Test Drive: Ssangyong Tivoli 1.6L AT Sport R

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The Ssangyong brand was first introduced to Filipino consumers in the ‘90s through the Musso, an SUV it had jointly developed with Mercedes Benz. This association has given this relatively obscure brand a cachet that could appeal to smart car buyers. And for a certain segment, the fact that Ssangyong means “double dragon,” translates into a lot of positive vibes.

Design: 4.0/5.0

The Ssangyong Tivoli 1.6 is a compact crossover that aims to deliver the best of both worlds—the agility of a compact car and the high stance of an SUV. On the outside, the Tivoli exudes a bold and muscular posture that is also young and fun. LED daytime running lights add to its head-turning appeal.

On the Sport R, which is the most premium variant offered locally, the signature black painted roof offers a distinctive two-tone color scheme that adds to its overall upscale image. Other exclusive features for the Sport R are the rear spoiler and the 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels in brilliant black finish.

Inside, the Tivoli Sport R is fitted out in an audacious red that, while showy, is tastefully combined with black accents for a luxe finish. Red leather accentuates the dashboard, the seats, the door insets, as well as the D-shaped steering wheel.

Hardware: 4.0/5.0

The Tivoli is powered by a 1.6-liter DOHC engine that develops 128 Ps of power at 6,000 rpm and torque of up to 160 Nm at 4,600 rpm. This is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with smart driving mode. Although AWD and diesel variants are available, the local distributors opted to bring in only the front-wheel drive and gasoline-fed models to the Philippine market. The suspension system consists of McPherson struts in front and torsion beams in the rear. Front ventilated discs and rear solid discs make up the brake system.

The audio system is controlled via a 7-inch LCD touchscreen display, and is HD, MP3, aux-in, Bluetooth, USB, and Mirror Link ready. Six speakers deliver good sound quality. Addressing the need to keep our various gadgets powered up and connected, three 12-volt outlets are among the amenities. For individualized temperature preferences, the Tivoli Sport R is cooled by a dual zone automatic climate control system.

Safety features include driver and passenger air bags, anti-lock brakes, smart keyless entry, rear parking sensor, reverse rear view camera, and burglar alarm.

User Experience: 4.5/5.0

Let me say this up front: it was unexpected but the Tivoli Sport R is a car that I found increasingly appealing, to the point that I was sad to see it leave my garage at the end of the test period. It’s hard to pinpoint any specific detail, but the overall experience was generally pleasant. For instance, the engine does not growl nor beg to be raced, but it gets up to speed on the highway and doesn’t choke on metro traffic either. You get good ground clearance in case you need to navigate a few flooded areas, and it’s agile enough when jockeying for an opening in bumper-to-bumper snarls.

The leather seats are nicely padded offering just the right degree of support without being too firm, and while the suspensions didn’t absorb all the rough patches, NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) were kept at acceptable levels for ride comfort.

I also appreciated the infotainment system with integrated rear camera which made backing up into tight parking spaces a breeze. The display on the smart instrument cluster provided a host of relevant information such as tire pressures, distance to empty, distance traveled, and outside temperature.

I am often criticized about not parking properly as I often leave the front wheels turned in or out and not properly pointed straight ahead, so for me, one of the features I really appreciated was a display showing the front tire position when you park the car. This really teeny-weeny detail made me want to kiss the steering wheel!

A friend who had a turn at the wheel told me that for him, the Tivoli was like that surprise ending in a consumer taste test where everyone chooses an underdog, unknown brand over the more dominant brands. I agree. Ignore the Chinese-sounding name, the Korean brand, and the Indian ownership: this car can be a winner. And, yes, the overall positive user experience could perhaps be credited to the Mercedes Benz lineage in the brand DNA.

Value: 4.5/5.0

The highest end Sport R variant that we tested carries a PHP 1,080,000 price tag—excellent value for money when you consider the trim level. The Tivoli 1.6 SX manual transmission base model is very competitively priced at PHP 785,000, while the automatic transmission variants are PHP 845,000 for the 1.6 SX AT; PHP 945,000 for the EXG AT; and PHP 1,040,000 for the Sport AT.

Since the brand is a relative newbie in the local market, the brand has no track record among Filipino car buyers (except possibly for a few Ssangyong Musso owners from the 90s), so long term cost of ownership, durability, and resale value are uncertain.

It is reassuring, therefore, that Ssangyong has very smartly offered three years or 60,000 km of free preventive maintenance service, as well as an extended warranty covering five years or
100,000 km.

What’s Hot:
– Very affordable price
– Good looks
– Good build quality

What’s Not:
– Relatively obscure brand

Bottomline:

Ignore the Chinese-sounding Indian-owned Korean brand; the Tivoli is a really good car and ILOVIT!

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE December 2017-January 2018 Issue.

Reviewed and photos by Maribelle Alba