Sometimes, it's the littlest of things that can make or break anything.
Imagine getting to to eat perhaps one of the most delicious chocolate cakes, only for it to be not as good as you’d hope because it’s not moist, and is as hard as a rock. The same principle can be applied to the automobile which can result in disaster should an automaker not notice what’s wrong.
Ssangyong, who recently returned to the Philippine market three years ago, launched an arsenal of models that were available in a multitude of variants. That's all well and good but having plenty of models on offer means a larger inventory that needs to be cleared out. What do you do in order to make things simpler and easier?
That's simple: trim the model lineup while still offering a featured-packed vehicle.
That’s just what Ssangyong did when they introduced the updated 2019 Tivoli. What used to be available in five different variants is now available in just two distinct models. While having fewer examples may sound like a bad thing, Ssangyong was able to better package the Tivoli without having to compromise much. But is this enough to actually draw in more buyers? And has Ssangyong ironed out some of the Tivoli’s weak points from before?
See anything different? Well if you have a hard time checking out what’s new on the Tivoli don’t worry, so did we. Rather than making the crossover have a totally different look for the 2019 refresh, Ssangyong decided that a subtler approach would be better. Believe it or not, the only thing that received a noticeable change is the front bumper. While there was nothing particularly wrong with the previous design, I do prefer the new bumper more since it gives the Tivoli a fresh new look.
But what I always really liked about the Tivoli is its angular shape and design. Instead of conforming to today’s sleek and fluid shapes, the Tivoli bucks the trend. This is made clear with the well-defined arches on the rear doors, the sharply-cut D-pillars, as well as those eye-catching taillights that flank the rear quarter panels. The wheels, on the other hand, could have had a shinier finish but at least the design itself was nice and clean. All in all, the exterior of the Tivoli is cool, unique and dare I say appealing.
If the exterior relatively looks the same, the cabin gets a posher, more noticeable upgrade. Gone is the red leather upholstery from the Sport-R as the Premium Sport now comes with a more inviting tan finish. Featuring a quilted design along with contrast stitching, the seats have a more premium look and feel to them that works with the Tivoli's unmistakable aesthetic. Splashes of high gloss plastic trim, as well as touches of leather trim, provide the cabin some additional pizzazz.
What are the other changes made inside the Tivoli? It no longer has a gate-type shifter as Ssangyong replaced it with a more conventional unit. Also gone is the button-style gear selector which frankly I did not like. Replacing it is the more user-friendly 'manumatic' design which felt more natural to use. Meanwhile, the touchscreen infotainment gets updated graphics which looked way better than the previous version. It supports the usual AM/FM radio, USB, Bluetooth, and Aux. It does not have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, but it does have Easy Link for mobile phone pairing.
Despite the alterations and added features, there are still some improvements that can be done on the Tivoli. For starters, I wished the steering column can be adjusted for reach in order for short-armed drivers to have a better driving position. The driver's seat, on the other hand, could have had better lumbar support which can do wonders, especially on a long drive.
While the dual-zone automatic climate control did its job and kept the cabin cool, I found its controls placed too low and unintuitive. It might have been better if Ssangyong used more traditional knobs instead of buttons for adjusting the temperature since I am sometimes forced to look at the controls which can distract me from driving. At least the fan speed switch makes use of a rotary-style knob for easier and faster adjustment.
Under the hood is a 1.6-liter, naturally-aspirated inline-four called the eXGi160. As from before, the engine still produces 128 PS along with 160 Nm of torque. Power is then transferred to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual select that drives the front wheels.
If you remembered reading our previous reviews of the Tivoli, we were slightly disappointed by its performance due in part to its clunky transmission. But it looks like Ssangyong made some improvements which made it run better. No longer does the gearbox hunt for gears when speeding up or slowing down as it is now more responsive to pedal input.
Despite peak torque being available at 4600 rpm, the inline-four has some pulling power available as early as 2000 rpm. Combined with the smoother-running transmission, overtaking other cars on the highway was now a bit easier. Set the transmission to manual mode and the powertrain becomes a bit more aggressive and rewards the driver with a rather distinct exhaust note as the engine climbs up the rev range. It may not be as fast as other turbocharged crossovers, but for a naturally-aspirated four-cylinder, the 1.6 engine on the Tivoli is quick enough.
Fuel consumption on the Tivoli is now better as well. On the highway, it is capable of averaging between 15.0 - 16.0 km/l (complete with some overtaking). Around the city, you can expect the crossover to sip fuel at around 9.0 - 9.5 km/l. And should you have the misfortune of getting stuck in gridlock traffic, the Tivoli is capable of averaging between 7.0 - 7.5 km/l. Not exactly stellar, but better to say the least.
While the powertrain has been improved, I wished Ssangyong made the Tivoli ride softer. Sure the stiff ride meant it’s agile and fun to drive on the corners, but its bouncy ride quality leaves something to be desired especially when taking on Metro Manila’s worst roads. In addition, the Tivoli could have had better Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) deadening. The engine tends to be quite noisy at higher revs, and road/wind noise tends to permeate into the cabin when driving on the expressway.
Like most crossovers today, the Tivoli comes equipped with electronic power steering (EPS). However, the EPS on the Tivoli's has three modes; Comfort, Normal and Sport. Depending on your mood, you can set it at its most comfortable, or it's most engaging. Personally, I just set it to Normal since it’s a go-between the two extremes. I did get to try Comfort and I have to say that it's way too light to the point there was no feedback to be felt from the wheel.
The brakes were equally good although I find them a bit too grabby. While they can easily shave off-speed, they're quite sensitive which means you have to adjust your pedal application, especially at highway speeds. The last time I drove something that had sensitive brakes was the Toyota Innova, and the Tivoli's brakes somehow reminded me of them. Still, at least it's better than having weak anchors.
At Php 1,160,000, it could be said that the new top-of-the-line Tivoli Premium Sport sells at a premium price for what it is. But compare it against its nearest competitors and it does come with plenty of toys, amenities, and features. And should you find some those extras a bit too much, there is the more affordable Sport which retails at Php 1,130,000.
Compared to the first Tivoli they launched three years ago, the 2019 facelift has ditched some of its shortcomings for a more neatly-packaged car complete with a better performing engine. It still lacks some refinement when it comes to ride comfort but for those that want an agile crossover, they will like how the Tivoli handles. It's also filled to the brim with features which cannot be said for some of its competitors.
The 2019 Ssangyong Tivoli may not be perfect, but it's better than before.