With international rivals ranging from the budget-friendly Dacia Duster to the upcoming and provocatively-styled Nissan Juke, SsangYong’s compact crossover offering can no longer rely on simple affordability or quirky styling to convince buyers to the relatively unknown marque.
Luckily, the facelifted SsangYong Tivoli arrives with fangs and claws, ready to defend the honour of the double-dragon brand.
The idea of a handsome-looking SsangYong is enough to induce cognitive dissonance in many, but scroll through the gallery before you scoff.
The latest SsangYong Tivoli now sports LED head lights and integrated fog lights up front, while gloss black pieces on the C-pillars give the Tivoli that “floating roof” effect coveted by Japanese manufacturers.
Our test car also came fitted with the optional 18-inch rims and Orange Pop paint.
IS IT A FIRE-BREATHER?
The SsangYong Tivoli’s refreshed looks are backed with newfound performance as well. A new turbocharged 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine now packs 161hp, which means the Tivoli now has the ubiquitous Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V beaten in sheer output.
But even more impressive is the fact that the new engine develops its maximum 260Nm of torque from only 1500rpm, and it certainly feels like it behind the wheel.
Steady progress through traffic is guaranteed, even with light pressure on the accelerator pedal.
You will, however, want to keep use of the accelerator pedal limited to gentle prodding, as that engine rumble soon evolves into an uncivilised racket the tacho needles climbs above 3000rpm.
Our test car was also prone to occasional hesitation, which could be attributed to an insensitive throttle.
NO NEED TO TRAIN THIS DRAGON
Once you’re on the go, you’ll find the Tivoli’s ride to be relatively pliant. A softly sprung setup means that gentle undulations do little to disturb the drive and make highway cruises a real pleasure.
And while we’re on the topic of high speed, the SsangYong Tivoli’s vague steering gives precious little in the way of feedback. That said, its surprisingly accurate nature does well in assuring you get the driving job done from point to point in a fuss-free manner.
However, over harsher surfaces, those 18-inch wheels transmit sharper edges from the road into the cabin. Drivers looking for a more cossetting ride should sacrifice sporty looks and opt for the 16-inch rims instead.
IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST
Step inside and the first thing that strikes you is how spacious the Tivoli is.
Head and kneeroom is generous enough to be evocative of SsangYong’s long history of making heavy vehicles. The 427-litre boot has two separate compartments under its floor, handy for storing any items that are prone to roll about or that deserve a little discretion.
But industrially finished the cabin is not. High-gloss black plastics finish multiple points throughout the interior, including the infotainment surrounds, air-conditioning controls, gear selector and the top of the door card armrests, lending the entire cabin an upmarket ambiance.
With Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatibility, the new 8-inch infotainment display is intuitive to use and delivers beautiful graphics.
The 10.25-inch instrument cluster on the Deluxe spec is more accomplished. It has two primary display formats, including a simplified one that features your speed in the middle.
Leaving the instrument cluster in the options menu also reveals a third, “hidden” display option that has your speedometer and tachometer displayed through vertical scrolls. This maximises the real estate on the panel for selecting your preferred options.
Those with fidgety of fingers will also be pleased to know that the responsiveness to inputs from the steering wheel buttons easily has those from premium marques beat.
THE TAIL END
The facelifted SsangYong Tivoli packs many of the features shoppers in the segment are looking for: Generous space, a reasonably comfortable ride and quality infotainment.
The fact that it comes with a decent turn of speed and remains relatively affordable (prices start from $99,888) makes it an even more attractive proposition now.
SsangYong Tivoli Deluxe 1.5 (A)
ENGINE 1497cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 161hp at 5000-5500rpm
MAX TORQUE 260Nm at 1500-4000rpm
GEARBOX 6-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H 11 seconds
TOP SPEED 175km/h
CONSUMPTION 14.7km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE $109,888 (no VES rebate/surcharge)
AGENT Motorway SsangYong