Ah, oxymorons. The beauty of combining polar-opposite words into a strong phrase that could describe something with a rhetorical point. While this figure of speech could work to positively paint a picture, it doesn’t work that way for cars. Not always, anyway.
Describing a mass market model as classy and sporty maybe a little out of place, but SsangYong Philippines dares to challenge the norm with the 2019Tivoli Premium Sport. It’s the latest addition to the Tivoli range, the dark horse of the subcompact crossover segment, and it comes with a promise of premium goodness with its somehow sporty performance.
Now, did it work for the brand? Read this review to find out.
If you’ve been following our carreviews since last year, you probably know that I absolutely adore how the Tivoli looks. That adoration holds true with the Tivoli Premium Sport. Its restyled bumper looks aggressive and highlights the new fog lights. It goes well with the sporty design of the car, while the contrasting roof color gives this Korean crossover a Land Rover-ish appeal – the black-on-grey combination of the media unit gets two thumbs up from me, especially with those glossy black 18-inch rims.
I would just like to point out one odd thing about the Tivoli: its fog lights. Usually, fog lights can’t be switched on when the headlights are off. But in the Tivoli, you can. So, if you’re the type who uses fog lamps even without fog, you might want to turn the thing off at night before you put yourself to bed. You don’t want to be seen in daylight with your fog lights on, do you?
The biggest update to the 2019 Tivoli Premium Sport is found in its cabin, particularly the brown leather accents found on the seats, door panels, and flat-bottom steering wheel. It’s not as gaudy as the red accents of the Sport R and it goes well with the soft plastics (and a few hard ones with smooth finish), satin chrome, and piano black trims within the cabin, although the latter is a scratch magnet so you have to be careful with that. The stitched pattern on the seats’ backrests is pleasing to the eyes, as well. I have one problem with the Tivoli’s leather, though. Yes, it’s smooth to the touch, however, SsangYong could have used a softer material. Nevertheless, the seats are the perfect balance of being comfy and well-bolstered, which is pleasantly surprising considering the car’s stiff suspension setup.
Another thing to rave about the Tivoli is its spacious cabin that contains several cupholders and cubbyholes: four cupholders and two bottle-holders up front, two cupholders and two bottle-holders in the back. Leg-, elbow-, and head-room are sufficient for people standing 5’9” and below, but the third rear passenger in the middle would need to compromise. Trunk, on the other hand, remains a gripe as it’s a bit shallow and the backrests don't fold flat to the floor.
This is where the Tivoli Premium Sport stands out. The driver is blessed with power-adjustable seats, while the following list of features is like clockwork: automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, auto climate control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto-folding side mirrors, reverse camera with sensors, speed-sensing door locks, and keyless entry with push-start button. That’s a lot, considering this car’s price point. Best part? The driver and front passenger seats are equipped with a ventilation system, which you could use to cool the seats quickly when you leave the car parked in a sunnyparkinglot. Nifty, right? Makes me wonder why SsangYong didn’t include cruise control in the list of tech features for this car.
As for the infotainment system, well, it’s still the peculiar-looking, Android-powered SsangYong head unit that could use an update. Although Bluetooth connectivity is seamless, you would need to settle for a blank screen with the Bluetooth icon and the song title when playing music from your smartphone. Good thing, the sound from the speakers is decent.
Since the Tivoli Premium Sport didn’t get an engine update, it’s still powered by the same 1.6L gasoline engine from the Sport R that’s capable of producing 128 hp and 160 Nm of torque. And just the same as before, the new variant remains to be an obedient machine, responding to every command without hesitation, sans when going from a standstill. Nevertheless, the six-speed AISIN automatic transmission somehow proves its claim to be as smooth and quick as a dual-clutch transmission, minus the idiosyncrasy of gradual downshifting. So, yes, overtaking is a cinch even without doing a manual override, equating to a spirited and sporty drive.
Maneuvering the Tivoli within the city is painless, which can be accounted to its light steering feel. In fact, the electronically-assisted steering has three modes: Comfort, Normal, and Sport. I personally prefer the Sport mode as the weight is just right for stable high-speed cruise and precise cornering. Even better, since the Tivoli has a stiff suspension setup, there’s negligible body roll even when turning at speeds.
The Tivoli Premium Sport gets the same set of safety features as with the entire range. It has dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat anchors, and brake assist. It also has seatbelt reminders for both the driver and front passenger. Yes, yes, we heard you. They seem a bit short on this note. Guess SsangYong spent too much on high-tech features instead.
For security, the Tivoli comes equipped with alarm and immobilizers. The car also locks itself if the key fob is with you when you step out of the car. Nice.
If you drive the Tivoli modestly and with savings in mind, it would return quite decent fuel efficiency numbers. I averaged 18.8 km/L during highway runs with an average speed of 90 km/h, while fast city and provincial drives at around 60 km/h read back 12.2 km/L. However, bumper-to-bumper situations, like EDSA during rush hours, warranted a pretty abysmal fuel economy at 6.2 km/L.
Oxymorons, when it comes to describing cars, don't always come out positively, but SsangYong did it anyway with the Tivoli Premium Sport – and it absolutely works. It has found a sweet spot in between being sporty and premium, something that young and picky car buyers would truly appreciate. Even better, with its price tag of P1,160,000, you’re assured that you get what you paid for, especially with its plethora of high-tech features that come standard with the car.
Ever since the SsangYong Tivoli reached the Philippine shores, I’ve always regarded it as an extremely underrated crossover that Filipino car buyers should be able to try. The new Premium Sport variant just solidified that claim, and I don’t think there’s anything that could change my mind.