WITH its upmarket, stylish design, generous levels of on-board kit, powerful new engines and attractive pricing, SsangYong aims to make a dent in the market with its latest Tivoli model.
The five-door compact SUV has been given quite an extensive makeover for 2020, five years after its initial launch, with a fresh front end, including new fog lights, distinctive bonnet and a larger grille. But the greatest improvements are within the cabin where the Korean car maker has really upped the build quality and level of technology.
Prices start from just Â£13,995 for the entry-level EX model - that's the cost of a couple of optional extras on a premium car. Our range-topping Ultimate model with six-speed automatic gearbox was priced at Â£21,495 but this was the car with all the bells and whistles.
Inside the car there is quite a resemblance to the Tivoli's bigger sibling - the Korando - with a tablet style fascia in the centre of the dashboard which brings the car bang up to date on the styling front.
And creature comforts are plentiful too, including heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, dual zone air conditioning, full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, leather upholstery, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, plus a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster that can be customised according to taste.
Powered by a new 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivering 163PS and 260Nm of torque, the Tivoli can complete the 0-62mph dash in 11.0 seconds and tops out at 108mph. The car featured an automatic gearbox, and according to official figures, could offer a combined 36.7mpg with carbon emissions of 175mpg.
For the first time, engineers in Spain were tasked with the job of fine-tuning the Tivoli's ride, handling and steering for European roads and they have made a good job of it. Yes, you will feel the odd bump and dip along the way due to our poor road surfaces, but the suspension set-up is far superior to the outgoing model.
The new Tivoli is well balanced out on the faster country lanes and cornering is confident provided tighter bends are given a little respect. The car is well insulated against any engine, road surface and wind noise and, on motorways, the Tivoli was nicely composed with plenty of power on tap from the punchy petrol engine.
There are drive modes called Normal, Sports and Winter that alter the vehicle's mannerisms and the impressive turning lock of just 5.3 metres is ideal in busy city centres. In addition, the excellent all-round visibility makes parking a complete doddle.
Despite being compact on the outside, the Tivoli's interior is spacious with ample room for four adults to sit comfortably - a trio can sit in the back if they don't mind rubbing shoulders. Storage options are good for the sector too with a boot capacity of 311 litres if the car has a spare wheel (427 litres without), a limit that increases to 1,002 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat (1,118 litres without the spare). If more boot space is needed, then the Tivoli XLV model with its stretched design could be the answer.
Elsewhere there's bundles of handy storage compartments scattered throughout the car such as deep door pockets with designated bottle sections, a practical glovebox, central cubby, non-slip trays, sunglasses holders, front cup holders, rear cup holders in the drop-down central armrest and elasticated straps in the seat backs for holding papers, maps and the likes.
My only slight gripes - and I am being quite picky here - were the rather loud indicators (you'll never forget they are on though) and the angle of the touchscreen and some dash controls that are prone to glare should the sun put in a rare appearance, but that's about all.
SsangYong has also upgraded the safety specifications on the Tivoli which was awarded four-stars when tested for its Euro NCAP rating. The car boasts the likes of front collision warning, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, front vehicle start alert, driver attention alert, emergency stop system, high beam assist, safety distance alert, Isofix child seat fixtures and six airbags.
Yes, admittedly there is some lower quality hard plastic on show and there are more refined models to drive out there, but the new Tivoli is ideal for any active family that also wants to keep a watchful eye on the pennies.