SSANGYONG’S Tivoli small SUV is expected to be the South Korean brand’s biggest seller after it relaunches in Australia in November, with the extended wheelbase XLV to appeal to family buyers.
Speaking to journalists at the company’s headquarters in South Korean, SsangYong executive director of export markets Daniel Rim confirmed the small SUV pair are expected to outpace the sales of the Musso pick-up, despite Australia’s strong ute market.
“I think to start with it (the best-selling model) will be Tivoli because of the entry-model prices, then the pick-up,” he said. “But the pick-up will have lots of attention from the market.”
The Tivoli, which launched internationally in early-2015, accounts for 31 per cent of SsangYong’s export-market sales, which hit 37,008 units in 2017 and is expected to top around 42,600 sales by year’s end.
Mr Rim cited the Tivoli’s versatility for its success in overseas markets, while the pricing and specification for its Australian introduction was benchmarked against the likes of the Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX and Hyundai Kona.
“Tivoli can tow up to one tonne,” he said. “There’s very few if any (others compact crossovers) that can do towing in the B-segment (small SUVs). People used to buy C-segment (mid-size SUVs) to tow water craft … but B-segment can now do that at an affordable price.
“It will be on average zero to seven per cent more affordable (than our competitors).
“We benchmarked the top-10 sellers, not only in B-segment, but C-segment and D-segment (large SUVs) as well. We looked at the best movers and we want to make sure we stay competitive, and we will.”
As one of the cheapest small SUVs on the market, the Mazda CX-3 kicks off at $20,490 before on-roads, meaning the SsangYong Tivoli could dip under a $20,000 starting sticker price.
However, it is expected SsangYong will ask a low-$20,000 price for the Tivoli due to high levels of specification that would undercut other competitors such as the Hyundai Kona and Mitsubishi ASX that kick off from $24,500 and $25,000 respectively.
Meanwhile, SsangYong Australia managing director Tim Smith said the XLV, a stretched version of the Tivoli that will also be introduced in November, is also poised to steal attention away from the larger small SUVs such as the Nissan Qashqai and Jeep Compass.
“The stretched version of the Tivoli (XLV) I think is quite well placed with families with kids and prams and other equipment that goes with the family, I think that gets overlooked a lot in the market.
“You have to go to a really large SUV to fit all your ancillary gear in that a family requires, but I think that (the XLV) is a really good thing in the range.”
Australian specification and pricing is yet to be locked in for both models, but overseas versions of the Tivoli feature two 1.6-litre powertrains – a petrol and a diesel.
Entry-level 94kW/160Nm petrol versions are exclusively front driven, but are available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
Meanwhile, the 85kW/300Nm turbo diesel is mated solely to a six-speed automatic, and is available in either front-wheel or all-wheel-drive guise.
Measuring 4202mm long, 1798mm wide and 1590 tall with a 2600mm wheelbase, the Tivoli is shorter than most of its rivals, but also wider and taller.
The boot can accommodate 423 litres of luggage space that can be extended to an undisclosed capacity with the split-fold 60:40 rear seats folded flat.
The XLV, meanwhile, is available with the same powertrain combinations, but sports a stretched 4440mm length and increased 1605mm height with the same width and wheelbase as the Tivoli.
SsangYong promises 720L of storage capacity with the rear seats in place, which will expand to a larger capacity once the second row is stowed.
Inside, the Tivoli and XLV are fitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-compatible 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreens, while safety systems including autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning and lane-departure warning will be on offer.
While we only had a taster of the XLV in our recent trip to South Korea, SsangYong’s entry into the small SUV segment is a solid offering, despite no standout features.
Our all-wheel-drive diesel-powered test car was punchy enough around town and at slower speeds, but in high-speed scenarios, it did not feel like there was 300Nm on tap.
The near-1600kg kerb weight and slow-shifting automatic dull performance considerably, but the trade-off is linear and smooth power delivery and predictable performance.
SsangYong claims it will have a local suspension tune for the Tivoli and XLV at some point too, but we found the existing set-up on smooth South Korean roads compliant and comfortable enough.
Inside, the XLV sports a refined and polished interior with soft-touch points abound and cosy front seats with heating and cooling functions.
However, we noticed the front passenger seat had no height adjustment, leaving our tall 186cm frame precariously close to the roof, which suffered compromised room due to the inclusion of a sunroof.
We were also impressed with the capacious boot, enough room to load several overnight bags and backpacks, while the false floor lifts up to reveal even more storage space.
SsangYong allowed us to test the XLV in more rugged terrain as well, which exposed a critical flaw in its off-roading prowess – the lack of ride height.
With a ground clearance of just 167mm, there is just not enough open air beneath the underbody to
comfortably clear ruts and broken terrain without scratching, scraping, crunching and wincing.
While it’s admirable that the XLV can tackle some rough stuff, SsangYong’s stretched small SUV is better suited the urban sprawl and occasional unsealed path rather than the untamed wilds.
Australia’s small-SUV market is crowded, offering more than 20 different models vying for customer attention, so there is a risk the Tivoli and XLV could get lost among a sea of competitors.
However, keen pricing could convince buyers to take a chance on SsangYong’s offerings, especially if Australian-spec vehicles can retain the competent, if unremarkable, characteristics as the car we sampled overseas.