Tivoli marks confident return for SsangYong
Compact crossover a creditable start
We all make mistakes - it is how we learn from them that counts. SsangYong would be the first to admit they made plenty, not least the manner of their departure from the market some years back.
Now they are trying to show they have learned from all that. But, as we know too well (I certainly do), it isn't that simple. You can't just suddenly turn a corner and, hey presto, everything is fine again - people remember.
And often in overcoming past faults, we make fresh mistakes. The learning process is endless. That is as it should be; otherwise there would be no progress.
Right, enough of the home-spun philosophy; let's see how far SsangYong have got with their 'new life' and their Tivoli compact crossover.
I think you will either like the look of it or you won't. It is uncannily like the off-beat KIA Soul - that has its admirers and detractors.
I could live with it, though I would like something a bit more daring at the front. In this sector, looks are nearly as important as anything else - prime targets are those in the 25-35 age bracket and major rivals include the Renault Captur, Mazda CX-3, Suzuki Vitara and Nissan Juke. But it is different, so maybe that's a plus.
It has the biggest cabin I can remember in this sector; the rear seats tilt so there is more room (knee and head) - I was pleasantly surprised especially as it didn't intrude heavily on boot space.
My top-spec 2WD (there are AWD versions too) test car (€24,995) had two-tone leather which set it off really well. I quickly got myself a fine driving position and sorted out details on the central display. The 7ins colour touchscreen includes an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) socket so you can play smart-phone video content if you wish. And you can play several multimedia files through the six-speaker system.
However, the buttons, etc for the ventilation system were way down at the bottom of the central sweep and much too far out of my line of sight.
I found them difficult to read, and because they are slim and linear, it was awfully hard to know what I was doing.
I would have to say this is a big blemish. I was surprised how often I, or a passenger, wanted to increase or decrease the temperature or air-flow (when these things are easy to hand, you pass no remarks). You don't want to be distracted by what should be relatively minor matters when driving.
I did a lot of town driving in this and can vouch for excellent seats and ease of access to the front and back.
It had good visibility out front but the rear corner pillars are a bit of a block.
The 1.6-litre diesel engine, overall fine, verged on the gruff in lower gears and higher revs in heavier stretches of traffic while the brakes were a bit snatchy.
Equally, I think they could soften the damping on the suspension; it was a bit harsh. And I felt the thuds and thumps from road repairs, manholes, etc could have been better negated. The same went for tyre noise.
But it was much quieter on the smoother motorway surfaces and I was impressed with its pull and quick response in fifth and sixth gears. Overall it felt well put together and solid.
My test car had a confident touch of luxury about it, with leather and heated front seats, as well as a reasonable spread of equipment.
At around €25,000, it is fairly heads-on with well-established rivals on price. The fact it is not a bargain-basement buy only serves to heighten the challenge for buyer and seller.
The Tivoli is not going to be on everyone's shopping list because it is something of an unknown quantity at this stage.
But it is a creditable start for a car and a brand most ordinary people know little about. It really is a case of lessons learned and more to come.
Facts & figures
SsangYong Tivoli compact crossover; 1.6-litre diesel (115bhp); 2WD 109g/km (road tax €190). Diesels start at €21,495 (€19,995 for 1.6-litre petrol). Test car (EL spec), €24,995.
Standard (ES) spec includes 16ins alloys, air con, Bluetooth, cruise control, fog lamps, Stop/Start, three steering wheel modes (comfort, normal, sport), remote audio controls on steering wheel, 5yr unlimited mileage warranty.
EL spec (on test car) adds/has 18ins alloys, leather seats, dual climate control, reversing camera, front/rear parking sensors, heated front seats, automatic lights/wipers, electric/folding mirrors, space-saver spare wheel.
My side of the road
We all get so caught up in the frantic rushing around. There's no need. It always works out. So I have a simple wish for you this Christmas. That you may leave and arrive safely wherever you go. That you may treat others on the road with the goodwill of the season and that you take great care not to spoil this festive period for yourself and others.