Revel in the Tivoli

The Tivoli looks funky - and a lot of thought has been put into details in the cabin.
The Tivoli looks funky - and a lot of thought has been put into details in the cabin.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Tivoli looks funky - and a lot of thought has been put into details in the cabin.
The Tivoli looks funky - and a lot of thought has been put into details in the cabin.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Ssangyong's first compact crossover is a peachy package that is easy to love

Looking at the chic and funky Tivoli, it is hard to imagine it comes from Ssangyong, a manufacturer which once made some of the world's ugliest and clunkiest cars.

Then again, one could say the same of Land Rover. Before the Range Rover Evoque, who would have thought the starchy British brand was capable of being sexy?

The Tivoli has one styling cue that is reminiscent of the Evoque - a roofline that slopes gently towards the rear.

But that is as far as the comparison goes. The Korean car-maker, now owned by Indian SUV maker Mahindra & Mahindra, has made the Tivoli very city-friendly (read: small).

It is far smaller than the Evoque and is even more compact than compact crossovers such as the Honda HR-V and Suzuki S-Cross.


  • Price: $125,888 with COE

    Engine: 1,597cc 16-valve inline-4

    Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual override

    Power: 128bhp at 6,000rpm

    Torque: 160Nm at 4,600rpm

    0-100kmh: 12 seconds

    Top speed: 175kmh

    Fuel consumption: 7.2 litres/100km

    Agent: Motorway Ssangyong

Despite its diminutive footprint, it is not all that small inside - thanks to a decent wheelbase of 2,600mm, which is comparable to measurements in the HR-V and S-Cross. Still, the second row is not as spacious as you would expect of a 2,600mm wheelbase. That is because the designers have given the car a rather generous boot.

With its sunken floor (not great for those with bad backs), the 423-litre cargo area will swallow one extra-large luggage and two overnight bags. The stowage is so sizeable that it comes with a luggage cover.

Like its fellow Korean manufacturers, Ssangyong has improved markedly in the area of build quality and refinement. Everything that you see or touch passes muster in the fit and finish department.

Especially thoughtful are drink- holders and cubby compartments that are lined with a rubberised material. This is a small thing that misses the attention of even some luxury marques, but is important nonetheless because it prevents unwanted cabin noises.

That Ssangyong has thought of this shows its attention to detail.

This almost obsessive aversion to noise is reflected in how well the car is insulated against noise, vibration and harshness too.

When idling, the Tivoli is easily as silent as a car twice its size, and twice its price.

On the go, it is not too shoddy either. Its drivetrain is a little buzzy above 3,000rpm - but you know what, its engine hardly ever needs to go that high.

The biggest surprise is how breezy and torquey its 1.6-litre power plant, mated to a six-speed autobox, is. It is a normally aspirated unit, but at the wheel, you would swear Ssangyong had hidden a turbo somewhere.

Acceleration is strong and linear in the low and medium range, just like a turbo. The front-wheel-drive car actually feels substantially quicker than its stated 12-second 0-100kmh timing.

This makes the Tivoli a pleasure to drive in city traffic and relatively relaxed on the highway, where you can flick a switch on the steering boss to put the car in auto cruise.

Its perkiness is not all its engine's doing. The car is fairly light, at 1.3 tonnes. As a result, its fuel efficiency is pretty impressive too, averaging 8.2 litres/100km during a three-day test-drive that combines a good mix of driving conditions.

Like many modern Korean cars, the Tivoli is not short on features. You get a powerful dual-zone automatic aircon system, a multimedia touchscreen system that includes navigation and reverse camera, a keyless access and ignition system, and a multi-function steering wheel that comes with three weight settings - sport, normal and comfort. The last feature is unnecessary really, as normal is the best mode.

The future of Ssangyong, however, is likely to rise above "normal". Just as the Evoque has given Land Rover a much-needed boost, the Tivoli is expected to turn the Korean brand around.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline 'Revel in the Tivoli'. Print Edition | Subscribe