By Bill McCarthy
SsangYong is a name that is still not instantly familiar, although it might have been if some of its earlier eye-popping designs had caught on.
The Korean manufacturer has been around for a while, with some quirky and frankly strange looking creations like the early Rexton, Rodius and Kyron.
The Tivoli is much more mainstream and according to the firm’s MD, is cool, quirky and stylish. Quirky in this case might be pushing it a bit, but the Korean firm’s upgraded SUV has plenty going for it, not least the price, and industry leading seven-year or 150,000 mile warranty.
The Tivoli was launched in Korea in January 2015, and in its home market sold over 3,000 vehicles a month.
Five years on it has evolved with a refreshed look and now offers two new turbo petrol engines, a three cylinder 1.2 GDi and a four cylinder 1.5 GDi, together with an uprated version of the 1.6 diesel engine.
This latest version offers smart styling both inside and out, advanced technology and upgraded safety features to offer quite a package for an asking price starting at a smidge under £14k.
There are three trim levels including the entry-spec EX, mid-spec Ventura and the flagship Ultimate driven here.
Even for the entry level, standard kit is impressive with cruise control, electric windows, remote central locking, smart steering, DAB Radio with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, manual air conditioning, six airbags and other electronic safety features.
Move up the range and the features are added with the range topper here offering a host of creature comforts more often found on much more expensive vehicles, including 18-inch diamond cut alloys with road tyres, heated front leather seats, dual zone air conditioning and heated, multi-function steering wheel
The latest model styling while smart, is no show-stopper in the way previous SsangYongs may have been. Very European-orientated, it looks good, is practical as well as comfortable and has plenty of cargo space. It features body coloured wraparound bumpers, colour coded electric door mirrors, LED daytime running lights and fog lamps and neat LED light clusters to the rear.
This model features a 10.25-inch high resolution LCD instrument cluster which comes with a choice of bright red graphics or analogue format showing data which allows adjustment to safety comfort and technology features, including a choice of welcome chime when the ignition is switched on.
It also controls functions like navigation, infotainment and smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
The interior itself is spacious and feels well put together, if not quite as sophisticated as some, admittedly more expensive, competitors with some ordinary plastic finish and fiddly switchgear. Others like the equally affordable MG ZS and Dacia Duster score just as well here.
The leather seats on this model are comfortable and supportive and head and legroom is very good to the front and more than acceptable in the rear to accommodate five people. The rear seats feature a drop-down armrest/cupholder for extra comfort.
Boot space is decent, with 423 litres but the folding split rear seats gives extra space, up to 1,123 litres, with added practicality from the roof bars.
On the road, the 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine is a willing unit, mated with a six-speed auto box, it delivers around 160bhp for good pace, accelerating to 60mph in around 11 seconds.
Fuel economy is fairly decent at around 37mpg.
The firm says it has paid special attention to refinement, with uprated Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) improvements to minimise road noise, while engineers have tuned suspension and steering for European roads for a quieter, more comfortable driving experience.
In addition, there are three driving modes: Normal, Sports, to sharpen the drive up and Winter for a safer driving on treacherous winter roads. So handling is good and the car feels highly manoeuvrable, especially around town and when parking, while more than capable on the motorway.
All models have six airbags and electronic safety features including stability control, collision and lane departure warning, pedestrian alert, emergency braking and distance alert, while this model adds a seventh airbag, plus front and rear parking sensors.
It may lack some of the sophistication of its rivals, but its price tag, smart looks and world-beating warranty make it a real alternative for those on a tighter budget, or those looking for a value-for-money new car.
SsangYong Tivoli 1.5 Ultimate Auto
Mechanical: 163ps, 1497cc, 4-cylinder, turbocharged petrol-driven engine with six-speed automatic transmission
Max speed: 108mph
0-62mph: 11.0 seconds
Combined MPG: 36.7
Insurance group: 19
C02 emissions: 175g/km
Warranty: 7yrs/150,000 miles