SsangYong Tivoli SUV review
"The SsangYong Tivoli is a stylish car with a low price and generous standard equipment, which may tempt some buyers from more established competition"
- Excellent warranty
- Spacious inside
- Good value
- Poor ride comfort
- Varying interior quality
- Petrol engine is quite noisy
The SsangYong Tivoli is by far the most stylish car to have been produced by the South Korean marque. This is even more true after the car was given a facelift in 2020, which gave its nose a new look, thanks to a larger grille and new foglights. You may not have considered SsangYong, a relatively small-scale manufacturer yet to achieve mainstream popularity in the UK, but the Tivoli looks to take on rivals by offering cheap prices, a class-leading warranty and a decent amount of equipment.
SsangYong's speciality is rugged SUVs and commercial vehicles, but the Tivoli isn’t currently available with four-wheel drive. That’s true of many of the Tivoli’s rivals, too, including the Honda HR-V, Renault Captur and SEAT Arona.
With the Tivoli, SsangYong is moving away from its previous, slightly agricultural and basic image, without sacrificing its reputation for durability and ruggedness. Targeting the lucrative small SUV market, the car is based on a modern platform and is the smallest vehicle the company has & produced. With good looks and a keen price tag, the Tivoli has respectable showroom appeal.
The SsangYong Tivoli doesn’t feel quite as slick and modern to drive as the Nissan Juke, but it has an agreeably raw, mechanical edge that gives it a unique feel without making it difficult to drive. It feels like a serious piece of kit, with nicely weighted controls that give it a feeling of sturdiness. The car’s main weakness in the dynamics department is an unsettled ride that can become annoying, especially in top trims with larger wheels fitted.
A facelift in 2020 introduced two new 1.2-litre and 1.5-litre petrol engines, and SsangYong updated the 1.6-litre diesel engine at the same time. The 1.5-litre feels quite quick but it's paired with a sluggish automatic gearbox. Although the diesel can’t quite match the smoothness of equivalents used by the competition, it does offer plenty of power and reasonable fuel economy. It’s worth noting that the diesel is no longer available, so higher-mileage drivers may want to hunt out a used example.
Stepping up to Ventura adds an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, with smartphone mirroring and a rear-view camera, plus heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and parking sensors. Top-spec Ultimate gets bigger alloy wheels, leather upholstery and dual-zone climate control. We’d recommend choosing Ventura if you can afford it; there’s much more equipment and the touchscreen makes the interior feel more modern.
Although the Tivoli is compact on the outside, there’s plenty of space for two rows of adults inside. They sit high with a good view and will find plenty of cubbyholes for storage. The boot is a good size as well.
Buyers can take reassurance from the unmatched seven-year/150,000-mileage warranty that SsangYong provides. This, combined with a low asking price, makes for a tempting financial proposition. We’re pleased that autonomous emergency braking is now standard, which upped the Tivoli’s safety score from three to four stars, and you also get lane-departure warning, a system that tells you when you’re too close to the car in front, plus traffic-sign recognition.
The SsangYong Tivoli is a good-value, practical car with the ability to soak up hard treatment and is ideal for a young, active family. It makes for a genuinely interesting alternative to the usual suspects from the more mainstream manufacturers.