If you reverse the name of Ssangyong’s new Tivoli, its spells out backwards as Ilovit. It’s a catchy slogan that the South Korean car company has not been slow to employ in its publicity for the new car.
Not everyone loves it, though. New Top Gear custodian Chris Evans has taken a stern dislike to it, and been highly critical of the Tivoli in a review. Is he right? Surely a man who has taken the wheel of a television motoring icon, and who also owns a fleet of Ferraris, should know what he is talking about?
Well maybe, but I don’t agree with him on this one. A car with a price range from £12,950 to £19,500 should not be judged with a Ferrari mentality, where the cheapest in the range is millionaire money well into six figures.
The Tivoli is not the most dynamic car on the road, but neither does it deserve such harsh appraisal. Indeed, it was awarded four stars by AutoExpress magazine, which is praise indeed from one of the respected motoring weeklies. I think that’s quite generous, and I would give the Tivoli three and a half stars, but it does show that this is a budget crossover that deserves a look if it’s the kind of car you are considering.
Crossovers keep on coming, in a tide of metal that confirms how very popular this type of car has become. They tick lots of boxes with buyers: seat height for ease of access and a good view out, chunky rugged looks, versatility that suits an active family lifestyle, and good space and practicality for the money.
The Tivoli is up against some tough competition in the crossover market, against the likes of the Renault Captur, Nissan Juke and Citroen Cactus. In its armoury of appeal, the chunky Ssangyong has keen pricing and a good kit list. Every version from the base model upwards comes with standard equipment that includes seven airbags, alloy wheels, cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity for using your mobile hands-free and streaming your music.
Further up the price range are goodies like a full leather interior, parking sensors, reversing camera, auto headlights and satnav. A manual gearbox is standard but you can have an automatic Tivoli, and four-wheel-drive is available in models from around £17,000. The engine choice is either petrol or diesel, both 1.6 litres.
The Tivoli’s cabin isn’t the plushest thing on the market, but it’s pretty decent for the price, with lots of handy storage and plenty of room for five adults. The boot, at 423 litres, is bigger than the norm for a mid-size crossover.
What’s it like to drive? It’s no ball of fire, and don’t expect it to feel sporty, but it has good solid performance and is reasonably refined. Body control is pretty ok, and ride quality is fair on a decent road surface, but becomes a bit lumpy on some of the back roads.
Am I damning it with faint praise? Not really. It’s pretty much up with the game on the family crossover scene, makes an interesting alternative to the better-known brands of rival crossovers, and is roomier than some of the others. Even the name is quite cute.
Ssangyong has so far been known for some beefy – verging on ugly – and rather rustic vehicles in the Musso, Rexton and Korando. The Tivoli is the first sign that the company is moving into more mainstream territory. Just don’t judge it with a Ferrari mentality.