By Mike Torpey on 2021-05-09 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
SsangYong Tivoli 1.2
JUST about every car company has a publicity catchphrase these days - usually telling us in a few carefully selected words how their products are the stuff of dreams, the best you can buy or are driving the future.
Korean brand SsangYong makes no such claims but instead makes a statement of fact and intent that's worth investigating.
It simply says Ssurprisingly SsangYong, in the process urging potential car buyers to check things out.
The current SsangYong line-up features a trio of SUVs - the compact Tivoli, medium size Korando and full-blown Rexton - plus the Musso pick-up truck, all with prices most of the more mainstream manufacturers can't match.
And while you can pick up a Tivoli - fresh from a recent makeover heralding a new look, extra tech and better engines - for £14,495, our variant was the more upmarket Ventura model at £15,920.
The major change in the new line-up was the arrival of a three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engine which joins an upgraded version of the 1.5-litre unit used since the model's launch in 2015.
Performance data for the 1.2 Ventura, which develops 128ps, are 0-60 in 10.6 seconds and a top speed of 112mph, but the engine works exceptionally well with this car and makes it feel far more spirited than the cold facts would suggest.
It also now has almost twice the torque of the 1.6-litre diesel that previously powered the car, while there's an official average fuel economy figure of 41 miles per gallon, though our own return was closer to 36mpg.
The Tivoli is capable too - agile in an urban environment, nicely balanced through country lanes and stable on faster roads. On the downside the six-speed manual transmission was quite stiff, especially when engaging reverse gear.
Powerplant apart, this car is all about practicality allied to a fresh, more hi-tech interior that sees the centre of the dashboard updated to a piano black tablet style similar to that of its larger stablemate the Korando.
The Tivoli is also well made and comfortable. We can forgive a few brittle plastics in the cabin because the overall ambience is very appealing, with the feel that you've grabbed some genuine value for money.
There's no scrimping on space either, with plenty of room up front and sufficient shoulder and leg room for three rear passengers. In fact with a measurement of 1,810mm it is the widest on the compact SUV scene.
As for comfort the TPU faux leather and cloth black seats are smart and supportive, while stowage space is pretty standard fare, comprising four cupholders up front, a glovebox, door bins, deep covered centre box and sectioned tray in front of the gearshift.
In rear there are more door bins, elasticated tabs on the front seat backs for maps or magazines, plus a pull-down centre armrest incorporating another two cupholders.
Load space, fairly standard at 383 litres, is flexible in that it can be adapted to suit requirements, the cargo bay also comes with a luggage cover and the rear seats fold 60/40 and completely flat.
You get a substantial amount of kit on each of the three trim grades - EX, Ventura and Ultimate - our tested variant featuring the likes of 16-inch alloys, heated front seats, a seven-inch touchscreen with reversing camera, plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
And the Ventura model, which is also exclusively sold with the 1.2-litre engine and manual gearbox, also adds a heated leather steering wheel, leather gear knob, a seventh airbag, keyless start, automatic lights and parking sensors.
SsangYong Tivoli 1.2 Ventura
Mechanical:128PS, 1,197cc, turbo petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual transmission
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