ONCE upon a time there were budget brands a-plenty with marques like Lada, Skoda, Wartburg and Yugo all trying to outdo each other in the bargain basement stakes.
Of those only Skoda survives in the UK and it is barely recognisable to the brand that was once to be the butt of all those oft-told jokes.
All those cheap cars came from behind the Iron Curtain as was and they were so far behind western standards those jokes were fully deserved.
Budget brands have moved on somewhat. Leading the way is Dacia, which does come from Eastern Europe as was, but one needs to look a little further afield to find other cheap options these days.
Kia and Hyundai used to specialise in offering a lot for a low price but they have steadily and surely moved upmarket.
Fellow Korean car maker SsangYong could be said to be flying the budget brand flag still and it does so pretty well.
The Tivoli is SsangYong's supermini on steroids. A kind of compact crossover to rival the likes of the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke.
It's not a bad looking car to be fair. While it may not have the muscular and sculpted design lines of the Juke it's chunky and purposeful profile is appealing enough.
One of the Tivoli's great strengths is the amount of space it offers. Its cabin is genuinely open and roomy with 423 litres of boot space.
Rear seat passengers are more than amply catered for and when it comes to accommodating adults comfortably in the back the Tivoli could give many far larger and more expensive cars a run for their money.
I think the Tivoli also does a half decent job when it comes to interior refinement.
Korean cars used to be characterised by poor quality materials and lacklustre instrumentation and switchgear but the Tivoli scores highly in my book with little to dislike.
There are three trim levels to choose from - SE, EX and ELX - and all come generously equipped.
An entry-level SE comes with seven airbags, 16-inch alloys, cruise control, Bluetooth and USB connectvity.
Move up to an EX and you'll get heated front seats, dual-zone climate-control, 18-inch alloys, leather interior and a seven-inch touchscreen with reversing camera.
This top of the range ELX felt positively luxurious, adding keyless-go, front and rear parking sensors, sat nav and automatic headlights and wipers.
If you want to spend a little more you can also upgrade to four-wheel drive for what is a pretty modest sum compared to most other car makers in this class, and that's if they even offer it.
Not forgetting SsangYong has pedigree when it comes to four-wheel drive so you'll be getting something decent from an engineering perspective. Automatic versions are competitively priced too.
Engine-wise there's a choice between a 147bhp 1.6-litre petrol or a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel.
The diesel certainly edges it but it would be nice to see SsangYong offer one of the smaller punchy petrol units that many mainstream manufacturers are now developing, more so in light of the continued diesel backlash.
In terms of driving dynamics there's probably not a great deal to say. The Tivoli might be unremarkable but it's perfectly acceptable.
Ride quality overall is more than adequate, if not quite up there with some of the rivals it will be trying to steal sales from, but it has a huge advantage when it comes to pricing (the range starts at £13,300) and many buyers will be more than happy to make a few compromises when they can potentially save thousands of pounds.