► Small, tall crossover from Korea
► 2wd or 4wd, priced from £12,950
► Cheap, and surprisingly cheerful
Not since Chris Waddle’s mullet has anything been less fashionable than Ssangyong. And news that the Koreans who brought us such zingers as Rodius and Rexton are about to enter the compact SUV market must surely be causing rib-threatening laughter down the Nissan Juke Owners Club.
But read our lips, because we want to make this absolutely clear: the new Tivoli is no joke.
It’s fresh-looking, incredibly good value, nicely built and roomy, and inside it feels easily as premium as anything in the market. Add to this Mini-style personalisation on offer via the ‘My Tivoli’ configurator, prices starting at a Duster-worrying £12,950, five-year unlimited-mileage warranty and PCP deals from around £150 a month, and you have yourselves a contender.
Pause to allow Juke owners to go a bit quiet.
What’s the Tivoli like to drive?
Really quite good. Obviously you have to make some allowances – after all, this market isn’t choc-a-block with apex-clippers. There are two engines on offer, one petrol, one diesel, both 1.6-litre four-pots, a choice of 2wd or 4wd drivetrains, and two six-speed ’boxes, auto or manual.
We tested the front-drive petrol version with the auto ’box, which even Jenson Button would find slow. It’s not the 126bhp that holds it back, but the total lack of torque in a mid-range flatter than a recently run-over flounder. But drive how you ought to be expecting and it’s perfectly amiable. The ride’s a little strange – at times taut, at others floaty – and the steering (hilariously) has three settings, the hardest of which is a real surprise. No car at this price in this market offers proper feedback, but the Tivoli has a right good go.
Body control isn’t an issue, as you can’t fling it around, and while NVH refinement won’t inspire any letters home, it’s not noisy.
What’s this ‘premium’ interior all about?
First, it’s really spacious, front and back, and the seats are excellent, knocking the Dacia Duster’s risible flat chairs into the middle of next week. We drove the top-spec ELX model which, together with the rather too Gary Numan red-leather pack, comes in at £17,000 on the nose.
If that sounds like it’s starting to get rich, look at the kit: heated leather, climate control, touchscreen sat-nav, keyless go, colour-configurable instruments, stop/start, parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, rear-view camera… All that, and the dash is pretty stylish too. Doesn’t feel like you scrimped on anything, including form and function.
Ssangyong’s rooted-to-the-floor brand cred will be harder to overcome than any other kind of prejudice, but if you’ve got the strength to deal with endless ‘You bought a whaat?’ questions then you won’t be disappointed. Taken at face value the Tivoli is a very impressive statement from Korea’s less rich relation, one that should rock Hyundai, Kia and, who knows, perhaps a few Europeans to their core. If you don’t care about any of that, it’s simply a good car. Respect.