Five out of the 10 best-selling cars in the Philippines in 2019 are diesel-powered – that’s a fact. We can’t deny that Filipino consumers have a tendency to choose diesel over gasoline cars, and that’s mainly because of our country’s erratic fuel prices.
With that in mind, the new SsangYong Tivoli diesel entered the Philippine automotive market in hopes of getting a healthy share of the market’s sales pie. Slapping a diesel engine onto a highly-rated crossover may seem a gutsy move, but that’s not without good reasons.
It’s not a secret that we have been enamored by the Tivoli ever since its launch some time ago, but can a diesel engine ruin its esteemed greatness? Read this full review of the SsangYong Tivoli Diesel in Premium trim to find out.
Two words: sharp and angular. Instead of going for the usual curves and chisels of crossovers, the Tivoli Diesel went for the angular look. The fascia’s not too busy, which is a good thing, while the broad shoulders almost give this car a big boy demeanor – but not as big as its real SUV brother, the SsangYong Rexton.
One thing we love the most about the Tivoli is its huge rims 10-spoke diamond-cut wheels. They’re enormous, as in 18 inches huge, and they sure do quite well in complementing this crossover’s big boy attire. Plus the equally big LED taillights give this car character and stand out among the sea of crossover options these days.
It could have been all praises for the Tivoli save for one: halogen headlights. They’re a bit dated at this price point, but at least they’re projectors and automatic.
Upfront, the Tivoli’s interior is quite tamed and not as ostentatious as the previous Tivoli Premium Sport that had brown Nappa leather. Colors are either black or gray, but with more emphasis on black – scratchy piano black, that is, populating the busiest parts of the cabin. You need to be careful with these, really. Nevertheless, the seats are upholstered in leather, which feels nice to the touch, and there are plenty of storage spaces to stow your things in, too.
Trunk space? Not so much, as expected, but can be expanded by folding the backrests. The lip loading height’s a bit high, though. You have to muster extra strength in order to load heavy things in there.
The Tivoli’s seats are soft and supportive, with plenty of legroom and headroom for the average Filipino size. However, we can't help but look for telescopic adjustment on the steering wheel for a more flexible driving position. Plus, elbow touchpoints a.k.a. lazy driver resting zone, are quite stiff and could really use more cushioning.
There aren’t really any toys at the back except for speakers on either door and an armrest with cupholders. No A/C vents or charging ports, and the middle rear passenger is relegated to just a lap belt, but you have seat “pockets” at the back of the front seats.
The Tivoli’s suspension is quite stiff, but not to the point that occupants will be thrown around the cabin with a small pothole. Can it absorb Metro Manila’s road impurities? It sure can but with good measure. The whole setup gears towards better handling, which we’ll discuss later. Noise insulation works quite well, too, except for the engine noise that echoes in the cabin at high RPMs.
Looking past the staleness of the cabin’s design, you get a massive 8-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto at the helm of the Tivoli Diesel. It works without lag, and the six speakers sound average if not better than usual. But the crown jewel of this car is its instrument cluster – 10.25 inches of full graphic, high-definition display with multiple waypoints for vehicle settings. It looks really good, further enhancing your driving experience. Of note, the Tivoli diesel is the first in SsangYong’s Philippine lineup to get the high-tech gauge cluster.
As for other tech features, the Tivoli covers most of the basics like auto on/off headlights, speed-sensing door locks, rain-sensing wipers, power-adjustable side mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirrors, and rear camera. It lacks proximity sensors and cruise control, though, so there’s that.
The SsangYong Tivoli doesn’t have an ASEAN NCAP rating at the time of this writing, so we’ll rate this car based on what it offers on its spec sheet.
As the top trim variant, the Tivoli Diesel Premium gets dual front, side, and curtain airbags, as well as the basics like ISOFIX child seat tethers, ABS with EBD, immobilizer, and burglar alarm. It’s pretty basic in this regard, plus the fact that the third middle rear passenger is relegated to just lap belts.
Driving & Handling
Diesel is to torque and the SsangYong Tivoli’s new 1.6-liter has got lots of it. Dig deep onto the accelerator and you’ll find your head resting where it’s ought to be. 134 hp isn’t so much but 324 Nm of torque is quite a lot of pull for a crossover of this size. There’s a bit of a turbo lag, yes, but the initial power delivery to the front wheels is more than enough to keep things going. You have got to thank the 6-speed torque converter for that.
Handling is one of the Tivoli’s best traits. Take tight turns at speeds, attack corners with conviction, this car can handle them almost completely flat – thanks mainly to the sporty suspension setup. It doesn’t feel big, too, so maneuvering through tight spaces is a cinch.
One of the major improvements in the Tivoli for this year would be the disc brakes on all fours, which now bites a lot better than before.
As for fuel efficiency, this diesel Tivoli could do 23.7 km/L on the highway at relaxed drives, keeping the speed at around 90 km/h. It read back 17.5 km/L at fast-paced provincial runs at an average speed of 60 km/h.
In heavy traffic, however, it can only muster up to 6.4 km/L which was a surprise considering its fuel type.
P1,290,000 for the 2020 SsangYong Tivoli Diesel Premium sound quite a bit of cash for a small crossover. But then again, which other small crossovers in the market can handle this well, drive this well, and still offer a number of toys for the tech-savvy car buyer?
The switch to diesel isn’t a bad decision, we think. It’s quite the opposite as it gives buyers more options because not everyone’s really fond of hefty cars. Now you don’t have to go big to go diesel.