Small SUVs are big business, the segment seems to be in a constant state of growth, even as the overall new car market contracts.
As SsangYong’s small SUV contender, the Tivoli is here to mix it up with the Hyundai Kona, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Toyota C-HR, Mitsubishi ASX and a plethora of others. So it needs to be good.
Like the recently reviewed Musso and Rexton, the SsangYong Tivoli is here to provide a genuine alternative to the establishment. It will also carry considerable expectations, as the brand’s price leader, the Tivoli will need to be the volume mover.
SsangYong has adopted an aggressive pricing strategy for its return to Australia and the Tivoli should be in the crosshairs of those chasing a value for money bet.
In an effort to keep things simple from the buyer’s perspective, SsangYong is sticking with three trim levels - EX, EXL and Ultimate.
The entry-level EX (from $23,490 drive-away) gets 16-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, high beam assist and a 7.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.
Tivoli EX variants are exclusively powered by a 1.6-litre 94kW/160Nm petrol engine paired with a six-speed manual as standard. Buyers can option a six-speed automatic. But regardless of the transmission, the torque is sent to the front axle.
As with the Musso and Rexton, the value equation strengthens as you climb through the Tivoli range. Stepping up to the EXL (from $27,490 drive-away) adds dual-zone climate control, roof rails, a luggage screen, privacy glass and HID headlights. The move to the EXL also unlocks the option of a 1.6-litre 85kW/300Nm turbo-diesel engine.
The range-topping Ultimate ($33,990 drive-away) is a diesel AWD-only proposition and gains 18-inch alloys, a sunroof, leather trim and powered front seats that are heated and ventilated. Also worth noting, the Ultimate is the only Tivoli variant to get a full-size spare tyre.
Fashionistas will be happy to know for an additional $500, the Tivoli Ultimate is available with a two-tone exterior paint finish. Incidentally, this variant is the focus of this review.
Of the model lines SsangYong is bringing Down Under, the Tivoli is the longest in the tooth at a whopping three years of age (yes, that was sarcasm). It’s due for a major update in 2019, yet the ravages of age are absent from the exterior. It’s a very contemporary-looking small SUV that’s still up for it.
The Tivoli is a significantly larger car than many of its competitors which translates to more usable space in the cabin. The 2600mm wheelbase delivers above-average rear seat space, while the 423-litre boot gives the popular Mazda CX-3 a hiding. If you need to carry multiple prams, the longer Tivoli XLV increases the cargo capacity to a colossal 720-litres.
The interior layout adheres to convention, and as such, everything is where it should be. Being in a very price-conscious part of the market, the materials that dress the dash are on the harder side, yet the switchgear maintains the same robust feel as the Tivoli’s larger siblings.
Keen drivers will want to opt for a turbo-diesel variant, at 300Nm, the oiler has nearly double the torque of the petrol engine and it's available between 1500-2000rpm. The satisfying thrust the low-down grunt provides is worth the extra coin.
It’s unlikely any owners are going to push the Tivoli hard, but if corner carving is on the agenda the Ultimate is a sharp handler, aided by an electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system.
Depending on the driving situation, 60 per cent of the available power goes to the rear which makes for an entertaining drive on the right road. There is plenty of grip, the Tivoli holds on like your first true love.
While the Ultimate isn’t a performance car, it feels like the taut chassis can handle more power. The Tivoli demonstrated some unexpected athleticism which requires more power to fully exploit.
When travelling at speed, there is some road noise, however, it’s not as intrusive as some in the class.
Around town, where the Tivoli is likely to spend the majority of its time, the steering is perfectly weighted, while the six-speed automatic seeks to achieve maximum efficiency with prompt upshifts.
SsangYong is quick to point out its off-road heritage, which is all well and good, however, the low 167mm ground clearance is going to prohibit anything more than hammering over loose dirt.
After a spirited drive, the combined fuel consumption figure came in at 8.5L/100km. There’s little doubt a lighter right foot would see a notable improvement in efficiency.
Now the Ultimate has the muscle to contest sales amongst the high-end small SUV offerings from Japanese marques, but it’s the ownership story that lands a direct hit.
SsangYong is backing every model in its local portfolio with a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, seven years’ roadside assistance and seven years’ of transparent service costs. In the segments where SsangYong is competing for buyers, it carries a minimum two-year advantage.
It would be relatively easy to categorise the Tivoli as only a value-focused package, yet like the larger Musso and Rexton, there’s plenty of substance when it’s impartially assessed.
Along with the extensive standard equipment list and untouchable after sales support, the Tivoli is one of the most practical cars in the class with its long wheelbase and well-packaged interior. After all, isn’t practicality the main reason we buy so many SUVs?
2019 SsangYong Tivoli Ultimate Specifications
Price from $33,990 drive-away Engine 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 85kW @ 3400-4000rpm Torque 300Nm @ 1500-2500rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 5.9L/100km Tank Capacity 47L Length 4202mm Width 1798mm Height 1600mm Wheelbase 2600mm Kerb Weight 1480kg Ground Clearance 167mm Turning Circle 5.3m Service Intervals 12 months/20,000km Warranty seven year/unlimited kilometre
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