Publication date: 24 January 2022
SsangYong Tivoli

SsangYong Tivoli

Unknown makes unloved?

Review - Most compact SUVs are mainly there for show. They look cool, but that's about it. In contrast, the Tivoli from off-road specialist SsangYong is available with all the technology to actually drive off-road. Thereby, the Tivoli is a size bigger than the average compact SUV. Moreover, this Korean comes with new engines for the 2021 model year. Is this a case of unknown makes unloved?

SsangYong is often criticised for its design, which is precisely why the manufacturer enlisted the assistance of an Italian designer when designing the Tivoli. That influence is clear, as the design is more harmonious and the look more modern than SsangYong's other models. Moreover, its lines make it clear that the Tivoli is intended less as a workhorse and more as a leisure car.

SsangYong Tivoli

Space and equipment

Nevertheless, ground clearance and entry and exit angles for climbing steep slopes have not been forgotten. At the same time, the angular shapes make for good visibility and ditto interior space. Rear head and legroom is above average for a car of this size, although at the expense of luggage space. In fact, it is rather short, but very deep thanks to the double (removable) floor.

Up front, the Tivoli offers easy entry and high seating. Because the driver looks out onto the angular bonnet, the Tivoli feels bigger and more powerful than it actually is. The layout and design of the dashboard are nothing special, but it all more than satisfies. The Tivoli belongs to the generation of cars that still has plenty of buttons and levers, as the central display is mainly used to control the audio, communication and navigation system. This "infotainment system" has nicely designed menus and supports Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto. The sound quality of the audio system is modest and unobtrusive.

SsangYong Tivoli
SsangYong Tivoli

The other equipment on the test car is again more than adequate, but never above average. Notable features on the test car include a left/right separate climate control system, seat heating, LED lighting, keyless entry, roof rails and a reversing camera. In terms of active safety, it is noticeable that the Tivoli orignates from 2015, for instance, blind spot detection and adaptive cruise-control are missing.

Road handling

Most compact SUVs are basically raised versions of existing hatchbacks. This is noticeable in the handling, because only with an advanced (and expensive!) chassis do manufacturers manage to compensate for the higher centre of gravity. The Tivoli gives the impression that the design process at SsangYong was exactly the other way round. The Korean manufacturer is used to building large off-road vehicles, and for the Tivoli, it actually downsized everything.

SsangYong Tivoli

The Tivoli therefore feels unusually solid and confident. Especially when taking into account that the Tivoli is also available in versions actually intended for off-roading, this is a remarkable achievement. However, when deliberately pushing the limits, it is noticeable that SsangYong ultimately had to make a compromise between its on-road and off-road qualities. When cornering too fast, it is noticeable that the suspension has to put much more effort into following the requested course than in SUVs meant for use only on paved roads.


When the Tivoli was introduced in 2015, it came with a 1.6-litre petrol engine. From the 2021 model year, there is a choice between a 1.2 and 1.5 litre petrol engine. The test car was fitted with the 1.2-litre three-cylinder power unit and with it, SsangYong has taken a big leap forward. The smoothness and decisiveness of this small engine are remarkable!

SsangYong Tivoli

It is precisely at speeds that are often held for longer periods that the engine runs best. This is because the ratios of the manual gearbox have been chosen so that the engine revs around 2,000 rpm at both 50 and 100 km/h. It is often possible to drive delightfully "on torque", feeling that there is a considerable reserve available and the powerplant performs with great ease.

To reduce consumption in the city, an idle stop system is provided, but this is too slow. More than once, the engine stalled again after the automatic start because not enough strokes had yet been made to provide sufficient power. On the motorway, consumption of 5 litres per 100 km is achievable. Together with the necessary kilometres in town, the average came out to about 7 litres per 100 km.

SsangYong Tivoli


Is the SsangYong Tivoli a case of "unknown makes unloved"? Yes, but this does depend heavily on the chosen version. The variants with 1.5-litre engine, automatic and/or all-wheel drive have above-average CO2 emissions and also a disproportionately high price.

The Tivoli with 1.2-litre engine and manual transmission, on the other hand, notes a favourable price. The sluggish idle stop system and poor gearshifts have to be taken at face value. Apart from those inconveniences, the Tivoli convinces with a solid feel, decent equipment and above-average interior space.

  • Solid feel
  • Neat price (1.2 manual)
  • Plenty of interior space
  • Bad gearbox shifts
  • Idle stop system too slow
  • Equipment noticeable from 2015