When SsangYong launched the Tivoli, the Korean carmaker boldly predicted that buyers will flock to their new crossover from the perennial segment favorite, the Ford EcoSport. A year on, this hasn’t gone to plan as the EcoSport continues to protect its turf while managing to increase its sales in the process. The question beckons: has SsangYong simply bitten more than it can chew? Will the Tivoli be relegated to being kicked to the curb in this sub-compact crossover turf war?
Dismissing the other offerings in this price range, the Nissan Juke and Honda BR-V to name two, it’s time to put that to the test. Can the new Korean kid on the block take on the American veteran mano-a-mano? It’s time to put down the sales sheets and bring out the switchblades and brass knuckles; it’s about to get ugly.
Popularity works both for and against the EcoSport. When it first came out three years ago, it looked like a Ford Fiesta that had too much steroids. Some decried it looked like a catfish with that mouthbreather grille as well as the tall, but short proportions. The design could have worked if only the rear area were stretched just a tad more. As it is, it’s too front heavy. Still, ubiquity, especially in this shade of Frozen White, also means getting used to this mechanical catfish. Nowadays, you won’t be judged for finding the EcoSport cute. There’s just so many of them running around that it’s become a default choice.
On the contrary, if this contest were judged solely on the reaction of passersby, the Tivoli wins hands down. If it were a book, it’ll have the best cover you could possibly think of. Most importantly, it looks more expensive than its P 1,080,000 price tag and for that, it wins in the looks department. Styled by Korean millennials, it seems to draw inspiration from wild K-Pop fashion. The arresting paint job and jet black accents makes heads turn faster than you could say “Gangnam Style.” The outlandish fashion sense extends even to the 18, yes, 18-inch rims. Being overly critical, the only thing out of place is that “Tivoli” badge on the rear hatch. If there’s one car that’ll look infinitely better de-badged, it would be this one. And though may not match the EcoSport’s 200-mm ground clearance, the Tivoli still sits 167-mm above the ground.
Winner: SsangYong Tivoli
“What you see is what you get” perfectly describes both of these vehicles. Stepping into the EcoSport, it continues with its more somber, more straightforward approach. The interior is familiar to any modern Ford owner right down to the gauges, high-set infotainment screen, and number pad on the center console. The fit and finish are generally right for this price range (P 988,000), though the plastics are hard to the touch. Still, there are a number of pleasant surprises such as the quality of the leather on the tiller and seats, the tactile smoothness of the controls—it all connotes a well-engineered, well-thought of product. Sadly, grab handles aren’t there because of the moon roof. Overall comfort is good with a naturally ergonomic seating position. The driving position is set high (even at the lowest seat height) aiding the EcoSport’s visibility, although there are sizeable blind spots, most notably at the rear three-quarters of the passenger’s side.
Compared to the EcoSport’s cabin, where designers showed a lot of restraint, SsangYong simply let loose in the Tivoli. It’s colorful, playful, and sadly, downright tacky. The mix of red, black, silver, and aluminum accents feel more like it’s a custom car gone wrong. The fit and finish could also be better as there are unsightly gaps in things like the glove box and sunglass holder. And though media abuse has something to do with it, this particular unit has switches that don’t work as smoothly anymore; and that’s with only 10,000 kilometers on the clock. The Android-based infotainment system also needs some work too as it tends to wash out at even the slightest of sunlight. And on that subject, there are a lot of unwanted reflections around and this gets distracting. Still, kudos to the Tivoli’s material choice which is a notch above Ford’s—down to the soft-touch plastics on the upper dash and the rubberized inserts in the cup holders. And while it doesn’t look it in pictures, it also offers a high driving position as well. Though not as commanding as the one in the EcoSport, there are less blind spots making it equally good to zip around traffic in.
Winner: Ford EcoSport
Space and Practicality
Time and time again, Ford has been criticized for their cramped interior and it’s no different with the EcoSport. It’s best left to singles, childless couples, and empty nesters since all the space has been concentrated on the front seats. The front occupants will love the supportive seats (the driver even has an adjustable lumbar support along with tilt/telescopic steering adjustment) along with a good array of storage (but still no lidded center console box). Moving to the rear accommodations, there are only two headrests and oddly enough, only two three-point seatbelts. This says a lot about the EcoSport and its intention to fit only two people in the rear seat as opposed to three. That being said, at least the rear seats do offer adjustable angles of recline. The luggage space itself isn’t as deep, though the generous height does help it accommodate tall objects, like luggage. And on the subject of the tailgate itself, the side swinging mechanism takes too much space; a bane for those who live in areas with tight parking garages.
Looking beyond the Tivoli’s primary school color scheme, it presents itself as the better packaged crossover. Not only are the front seats good enough for long drives, but the rear is actually enough to seat three abreast. Knee room is still limited, but at least the rear cushion offers a more comfortable experience. There’s more hip support and everyone gets their own adjustable headrests and three-point seatbelts. It also has more storage options with a lidded center console box and even a center arm rest for the rear passengers. The front seatback pockets are probably the most intriguing aspect as it uses reconfigurable straps. Open the traditional (vertically opening) tailgate of the Tivoli and it reveals a usable trunk space. Though designers have tried to maximize the space (the Tivoli doesn’t even have a spare tire; it uses a tire inflation kit), it still doesn’t have the EcoSport’s cargo height. Nonetheless, it manages to fit a week’s worth of groceries just fine, perhaps even more so than the Ford.
Winner: SsangYong Tivoli
Performance and Fuel Economy
On the road, there’s only a small delineation that separates the EcoSport and the Tivoli. Both are equally good, but flawed at the same time. With a 1.6-liter gasoline engine, the Tivoli wins the horsepower war here. Putting out 128 horsepower and 160 Nm of torque, it easily out grunts the Ford by a considerable margin. Even when factoring in power-to-weight ratio, the SsangYong does better. It’s noticeable especially in the urban setting where it feels more adept at jostling through traffic quickly. The caveat though is the hyper-sensitive throttle coupled with the short ratios of the first three gears makes it feel like you’re taming a rabid dog; the noticeable shift shock certainly not helping things. Still, the engine does service good NVH, with just a hint of coarseness at higher revs. It’s when the speeds go up that the Tivoli loses steam. As it goes through the gears of its 6-speed automatic, progression crawls considerably. This is alright when you’re cruising on the highway, but try evoking a downshift and the reaction is delayed. Fuel consumption is also something left to be desired: 7.63 km/L at a speed of 15 km/h.
With 62 percent of its name making up the word, Sport, one expects respectable performance from Ford’s smallest SUV. But sadly, that’s not the case. Although the gearbox itself has more thought out ratios than the Tivoli’s, the dual clutch has roughness at low speeds. Adjusting the driving style does smoothen things, but once or twice, transmission shock will make its way into the cabin. Though down on outright power, the 1.5-liter engine still pulls the EcoSport quite well. The engine does need to work a tad more and this comes out as an overworked sounding drivetrain, but at least it feels balanced and smooth. On the highway, the drivetrain helps it cruise smoothly up to legal speeds, but try an overtaking maneuver, like on the tight Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road, and you’ll be met with a more vocal engine and some accompanying revs, but no added pace. Still, the EcoSport does seem to manage its fuel consumption better: 8.47 km/L at a speed of 15 km/h.
Having a more powerful engine would certainly have done justice to the EcoSport’s ride which is better tuned than the Tivoli’s. The Tivoli exhibits an uneven ride that’s great on billiard-smooth surfaces, but punishing on all others. The steering effort is adjustable with three settings, but it’s best left to ‘Normal.’ Though it looks sporty, the suspension gets unsettled quickly with road corrugations enough to kick the rear tires out slightly. The brake pedal also feels more like an on/off switch. Though the EcoSport also gets unsettled by larger bumps, at least it feels much more secure and stable. The steering is also nicely tuned as are the brakes. The EcoSport’s body feels much more solid too with absolutely no shimmies or rattles. Sadly, the Tivoli’s got a ton of them emanating from the upper dash, the steering rack, and the rear seats.
Value for Money
Like its behavior on road almost nothing separates the Tivoli and EcoSport in terms of both price and features. Only P 92,000 splits them and the list of standard features are more or less the same. The EcoSport does have a moon roof and stability control with hill start assist while the Tivoli nets you bigger rims and the added interior space. The biggest advantage of the SsangYong though is that it comes with a 3-year free PMS (parts and labor) as well as a 5-year warranty. And while the Korean carmaker only has two dealers nationwide, if you live near Quezon Avenue or Cebu, that alone is enough to close the price gap with the EcoSport.
Ford has certainly created something special with the EcoSport. The fact that every small SUV that followed wants to wrestle the crown away from it says that Ford has done something right. And though most buyers will continue to resonate with Ford’s smallest SUV, the SsangYong Tivoli looks like it’s ready to stand up to the challenge. Long-term ownership notwithstanding, this surprisingly new entry from Korea has the ability to ruffle feathers. They may not do it this year or even with this product cycle, but the Tivoli’s eye on style and a roomier interior are more than enough to make it a worthy opponent. Though it’s let down by its unsettled ride and minor build quality issues, it’s enough for it to leap frog the EcoSport in the battle. If only Ford could offer a better drivetrain, perhaps it could eke out a win. As it stands, it’s the SsangYong Tivoli that wins this turf war.
Winner: SsangYong Tivoli
2017 Ford EcoSport vs 2017 SsangYong Tivoli
|Ownership||2017 Ford EcoSport 1.5 Titanium||2017 SsangYong Tivoli 1.6 Sport R|
|Vehicle Classification||Sub-compact Crossover||Sub-compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door SUV||5-door SUV|
|Engine / Drive||F/F||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Normally Aspirated||Normally Aspirated|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||110 @ 6,300||128 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||142 @ 4,500||160 @ 4,600|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~||Gasoline / 91~|
|Transmission||6 DCT||6 AT|
|Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed||8.47 km/L @ 15 km/h||7.63 km/L @ 15 km/h|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,289||1,300|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Goodyear Assurance Fuel
205/60 R 16 H (f & r)
|Kumho Solus XC
215/45 R 18 V (f & r)
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes||No|
|Parking Sensors||Yes||Yes, with Camera|
|Other Safety Features||Hill Start Assist||None|
|Fog Lamps||Front, Rear||Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjust||Tilt/Telescopic||Tilt|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather/Urethane||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes||Yes, with Fold|
|# of Speakers||6||6|