-drive 1.6-litre petrol, paired with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. A couple of months later, a 1.6-litre diesel edition will arrive - again, with the choice of six-speed manual or auto. And finally, before the end of 2015, the entire line-up will also be offered with four-wheel drive.

There are longer-term plans, too; Mahindra has admitted it's working with SsangYong on six new engines, widely believed to be small turbocharged units with three or four cylinders. It's inconceivable that the Tivoli won't get these at some point in the not too distant future.

What's it like?

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.

Should I buy one?

SsangYong hasn't confirmed UK prices or specs, but all indications point to a starting price of less than £13,000. Even with what are likely to be relatively sparse equipment levels, that's a price that should make the Tivoli cheaper than either the entry-level Nissan Juke (currently £13,420) or the bottom-level Captur (£14,195). Running costs could yet be higher, though, depending on predicted resale values and how the Tivoli scores in the official European CO2 emissions tests.

We'd want to see hard figures and more detailed equipment lists before getting close to a recommendation, then, but given that the Tivoli is no more ordinary to drive than many of its rivals, it's fair to suggest that SsangYong's goal of selling 1000 examples in the UK in 2015 is bordering on the modest.

SsangYong Tivoli 1.6

Price 'From under £13,000'; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1597cc, petrol; Power 124bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 116lb ft at 4600rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1270kg; Top speed na; 0-62mph 12.0sec; Economy 44.1mpg (est); CO2/tax band 149g/km (est)/22 per cent (est)

Join the debate

Comments
8

14 January 2015
With 124 hp, 6 speed box and a light car a 0-60 time of 12 seconds seems pretty slow. Which bring me to my point, I loved to see it dyno'd as I'm sceptical of the 124 claim

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

A34

14 January 2015
I suspect they'll need a more competitive engine to entice folks out of their Mokkas and Jukes.

14 January 2015
... if it weighs close to 1.400kg.

14 January 2015
... if it weighs close to 1.400kg.

14 January 2015
... if it weighs close to 1.400kg.

14 January 2015
Spec says 1270kg not close to 1,400.

The Juke is Heavier, has a 5 speed box(makes a big difference) and has less hp(117) and it does it in 11.0

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

14 January 2015
xxxx wrote:

Spec says 1270kg not close to 1,400.

The Juke is Heavier, has a 5 speed box(makes a big difference) and has less hp(117) and it does it in 11.0

The claimed kerb weight is 1270KGs. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect it to be near 1400KGs, ready for the road with fluids and fuel. BTW, according to figures published on this website, a 1.6 petrol Juke is around 100KGs lighter.

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

14 January 2015
Frightmare Bob wrote:
xxxx wrote:

Spec says 1270kg not close to 1,400.

The Juke is Heavier, has a 5 speed box(makes a big difference) and has less hp(117) and it does it in 11.0

The claimed kerb weight is 1270KGs. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect it to be near 1400KGs, ready for the road with fluids and fuel. BTW, according to figures published on this website, a 1.6 petrol Juke is around 100KGs lighter.

The 100 kg lighter version of the Juke mention has only 94 hp (around a third less than this Korean car) and a 5 speed box (you forgot these 2 points) and yet still manages to equal the 12.0 sec time to 60.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

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