The SsangYong Tivoli is worthy of note for a couple of reasons. It was the first compact SUV from a brand known for large and fairly agricultural 4x4s and since its launch in 2015 has become the South Korean firm’s best-selling model.
Some bigger brands might launch an all-new car in that timeframe but, with limited resources, that’s not an option for SsangYong so, instead, last year the Tivoli got a bit of a facelift and some tinkering beneath the surface.
The update brought relatively minor changes to the exterior, with a new grille and lighting design the biggest differences. So, as before, the Tivoli won’t be competing for any beauty prizes thanks to its fairly boxy and uninspiring looks.
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SsangYong Tivoli Ultimate
- Price: £19995 (£20,545 as tested)
- Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
- Power: 160bhp
- Torque: 192lb ft
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Top speed: 108mph
- 0-62mph: 11 seconds
- Economy: 36.7mpg
- CO2 emissions: 175g/km
Under the bonnet, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is another new addition and it’s surprisingly powerful for the size of the car - 160bhp from the 1.5-litre gives it an on-paper advantage over a lot of rivals. However, it still feels old fashioned and relatively unrefined in operation and, especially with our test car’s six-speed auto box, economy is a real weakness. Official figures are 36.7mpg and 175g/km, but our test average was just 33mpg - pretty poor in a segment where many others manage mid-40s with ease.
On the road, the Tivoli’s manners suggest that driving dynamics weren’t high up the priority list for the engineering team either. More expensive rivals like the Renault Captur, Skoda Kamiq and Nissan Juke have moved things on in terms of ride, handling and refinement but the Tivoli feels firm over bad surfaces yet displays a distinctly old-fashioned amount of body roll. It’s not bad in isolation, just not up to the increasingly good standard in the segment.
Still, SsangYong has never focused on being at the bleeding edge of dynamics, its big selling point has always been value and the Tivoli continues to wave that more-bang-for-your-buck flag.
Starting at less than £15,000, only the Dacia Duster and MG ZS come close to it in terms of price in the comapact SUV segment. Our top-spec Ultimate test car was a shade under £20,000 and packed everything but the kitchen sink for the same price as the entry-level spec on some rivals.
Heated leather seats and steering wheel? Check. Dual-zone air con? Check. A sat nav-equipped eight-inch Android and Apple-compatible touchscreen? Check. Configurable digital instruments? Check. The list goes on with 18-inch diamond-cut alloys, a reversing camera and sensors all round, keyless entry and start, cruise control, all-round electric windows, privacy glass, auto-dipping headlights, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking.
The Tivoli’s interior was also updated for 2020 but still gives away the car’s age. A new centre stack appears shoehorned into the space left by the old setup. It’s a fairly inelegant solution and looks like it’s been done on a budget but it does mean the controls are better looking, more tactile and much easier to use than before. The instruments have also been replaced in Ultimate models with a sharp 10.25-inch digital display with selectable modes.
The rather mixed bag of materials and layout aside, the Tivoli’s interior is one of its strongest suits. Large windows make it feel airy and there’s an impressive amount of passenger space, with good head and legroom and comfortable seats. The boot is among the biggest in its class too, meaning the Tivoli scores well for practicality.
SsangYong’s range has enjoyed a significant upgrade in the years since the Tivoli launched and the impressive qualities of its stablemates leave the Tivoli feeling like the weakest model, showing its age despite attempts to update it. In a direct comparison with other modern compact crossovers it’s also behind the pace in some key areas. However, for low-mileage and budget-conscious buyers it reclaims some ground by being more practical, better equipped and significantly cheaper. There’s also the matter of a-not-insignificant seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty.