In-depth reviews

SsangYong Tivoli SUV - Engines, drive & performance

Good grip and manoeuvrability are undermined by the SsangYong Tivoli's uncomfortable ride

Carbuyer Rating

3.5 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.3 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

3.0 out of 5

The SsangYong Tivoli was previously available with front or four-wheel drive but from the launch of the facelifted model, only front-drive versions are offered. With front-wheel drive, the car handles well enough, staying flat through corners and generating good grip as you drive out of bends. The car is easy to manoeuvre at low speeds as well, with one of the tightest turning circles in its class.

The Tivoli also gets SsangYong’s Smart Steer system as standard. This offers you a choice of Normal, Comfort and Sport settings for the electronic power steering, providing varying levels of responsiveness through the steering wheel, but in truth the difference between them isn’t that obvious.

The automatic gearbox operates smoothly enough, but it kicks down too easily, meaning you may find yourself in too low a gear, making the engine noisy. This also affects the car’s economy.

Another problem is that the Tivoli can’t match the ride quality of its rivals. Although the suspension soaks up the biggest bumps with little fuss, the car never really feels hugely settled, even on smooth roads. The Tivoli feels most at home along a smooth motorway, where it's reasonably refined.

SsangYong Tivoli petrol engines

The 2020 update introduced two new petrol engines, a 126bhp 1.2-litre engine and a 161bhp 1.5-litre unit. You can choose the former on the EX and Ventura trim levels, while the latter is reserved for the top-spec model. Performance stats are yet to be revealed for these engines, but both are turbocharged, which is promising.

With quite a lot of power for its class, the 1.5-litre feels fast enough for most situations. It's nippy off the line but the lethargic automatic gearbox holds it back, and it feels less powerful as speeds increase. We’d recommend sticking with the standard manual gearbox on the 1.5-litre engine unless you need an automatic. The 1.2-litre is manual-only.

The discontinued 1.6-litre petrol did without a turbocharger and, as most of the engine’s pulling power came quite high up the rev range, it lacked 'shove' lower down compared to cars with small turbocharged petrol engines.

Diesel engine

The diesel offers decent flexibility, making it pretty smooth and quiet on the motorway. It has now been withdrawn, likely due to declining sales of diesel-engined models across the car industry.

SsangYong fits a six-speed manual gearbox as standard to the Tivoli and although the shift action is slightly loose, it does have a nice weight to it. A longer top gear would be useful for making the car quieter on motorway drives, as cruising at higher engine speeds can make for a fairly noisy journey.

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