SsangYong Tivoli (2015 -) Driving & Performance

Review by Graeme Lambert on
Last Updated: 10 Sep 2015
3.5
When SsangYong says it’s hoping to ‘Escape from the Ordinary’ with its new Tivoli, you quickly realise how important this car is for the company. This car, the first developed by new owner Mahindra & Mahindra, represents a new dawn for the firm and aims to finally make the brand a success in Europe.

3.5 out of 5

Performance

If you’re buying one with speed in mind then you’re likely to be disappointed by Ssangyong Tivoli performance, regardless which of the one diesel and one petrol engine you choose.

Petrol Engine

Like the diesel this is an all-new unit, sharing its 1.6-litre capacity with its diesel brother. The headline figures aren’t particularly attention-grabbing with a peak power of 126bhp and just 160Nm of torque. You’ll need 6,000rpm on the rev counter to make the most of the former and a relatively heady 4,000rpm for the latter, so you have to work the Tivoli relatively hard to make any considered progress.

Drive it as hard as possible and top speed is just 106mph and the benchmark 0-62mph sprint takes just 12 seconds – though the automatic gearbox drops this time to 11 seconds instead. With the petrol engine four-wheel drive isn’t available.

It’s relatively smooth, though never particularly pleasant to listen to (especially at the top of its rev range) and without much get-up-and-go. You quickly find yourself swapping cogs with regularity in a bid to make steady progress and refrain from the strained top-end of the rev range.

Diesel Engine

The 1.6-litre diesel is also a new unit, so much so that at launch the petrol unit was the only engine on offer – so we’ve yet to try the diesel out first-hand.

Regardless the headline figures are a shade more invigorating than the petrol’s, with 113bhp and 300Nm of torque available – the former at a more relaxed 3,400rpm and the latter at just 1,500rpm. We suspect that for those owners driving long distances it’s the diesel that will make more sense, on account of its economy and more urgent in-gear performance thank to the extra torque.

Performance figures aren’t available just yet, though the top speed of the diesel models are expected to be between 109-112mph depending on whether you have two or four-wheel drive fitted.

Gearboxes

There is a choice of six-speed manual and six-speed automatic gearboxes to try, and though we’ve yet to experience the latter the manual has a light and easy throw with sensibly spaced ratios ideal for inner-city and urban environments.

3.5 out of 5

Handling

It’s a small SUV designed to be comfortable and easy to drive, so it’s no surprise that the SsangYong Tivoli isn’t the sharpest handling model available. Certainly, the Skoda Yeti or Mazda CX-3 – while admittedly more expensive – are more entertaining to drive quickly with more feedback and feel. Compared to the Nissan Juke, Suzuki Vitara or Renault Captur the SsangYong isn’t disgraced though.

Prime culprit for the lack of feel and feedback is the Smart steering system which allows owners to select from three different pre-set programs – Normal, Comfort and Sport – to change the weighting on the move. As you’d expect Comfort is fingertip light (too much so) and Sport rather heavier. We simply left it in Normal for 99 percent of the time, as though it offers no more feel it does at least have a reasonable weighting that suits the car.

The rest of the control-weights are just on the light side of well-judged, but this make the Tivoli easy to drive around town especially. Outside of the city limits, as speed increases, it handles tidily but without aplomb. Bodyroll is evident but in general well-contained and there’s not too much pitching or diving under extreme acceleration or braking manoeuvres.

Even the front-wheel drive models have enough front-end grip, and while the Tivoli fails to match the exuberant Skoda Yeti for driving appeal it’s far from an unpleasant experience. In fact, at moderate speeds its perfectly enjoyable.