SsangYong’s new 1.6-litre turbo-diesel Tivoli is a rare gem – extremely torquey all round, completely lag-free and as breezy in Orchard Road as on the Kranji Expressway.
The car’s throttle response is light and linear, with acceleration delivered consistently across a rev band that seems as wide as in a well-tuned turbo petrol engine. If not for an obvious engine chatter, you would not be able to tell the Tivoli is driven by diesel. Its vibration level is also admirably low.
And because it has so much torque, 300Nm from 1500rpm, the Tivoli feels quicker than it actually is. SsangYong says it hits 100km/h in 13.3 seconds, but behind the wheel, you would swear it does it in half that time. Certainly, it has no trouble sprinting away from the traffic lights or overtaking the zippier denizens of the road. At no time does it display the stilted tendencies of a small diesel vehicle.
In fact, it behaves convincingly like a happy hatchback with a free-revving petrol powerplant. And you get superior fuel efficiency along with its effervescence. This model is 7 percent heavier than its petrol sibling, but is 24 percent more economical.
And it has all the trappings of a modern crossover. In fact, it has more than most in its price range.
Features include keyless access and ignition, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel, touchscreen infotainment monitor, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, tilt function for second-row seats, three steering selections (Normal, Comfort and Sport), reverse camera, one-touch powered windows and hill-hold function. The last one allows the car to stay on a slope without you having to step on the brake pedal.
In terms of refinement, the turbo-diesel Tivoli matches what the petrol version delivers, except for the engine noise. Its exceptional liveliness and enviable driveability more than make up for the noise, though.
As a crossover, the Tivoli packs a decent level of utility. You will find lots of storage compartments in the cabin, and the 423-litre boot (which has a roller-type privacy cover) is sizeable for such a compact vehicle.
Whether you are the outdoorsy type or not, you will appreciate its pair of 12-volt sockets. They are always handy if you need to recharge power-hungry mobile devices.
It is pretty easy on the eye, too. For a South Korean brand that churned out Mercedes-Benz copies and grotesque-looking SUVs not too long ago, SsangYong certainly has transformed itself into a credible global player.
While various parts of the cabin are still abashedly plasticky, the Tivoli is on the whole a convincing proposition in an increasingly competitive SUV segment. And having a diesel option does not hurt either.
SsangYong Tivoli Diesel 1.6 (A)
ENGINE 1597cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbo-diesel
MAX POWER 115bhp at 3400-4000rpm
MAX TORQUE 300Nm at 1500-2500rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 82.7bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 6-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H 13.3 seconds
TOP SPEED 172km/h
CONSUMPTION 18.2km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 146g/km
PRICE INCL. COE $128,888 (no CEVS rebate/surcharge)