29 October 2015

Driven: Jeep Renegade + SsangYong Tivoli crossovers

Unless they’ve been living on a desert island, most people will have noticed that cars these days seem to be getting taller and generally chunkier, manufacturers from budget to posh brands all racing to introduce ‘crossover’ cars which blend various elements together, such as a hatchback shape and practicality but with the height of a 4×4, for an all-round feeling of safety and confidence. I recently drove two of the newer small crossovers unleashed onto the market. Here’s the low-down.

Jeep Renegade 2.0 Multijet II Longitude 140hp 6-speed manual 4×4

What the B-segment (smaller) crossover market has lacked is a proper tough cookie with the macho bite to match its bark. People use the term ‘Jeep’ pretty casually these days to describe anything remotely 4×4-like, but those more familiar with the Jeep brand’s history will know they’ve always stood for big, brash, boxy vehicles that can really get down and dirty. The Renegade is the smallest Jeep available and looks really funky in a typically square Jeep sense, the iconic seven-slot grille and round headlamps complemented with X-shape LED lights at the back, beefy wheel arches and body mouldings, and fat alloys.

Jeep Renegade first drive review, SMMT North 2015 - photo 2


Everyone on board a Renegade sits royally high up and the huge windscreen and wing mirrors mean visibility is great. Reminding buyers of the firm’s military roots, ‘Since 1941’ is etched into the dashboard in a US army-style font, there’s a beefy grab handle in front of the passenger, and the rev counter features a mud splatter graphic as a nice finishing touch. The touchscreen has a squidgy feel to it and is a bit on the small side, there isn’t as much space in the back as I expected there to be, and some cheap FIAT (they own Jeep) parts can be found, but apart from these few gripes, the Renegade’s interior does it for me.

Jeep Renegade first drive review, SMMT North 2015 - photo 3


The 2-litre Multijet II diesel engine in the 4×4 Renegade I drove isn’t particularly noteworthy in any ways, producing 140bhp and 350Nm of torque, or grunt, averaging 45mpg after a short amount of mixed driving. Flooring it results in some noticeable diesel clatter, but driven averagely, it performs perfectly decently, smooth at motorway and A-road speeds, with enough power for overtaking. The 6-speed manual gearbox feels pleasant in the hand, with sensible gaps between gear changes. Wind noise can be heard at times because of the table mat-size wing mirrors, the thick front pillars limit visibility when pulling out of junctions and the steering doesn’t have much feel, but not many other cars get a gold star in this area either. Even though the Renegade is about as large as the Qashqai from the category above, it shrinks around you and proves fun to drive on tarmac. More capable on the rough stuff than any other small crossover SUV, 4×4 versions of the Renegade are fitted with Selec-Terrain, which can be switched from Auto to Snow, Sand or Mud, and Trailhawk trim Renegades also come with Rock mode and a low-range gearbox.

Jeep Renegade first drive review, SMMT North 2015 - photo 1


Priced at £25,795 as tested, the Renegade isn’t cheap as a 4×4 with a few added toys, but it’s more exciting and fresh-looking than the plain, reserved ŠKODA Yeti Outdoor. Alongside the Fiat 500X, which is technically its sister, the Renegade is a very welcome addition to the compact crossover market.

SsangYong Tivoli 1.6 diesel manual ELX

For those wondering, SsangYong is a Korean car builder, the name is pronounced ‘san yong’ and, like Jeep, specialises in making rugged, honest 4x4s. SsangYong has always been a bit of an underdog brand in the UK, famous for the ugly Rodius MPV which tops many ‘worst cars’ polls, but the Rexton model has long been respected by farmers, caravan owners and families on a budget.

SsangYong Tivoli diesel manual ELX first drive review, SMMT North 2015 - photo 2


With its ambitious eyes set on the positively booming European compact SUV crossover market, SsangYong has invested lots of money into its new car, called the Tivoli, its unique (well, kind of) selling point being genuine off-road ability. With headlights that have a bird of prey look to them, a muscular side profile, diamond cut alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, tinted windows and a curvy rear with attractive brake lights, the Tivoli in ELX trim offers something a little different but which still ticks the usual boxes and won’t scare anybody away or make them cry.

On the inside, ELX gives you full leather seats, electric wing mirrors, a 7-inch touchscreen with integrated TomTom, automatic headlights, front fog lights, iPod and Bluetooth, dual zone climate control, a reversing camera and keyless start. Like in nearly all cars, some of the plastics used in less obvious places feel a bit naff, but overall, the Tivoli’s interior is roomy, comfortable and really well-equipped.

SsangYong Tivoli diesel manual ELX first drive review, SMMT North 2015 - photo 4


Compared to the Renegade’s 2-litre diesel option, the SsangYong Tivoli diesel is powered by a 1.6-litre engine which produces 115bhp and 300Nm of pulling power (torque), and it’s a refined unit on the whole, going about its business in a hushed manner unless pushed hard. Speed freaks will dismiss the Tivoli as it takes 12 seconds to reach 60mph, but for gentler drivers after a balance of economy, refinement and reasonable performance, it’s fine. Just because SsangYong isn’t a well-known brand, there are no worries over the diesel engine, which is Euro 6 compliant – reassuring in light of the VW emissions scandal.

Just like the Renegade, I wasn’t wowed by the front-wheel drive Tivoli in diesel manual form, but I wasn’t disappointed, its steering adequate but unengaging, its suspension and ride acceptable but not sporty. Apart from on rough surfaces, it performs well, with a pleasant gearbox and decent road manners. It’s an ordinary car, but SsangYong can take that as a compliment, some of its previous creations having been dubbed far from mainstream.

SsangYong Tivoli diesel manual ELX first drive review, SMMT North 2015 - photo 1


A 4×4 version of the Tivoli is available and buyers can also choose a petrol engine and an automatic gearbox. With pricing starting at only £12,950 for a Tivoli in SE trim, £17,250 for the ELX version I drove, and £19,500 for a top-spec 4×4 version complete with the optional Styling Pack, SsangYong’s competitive pricing will hopefully help Tivoli achieve the respectable sales it deserves.

If you have any questions you’d like to ask about the Jeep Renegade, SsangYong Tivoli or any other crossover for that matter, give us a shout on Twitter or Facebook and we’ll be happy to help.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.