SsangYong: a car to raise eyebrows and expectations

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MOTORISTS? We’re a conservative lot who don’t like change very much.

MOTORISTS? We’re a conservative lot who don’t like change very much.

My dad was - and is - a Ford man and he must have had 20 Anglias, Fiestas, Cortinas and the like over years with never a hint that he might try a different brand.

Not that he should change, for Ford are on a high at the moment building stylishly affordable motors. But even in the fallow years, he remained loyal.

Which is why it’s such a challenge for ‘new’ brands like SsangYong. It doesn’t much matter how good they are, or how bad. Lots of people are so loyal to a brand - or so cautiously suspicious of the unknown - that it must make marketing a name like SsangYong so difficult.

That’s a pity because SsangYong is an interesting brand. It’s Korean and it specialised almost exclusively in value-for-money 4x4s, the type bought by farmers and forestry workers and the like.

They’ve moved more into the family car business recently with the Tivoli, which is easily the best SsangYong yet: it’s easy on the eye, even easier on the wallet and feels solid. What’s not to like?

Tivoli shows that SsangYong has learned from its styling mishap with the Rodius (nice car, shame about the looks).

Tested here is a new longer version of the Tivoli, the XLV which costs from £18,750. The 4x4 test version is £21,000. It’s less pretty than the standard Tivoli but more of a practical proposition for people who demand space.

It comes decently equipped and has a good five-year unlimited mileage warranty. The test model, the 4x4 automatic diesel, comes with alloy wheels, power steering, air conditioning, climate control, radar parking aid, electric windows, seven airbags and, significantly for this market, a huge boot: 720 litres with the seats upright.

It has the same wheelbase as the standard Tivoli and much the same driving dynamics, but it has a longer rear overhang to accommodate the extra bootspace.

It’s true to say SsangYong hasn’t yet become a commonplace brand. It’s a name which is certain to provoke one of two responses. Either, a mystified smile. Or a nod of admiration from those who have heard of it, admire its value for money and are smitten by its recent stylish models.

Korando is smart and capable; Rexton elegant and desirable; Turismo is spacious and neat; but Tivoli and Tivoli XLV are the best of the lot and signs of more good models to come.

Tivoli was SsangYong’s most successful new car and XLV aims to build on that.

Tivoli XLV aims to be a ‘multi-role, multi-function’ solution for a wide range of customers and it comes with 1.6 litre petrol or diesel engines with six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions and either two or four-wheel-drive.

Safety is a priority and it comes with seven airbags including front, side and curtain airbags plus a driver’s knee airbag, multi-function ESP (Electronic Stability Program), Active Rollover Protection, Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist and ESS (Emergency Stop Signal), a tyre pressure monitoring system and a warning reminder on all five seat belt positions.

The engine in the test model - a diesel - is a good all-rounder, offering flexibility, refinement, power and economy.

SsangYong DNA is all about 4x4, and this is drawn on for the XLV which offers the option of an intelligent four-wheel drive mechanism. The on-demand system distributes power to front and rear drive shafts, and automatically adjusts to the road surface and driving conditions to optimise performance.

SsangYong may raise eyebrows. But the Tivoli has certainly raised expectations.

SsangYong Tivoli XLV

THE CAR FACTS

Price: £21,000

Engine: 1,597cc four cylinder diesel unit

Power: 115bhp

Torque: 300nm

Transmission: Automatic four-wheel-drive

Top speed: 107mph

0-62mph: 12 seconds

Economy: 44.8mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 164g/km

Summary: A bargain compact SUV which offers a tremendous amount of equipment and space, backed by a five-year warranty.

Rivals:

Kia Soul: From £12,805. Tremendous value and stylish looks but the Tivoli out-performs it in terms of space and ability.

Nissan Juke: From £14,320. Newest version is a major improvement and it has more of a wow factor than SsangYong.

Skoda Yeti: From £17,240. Accomplished, good-looking and solid but very expensive compared to SsangYong.

Graham Pearce of KPMG

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