Back in the ’90s (under a different Philippine distributor), SsangYong was viewed as the more offbeat of the Korean brands. Its build quality, technology, and feature sets were not far removed from its compatriots, but its styling certainly did.

Today, SsangYong (now imported by Berjaya Motor Philippines) sports a more mainstream look—with the exception of the Tivoli subcompact crossover.

Players in this fast-growing category seem to be more playful in their design—the funky Nissan Juke to the perky Ford EcoSport and Chevy Trax come to mind. The SsangYong Tivoli seems to play the part of the unorthodox upscale crossover, much like the Kia Soul. They both project tall, upright, almost boxy profiles—yet with a very youthful demeanor.

Dynamic styling

The new SsangYong Tivoli presents the next-generation design philosophy of SsangYong. While it stays true to its functional and utilitarian heritage (much like its Korando and Rodius stablemates), the Tivoli injects dynamism into the mix.

The slim, wide grille and bumper with built-in honeycomb air intake project a rugged feel. Projector headlamps with Daytime Running Lights in the EXG, Sport, and Sport R variants enhance the Tivoli’s front end as they improve over-all visibility while rear LED clusters are standard across the range to provide an upmarket touch.

The two-tone treatment in the nose extends to the wheel arches, side sills, and rear, while muscular front and rear wheel housings accentuate the side profile as aggressive character lines sculpt its stance. Blacked out A-, B-, and C-pillars, along with the rear upper garnish, render the roof as a floating panel, much like the pillar and roof treatment in the Land Rover Discovery Sport. An aggressive rear bumper, with a centrally-mounted rear fog lamp, matches up to the front and underscores the overall dynamism of the design.

The Tivoli is fitted with either 16-inch alloy wheels in the SX and EXG variants or 18-inch alloys in the Sport (in Black Machine finish) and Sport R (in Brilliant Black) models.

Modern and classy accommodations

Inside, the all-new SsangYong Tivoli carries on with the fresh and active feel. A very modern-looking dashboard and console, a smart user interface plus premium materials heighten the Tivoli’s spacious and upscale cabin while a sporty D-cut steering wheel (leather in the higher models) conveys the Tivoli’s dynamic appeal. Finished in gloss black, the central console adds to the heightened luxury present in the overall design.

Ergonomic seats address the distribution of pressure points around the body for long-distance riding comfort. A Pullmaflex suspension system in the front seatbacks enhances cushioning support to front occupants minimizing fatigue, while the rear seatbacks recline to a maximum 27.5-degrees allowing for a more relaxed posture. Head, knee, and legroom are all more than adequate while the large greenhouse create a bright, airy ambience with panoramic outward visibility.

There is also an abundance of large storage areas located at the side and center panels as well as the center arm console. There is even an upper tray on the dashboard that can accommodate a wide variety of items. The rear cargo area can swallow up to three golf bags. At 423 liters of volume, it is the largest in its class.

All these are wrapped around a luxuriously functional cocoon lined with soft-touch materials while leather-topped arm paddings further enhance the Tivoli’s premium positioning. (The Sport R variant even ups the ante with a flashy red-and-black leather interior.)

State-of-the-art rigid platform

The new Tivoli’s monocoque chassis uses a significant proportion of high-strength-steel in its structural elements. High-strength and ultra-high-strength steel make up 71.4 percent of all the structural members, maximizing body occupant safety and vehicle rigidity.

Affixed to the unibody is a MacPherson front and a compact torsion beam rear suspension layout. The chassis has been tuned for comfort (like most Korean cars) but still delivers stable, responsive handling.

Fun and satisfying powertrain

The thoroughly modern and impressively smooth and quiet-running 1.6-liter petrol engine with Variable Intake System and Dual Variable Valve Timing is rated at 128ps with 160Nm of torque. Mated to this engine is a choice of either a six-speed manual or the responsive and smooth-shifting Japan-made AISIN six-speed automatic fitted to my test unit.

High-tech features and amenities

A driver-centric Supervision Cluster with a 3.5-inch LED information screen provides essential driving details. SsangYong has also equipped the Tivoli with Smart Steer. This allows the driver to adjust the Electronic Power Steering (EPS) assistance to the steering wheel’s weight and response based on driver preferences and driving conditions. The system features three pre-designed modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport.

Further enhancing the driving feel are three transmission response modes: Eco, Power, and Winter mode, the latter for those times a second gear start over slippery surfaces are required.

A 7-inch HD touchscreen monitor, which plays CDs and MP3s and is equipped with Aux and Bluetooth connections as well as being Mirror-link-ready, provide audio-visual entertainment with music flowing through six speakers. Audio control buttons are likewise located on the steering wheel. An automatic Climate Control system is fitted in the Sport and Sport R variants, further enhancing cabin comfort.

Multiple levels of safety and security

The Tivoli is equipped with the latest in active and passive safety systems available in its class. Its highly rigid chassis is the integral element of this formula. Made with a high percentage of high-strength-steel, it is designed to minimize injury to the vehicle’s occupants by absorbing impact energy. Ten key areas of the all-new Tivoli’s structural members are even made of hot-formed steel to further reduce the risk of occupant injury in an accident.

Airbags and seatbelts are standard in the all-new Tivoli range along with ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), and Brake Assist (BA).

For vehicle security, an engine immobilizer, a Smart Keyless Entry system along with a burglar alarm and rear parking sensors and cameras, are standard in the mid- to high-range variants.

VERDICT

Bursting in the seams with a prodigious array of features and technologies (not to mention sporting head-turning styling), plus delivering solid performance, fuel-efficiency and comfort, the SsangYong Tivoli has what it takes to bring the fight to its established rivals. It’s certainly ready for the big leagues.

Specifications
Engine 128ps/160Nm 1.6-liter DOHC VIS DVVT petrol inline-4
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Suspension MacPherson struts with coil springs/torsion beam with coil springs
Brakes Ventilated discs/discs with ABS, EBD, and Brake Assist
Tires 205/65R16
L x W x H 4,195 x 1,795 x 1,590mm
Wheelbase 2,600mm
Features Parking sensor with reversing camera; leather seats and steering wheel; trip computer; 60/40 folding rear seat; power-folding side mirrors; climate control; DVD/MP3/Aux/USB/Bluetooth/GPS/MirrorLink 6-speaker audio/video system with steering wheel controls; auto-on headlamps; dual airbags
Price P945,000
Test: SsangYong Tivoli EXG
Design9
Build Quality9
Driveability8.7
Performance9
Value for Money9.3
9Overall Score