What is it?
The compact crossover segment is now one of the most popular classes around, not just in terms of sales but the sheer number of models available. Not a month goes by without details of another new crossover hitting the streets, and when there are so many models to choose from, a car really has to stand out if it stands a chance of succeeding.
This puts somewhat unknown brands, like SsangYong, in a precarious position. As the South Korean firm’s most compact model, the Tivoli has been its best-selling model yet, though its sales are still tiny next to competitors. But with the introduction of a noticeably updated car, does SsangYong now stand a greater chance?
The Tivoli – named after an Italian town – arrived in 2015, showcasing a stylish design, generous equipment levels and good value. Three traits it continues with to this day.
Though SsangYong calls this a ‘model year update’, considering it gets a range of new engines and overhauled interior, we’d argue it’s a bit more than that. Much of what it benefits from has been borrowed from the firm’s larger Korando, which debuted in 2019.
What’s under the bonnet?
SsangYong continues to offer the Tivoli with a 1.6-litre diesel engine, but the new additions are a pair of turbocharged petrol engines – a 126bhp 1.2-litre and a more powerful 161bhp 1.5-litre that’s used in our test car.
You can choose it with either a six-speed manual or the six-speed auto that we have, which allows for a 0-60mph time of 10.8 seconds and a top speed of 108mph.
However, it’s remarkably thirsty for a model of this size – SsangYong claims 36.7mpg, but we only managed 30mpg during our time with it across a range of driving situations. Particularly at a time when fuel prices are so expensive, it really shows up how inefficient this petrol Tivoli is. CO2 emissions of 175g/km are also poor for a front-wheel-drive crossover.
What’s it like to drive?
Let’s start with the good. The Korando’s engine, efficiency aside, is pleasing, providing a decent amount of punch for either overtaking or merging onto a motorway.
Make no mistake this is not a performance crossover, but with noticeably more power than what you get in any Nissan Juke, in everyday driving it’s more than quick enough. All-round visibility is good too, while a large reversing camera helps with parking too.
There are quite a few negative points, though. For starters the ride manages to be both soft and fidgety at the same time, while the cruise control has a remarkable inability to keep a constant speed, accelerating and slowing the car down constantly. The fact it’s more relaxing to not use it on a longer trip speaks volume.
Generally, then, the Tivoli is outclassed behind the wheel in most areas, with a model like a Seat Arona being a far better option if drivability is important.
How does it look?
The Tivoli’s design was a breath of fresh air for SsangYong when it launched, and almost seven years on from its original reveal, it’s still an appealing-looking option to our eyes. Its twin LED rear lights look great at night, while there’s just the right amount of plastic cladding to assert the ‘rugged’ crossover looks without it being overkill.
The front end gets a slight nip and tuck, too, with a redesigned lower grille and new LED front fog lights being introduced. It’s a shame there isn’t yet an option for main LED headlights, as yellow halogens date the design somewhat.
What’s it like inside?
The interior of our top-spec Ultimate car was certainly a step up from the precious Tivoli, mainly aided by the introduction of an excellent set of digital dials and large nine-inch touchscreen, both of which have been lifted from the Korando.
There are also smarter climate control buttons introduced, while the central area is wrapped in a gloss black surround that does help to make it look modern, though will likely heavily scratch as the years go by. While Ultimate cars get leather-like seats, the rest of the cabin has too many hard plastics on show.
It’s quite average when it comes to rear space too, and while high-spec Tivoli models do come with a useful spare tyre as standard, the boot itself is quite small, while a high load lip isn’t ideal for loading and unloaded heavier items, or if you have a dog, for example.
What’s the spec like?
Value for money is one of SsangYong’s best assets, and it is one of the most affordable new crossovers.
Standard kit on the base EX trim includes cruise control, keyless start and an assortment of driver assistance kit, but the mid-range Ventura would be our pick.
Ultimate models bring leather seats, electric mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels and a digital instrument cluster, while the Ultimate Nav packs a larger nine-inch touchscreen with a TomTom navigation.
If you rate value for money above all else, the Tivoli is worth considering. Prices usefully undercut rivals, while the level of standard kit is generous too. Add in SsangYong’s generous seven-year, warranty and there are plenty of reasons as to why this crossover deserves your attention.
It’s not the complete package, though, as many rivals are far better to drive and roomier inside. So though models like the Renault Captur and Volkswagen T-Cross might be more expensive, if your budget allows they’re worthy of the extra expense.
Facts at a glance
Model: SsangYong Tivoli
Model as tested: Tivoli 1.5P Ultimate Nav Auto
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol
Max speed: 108mph
0-60mph: 10.8 seconds
First Drive: Ssangyong Tivoli
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