“Tivoli is the biggest thing to happen to SsangYong,” says Paul Williams, CEO of SsangYong Motor UK.
It’s a bold statement to make about a company that has had a long but sometimes commercially challenging history. But with the engineering and financial backing of India's Mahindra & Mahindra automotive conglomerate, it is now set on making meaningful inroads into the challenging European market, where aesthetics and engineering need to cohere convincingly to achieve real success.
So what has the South Korean built Tivoli got from design and technology aspects that make Williams so confident? “Firstly, we believe the crossover styling is unique—and it was done in-house. Now, people are saying, ‘My goodness, you’re capable of doing this given what you have done in the past’.
"We have very high levels of engineering, with details including all-wheel drive, adaptive electric power steering (EPAS), efficient Aisin-supplied automatic transmissions, and a high-strength-steel (HSS) intensive architecture. We also offer an exceptional warranty for the Tivoli—five years limitless in the UK; a company can only do that if the vehicle has been screwed together well in the first place.”
Before joining SsangYong in 2007, Williams’ career included posts with Nissan and Mercedes-Benz, and very senior executive positions expanding the presence of Kia, Mitsubishi, and Daihatsu in the UK.
Although SsangYong has a relatively modest presence in Europe, he believes Tivoli will prove the real pacemaker for the company, describing the company in Europe as a “challenger brand.”
Mahindra Motor Company’s 73% stake in SsangYong has brought not only financial security but also a cross-fertilization of automotive engineering know-how together with shared manufacturing assets that make for required economies of scale.
Both the four-cylinder gasoline (e-XGi160) and diesel (e-XDi160) 1.6-L engines of the Tivoli are South-Korean designed. Produced in a the company’s new Changwon Plant, which began production in the fall of 2014 with a potential 300,000 units per annum capacity, the engine program was made possible by Mahindra’s involvement.
“You don’t necessarily need to invest in a new engine plant given that there are plenty of alternatives, so SsangYong did consider sourcing from a third party but decided they wanted their own ‘home grown’ engines,” explained Williams. “And Mahindra wanted better engine technology for their future products and also needed size and scale. Therefore this is a long term strategy with Mahindra that will see derivatives of the engines and use of the ‘know-how’ that is being created.”
The Tivoli’s diesel produces 85 kW (114 hp) and 300 N·m (221 lb·ft) from 1500 to 2500 rpm. The gasoline engine’s output is 94 kW (126 hp) at 6000 rpm with maximum torque of 160 N·m (118 lb·ft) at 4600 rpm. The diesel’s CO2 emissions’ figure is 113 g/km in two-wheel-drive manual transmission form and 146 g/km as an auto. The gasoline gets 149 g/km with a stop/go facility, two-wheel drive, and manual gearbox, 167 g/km as an auto. Combined fuel consumption for the manual diesel is 4.3L/100 km and 5.5 L/100 km for the auto.
The diesel uses a Honeywell turbocharger.
Transmission choice is six-speed manual or six-speed auto. Performance figures are relatively modest; the best 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) for the gasoline car is 11.9 s (auto) and the same time for the manual diesel. Curb weight spans 1270 to 1465 kg (2800 to 3230 lb) depending on engine and specification. Best braked towing capacity is a high 1500 kg (3300 lb).
In two-wheel-drive form, the Tivoli uses MacPherson front suspension and a live (torsion beam) rear axle, but gets a rear multi-link setup for the AWD version. The EPAS has Normal, Comfort, and Sport modes.
The three trim/equipment levels of the Tivoli—SE, EX, and ELX—provide a broad spread. SsangYong does not wish to be regarded as a “utility” brand, so the ELX specification includes “Diamond Cut” alloy wheels, smart instrument cluster, keyless start, parking sensors, privacy glass, automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers, GPS navigation system with 7-in touchscreen, rearview camera, and leather seating option. The ELX will be offered with AWD later this year.
Tivoli has been developed on a global basis for global markets; it will be available in both diesel and gasoline forms in the whole of Europe. Durability testing areas included Scandinavia for cold weather proving and Australia for hot, together with testing in China and South Korea.
“Our R&D center in South Korea is at Pyungtak, some 70 km from Seoul. We do not have a technical center in Europe—yet,” stated Williams. Demonstrating high quality standards is essential. Because the company has a long-established link with Mercedes-Benz, which supplied powertrains for the Musso SUV in the 1990s, SsangYong uses Daimler quality benchmarking levels, said Williams.
With regard to safety, the Tivoli has not yet been selected for assessment by Euro NCAP. “But the car was designed to meet high-level Euro NCAP requirements and has seven airbags as standard,” stressed Williams. “South Korea has a test similar to that used in Europe, and the Tivoli has just received excellent results there.”
SsangYong (the name translates as “double dragon”) was established in 1954 and is South Korea’s oldest motor manufacturer. The company started by producing trucks, buses, and special purpose vehicles. It has always specialized in producing 4x4 vehicles, and in the 1980s developed them for international markets.
In 1997, Daewoo took a majority stake in SsangYong, and vehicles including the Korando (a diminutive of the words Korea-can-do!) and Musso were sold under the Daewoo brand name until 2001. In 2004 came a merger with SAIC (Chinese Shanghai Automotive Industry Cars).
More recently the SsangYong range expanded with the Rexton, Kyron, and third-generation Korando, the latter launched in 2010. A C-segment crossover, it was designed by Giugiaro and for the first time adopted monocoque construction.
Mahindra, which has its headquarters in Mumbai, bought its majority share in SsangYong in 2011.
While its latter products established the SsangYong name internationally, it is the Tivoli (as well as an Italian town, the name is also an anagram of “I lov it.”), that range looks the most likely product to enhance its status.
Added Williams: “The Tivoli is entering a rising market sector and will have the effect of bringing the brand and its technology much further into people’s consciousness in Europe. But our other models remain; we will definitely not be a ‘one trick pony’!”