Used car tests

Used SsangYong Tivoli review

A full used buyer’s guide on the SsangYong Tivoli covering the Tivoli Mk1 (2015-date)

In three years’ time SsangYong will be celebrating its 70th birthday as a car manufacturer, having focused on four-wheel-drive models for most of that time.

As Korea’s oldest car maker, SsangYong built its products exclusively for the home market at first, but by the early nineties it started to export cars such as the original Korando and Musso, and it was the latter that brought SsangYong to the UK in 1994.

The brand quickly built a reputation for cars that were affordable, but clearly built to a price, despite the fitment of Mercedes engines in many models. Yet by the time the Tivoli arrived six years ago, things had changed drastically; the quality, the engineering, even the type of car – and all for the better.

History

The Tivoli arrived in the UK in June 2015, priced from £12,950. At first there was only a 1.6-litre petrol engine available, but within two months it was joined by a 1.6 diesel. Whereas the petrol engine came only with front-wheel drive and six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, the diesel came with any combination of manual or auto gearbox and front or four-wheel drive.

The Tivoli XLV arrived in August 2016 and was stretched by 238mm, all of which was behind the back seats. As a result there’s a bigger boot, but no more cabin space.

Extra driver-assistance systems, including autonomous emergency braking, were fitted from May 2017 – but only to EX cars and above. A facelift in May 2020 brought new 1.2 and 1.5-litre turbo petrol engines, better infotainment, improved refinement, refreshed styling and a new dashboard.

Which one should I buy?

Most Tivolis have a petrol engine, manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, and this is arguably the sweet spot in the range because refinement and performance are good, economy is reasonable and long-term reliability should be strong.

The diesel offers better economy but also  more engine noise, while four-wheel drive hurts economy. At launch there were SE, EX and ELX trims, with the entry-level model featuring air-conditioning, 16-inch alloys, cruise control, Bluetooth and keyless entry. The EX adds dual-zone climate control, 18-inch wheels, leather, heated front seats and a seven-inch touchscreen.

The ELX came with extra instrumentation, keyless go, auto lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors, privacy glass, power-folding door mirrors, a rear camera and navigation. The Tivoli Ultimate (from April 2018) added an electric and ventilated driver’s seat, plus heated steering wheel.

Alternatives to the SsangYong Tivoli

The Tivoli is up against a raft of small SUVs, including the Volkswagen Group trio of VW T-Cross, SEAT Arona and Skoda Kamiq, all of which have great interiors, decent refinement, efficient engines and lots of safety tech.

The Ford EcoSport and Vauxhall Mokka are both plentiful, but they lack that wow factor, while the Renault Captur is good value. This is also true of the Peugeot 2008, which is plentiful, and the Nissan Juke – although the Mk2 from December 2019-on is a better car. Don’t overlook the Mazda CX-3, which has a superb cabin, impressive dynamics, plus excellent refinement and reliability.

What to look for

4WD

Few contenders in this segment have a 4x4 option. The Tivoli did up to 2018; not many buyers chose it, though.

Towing

Whereas the petrol-engined Tivoli can pull up to 1,000kg, a diesel engine boosts this up to a useful 1,500kg maximum capacity.

Spare wheel

A spare wheel of any kind has become a rarity with many cars, but surprisingly all Tivolis come complete with a space saver.

Security

Buy an entry-level SsangYong Tivoli and there will be no luggage cover; only the EX and above came with one of these as standard-fit.

Interior

The arrival of the Tivoli marked a step change in cabin quality for SsangYong, with a much higher standard of fit and finish. It’s laid out in a user-friendly way, the seats are comfortable and there’s plenty of head and legroom in both rows, although five adults might find things cramped on a long journey.

Boot space is good at 423 litres (1,115 litres with the back seat folded); if you need more, the Tivoli XLV pushes this up to 720/1,440 litres. Base models have a simple radio, but there’s an eight-inch touchscreen on higher models. It’s a slick, user-friendly system, although the sat-nav on top-spec cars is a bit dated. That said, many drivers will simply use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto instead.

Prices

You can buy a SsangYong Tivoli from as as little as £7,500 on our sister site BuyaCar.

Running costs

Buy a petrol-engined Tivoli and it’ll need servicing every 12 months or 10,000 miles, but buy a diesel model and this stretches to every 12,000 miles or annually.

Petrol-engined Tivolis run on a four-service cycle (£278, £340, £278, £405), but the diesels have a five-service schedule, with those visits priced at £287, £495, £287, £495 and then £402. These prices include fresh brake fluid every other year along with replacement coolant at the five-year point.

All Tivoli engines are chain-driven so there are no cambelts to replace, which helps to trim running costs a little. Furthermore, to help you budget more easily, all SsangYong dealers offer an array of service plans.

Recalls

There have been three recalls for the SsangYong Tivoli so far, all of which were launched in relation to similar problems concerning fuel leaks. The first campaign came in October 2016 and affected 1,433 cars built between July 2015 and January 2016, which could suffer from fuel leaks in the engine bay.

The next recall was issued in November 2018, for 3,241 Tivolis built between July 2015 and August 2018. Once again it was because of potential fuel leaks in the engine bay; the first recall was because of faulty hoses, the second time it was because of faulty pipes.

The most recent recall was issued in July 2019, and this time there were just 167 Tivolis affected, all built between February and April 2019. On this occasion the cars had a potentially faulty connection at the fuel tank.

Driver Power owner satisfaction

SsangYong is a small player in the UK market, with a share of around 0.1 per cent. That’s the same as Bentley and half as much as Smart, so it’s no wonder SsangYong doesn’t appear in our Driver Power surveys. Quite a few owners have left reviews on carbuyer.co.uk though, on average awarding a very encouraging 4.3 stars out of five; most Tivoli owners left four or five-star reviews.

Verdict

The Tivoli represented a turning point for SsangYong, because here at last was a car that could compete with rivals that were perceived as being more worthy. We ran an early diesel-engined Tivoli for six months and came away very impressed. At the time we wrote: “Our time with the SsangYong has been a bit of an eye opener. We didn’t expect to like it as much as we have, but it’s clear the Tivoli is the most capable, desirable and best-value model the brand has ever built. It’s not perfect, due to the rattly diesel, but this car is proof that SsangYong is ready to shake off its bargain-basement image.” Since then the range has been refreshed significantly with new engines and more standard equipment – both of which make the Tivoli more attractive than ever.

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