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What is it?

SsangYong is the quiet third of a three-tier car making industry from South Korea.

Nestled well below Hyundai and Kia, SsangYong currently offers a three-model range, with the Tivoli providing the entry point.

The Tivoli itself is based on the Kia Soul and badged as EX, ELX, and Ultimate.

Being based on the quirky looking Soul isn’t a bad thing and the ELX is a solid mid-level competitor, but in a very crowded market.

SsangYong’s designers have done a good job of hiding the relationship with a heavily reworked interior and exterior — there’s no hiding that steeply raked windscreen though.

Behind the bluff and upright schnoz is a diesel or petrol powerplant. Our test car had the 1.6-litre diesel, a slightly chattery but butter smooth item.

There’s a huge 300Nm of torque on tap between 1500rpm and 2500rpm. Peak power is just 85kW and is available from 3400rpm to 4000rpm.

The diesel comes in 2WD or AWD for the Ultimate, with a 6-speed auto only for the oiler.

Economy is, not surprisingly, pretty good for the pert little five-door.

Urban driving is quoted as 7.4L/100km for the 2WD version. We saw a best of 7.6L/100km on the urban cycle. Combined is 5.5L/100km and that’s not outside the realms of possibility.

At just 47 litres, the tank size compromises range though.

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What’s it cost?

The range starts at a miserly $22,990 driveaway for the EX, without premium paint.

It’s $27,990 driveaway for the ELX diesel auto, with premium paint an extra $495.

One can choose from six exterior colours, with the test car Space Black.

Inside there’s three choices, with black, brown (mocha coffee shade), and beige for the trim on the seats and doors.

Overall, the presence is restrained, innocuous even. The front end is very SsangYong family in look, with LED eyebrow driving lights in a swept back cluster design.

The lower air intake surround is a horizontal “double Y” with black urethane underneath joining the front and rear.

The tail end evokes the MINI Countryman’s styling, with a bold C pillar that joins the top and bottom.

It’s a compact 4202mm long, 1600mm high with roof rails, and overall width is 1798mm and weighs in at 1480kg dry. What these numbers mean is good interior space.

It looks good inside too. The dash follows the current Euro themed arch-type sweep from door top to door top and, in black-on-black, it looks okay.

The dash is a mix of black textured plastics, with a faux stitched look, a hood style binnacle, and piano black centre stack.

This holds the aircon controls which are soft-touch buttons. An old-school, amber backlit display screen sits above a dominant fan speed dial.

Unlike most other manufacturers, SsangYong hasn’t gone down the standalone touchscreen path for the audio/satnav.

The Korean make has stayed with an embedded look, but there’s no DAB and one radio station sounds like a skipping record.

The driver faces a binnacle with bright red back-lit dials. These though can be changed to five other colours such as blue and yellow.

A monochrome centre screen shows wheel angle when parked. This is presumably to remind the driver which way they’re pointing when getting ready to move off.

Splashes of alloy look plastic add some colour to the black trimmed option. The seats are comfortable, but not heated or vented in this model.

There’s the usual apps for the sound system, storage spaces front and rear, and a good amount of cargo space at the rear.

There is a pair of 12V sockets, one up front and one for the rear.

Safety is high, with Auto Emergency Braking (AEB), and warning systems for forward collision and lane keeping.

Australia doesn’t get the Euro spec traffic sign recognition system . . . yet.

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What’s it go like?

It’s a hoot to punt around.

There’s the barest hint of hesitation from a standing start.

The turbo spools up very quickly with a rapid, smooth, slightly noisy launch.

The engine is a real old-school chatterer under load, but there is no sense of vibration.

The gearbox is the same. It’s super quiet, super smooth, and rarely proves indecisive cog swapping.

Off the throttle the engine is whisper quiet.

There is a minimal amount of road and wind noise while coasting, and again it’s only when you punch the go-fast pedal that the engine becomes noticeable.

Mid-range urge is sensational given the size of the engine. It’s relatively effortless compared to bigger cars with bigger engines.

Ride is on the hard side however. The 205/60/16 inch profile Kumhos provide plenty of grip, but the tallish sidewall doesn’t do much in the way of aiding the suspension.  

The spring and damper rates are almost adequate for smaller bumps, but hit a traffic device at anything other than walking pace and it’s kapow.

The rear corners will even “cock a leg” in tight turns or at odd angles coming in and off some driveways.

The upside is the way it goes on the motorways. Undulating surfaces don’t exist, stability is high in windy conditions, and the steering, adjustable via a drive mode button — is well weighted.

It’s responsive, with ratios that keep understeer to a minimum.

As a driving package Tivoli is far better than expected.

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What we like?

  • Performance belies the blockish styling
  • Good looking interior is a comfortable workplace
  • Excellent features for price

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What we don’t like?

  • Invisible presence in the marketplace
  • Invisible presence on road
  • Confused road manners and peculiar audio system glitch

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The bottom line?

The SsangYong Tivoli is due to be deleted from the lineup later this year when the company relaunches Korando. In a way it’s a shame because it’s a competent performer and a solid competitor. The invisibility factor is against it though and, well . . . that’s just how it goes sometimes.

CHECKOUT: SsangYong Musso: badge a drawback

CHECKOUT: Sing a song of SsangYong, a pocket full of change

 

SsangYong Tivoli ELX, priced from $27,990 driveaway
  • 6.5/10
    Looks - 6.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Safety - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Thirst - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Practicality - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Comfort - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Tech - 7/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value - 8.5/10
7.7/10

Conole

Dave Conole hails from Perth where he co-hosted a car show on one of the city's major community radio stations. Although he's had formal training in stage, TV, and film, it's his face for radio that gave him his start in the automotive field, both reviewing and motorsport commentary. After moving to Sydney in 2004, Dave has worked for some of Australia's biggest media groups and is the anchor commentator at Sydney Motorsport Park. This has lead to anchoring major events such as the Top Gear Festival (and, no, he didn't get punched by Jeremy).