The SsangYong motor brand has spent some considerable time with its nose pressed up against the window of automotive success like a Victorian orphan at a pie shop. Their cars have been seen in the UK as the poor relation; a bit of a joke.
Remember the odious Rodius? This was a sort of big fastback SUV-like thing with a lean-to tacked on the back. Distinctive styling I think it’s called. It was allegedly comfortable enough and had the toys of the time but when a car is that hideous, nobody is going to buy it.
I have yet to drive any SsangYong (it’s a long story) but generally the models on offer, whilst not setting the world on so much as a glowing ember, are at least being seen as reasonable fare at very good prices. Generally lacklustre on the road maybe, but if you want a bargain crossover / SUV you could do a lot worse.
Then there’s the newish Tivoli. It’s a pretty car that has been modestly well received. One, er, pale, bespectacled former car show presenter hated it but most reviewers have been kind, saying it is roomy and well equipped but only so-so to drive. I couldn’t possibly comment because I have not driven any SsangYong vehicles. Did I mention that?
Now though the Korean company have added the The Tivoli XLV – an extended body model of the aforementioned compact SUV. It is now on sale from £18,250. SsangYong have noticed the massive growth of the SUV market and the regular Tivoli, they say, will carry five adults in comfort. It has, they insist, one of the largest boot capacities in its class.
The new XLV is an extended estate-cum-SUV version designed to provide even more carrying capacity and practicality, perhaps to take on the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti. I’m sorry to say this but, in my personal view, they have slipped back into old ways and just added an afterthought to the rear of the standard car. To be fair, other reviews haven’t really commented, describing it as an ‘extended’ Tivoli. To me the extra length looks a tad ungainly.
The point is, how much more can the saturated crossover / small SUV market take? How many more variants can there be on the drawing boards of the planet? Manufacturers seem to be falling over each other in the bid to snatch a handful of one-upmanship. That they can presumably build them thanks to shared platforms and economies of scale at very little extra cost is neither here nor there. Do we want them at all?
Because that mysterious and illusive ‘dynamic involvement’ so beloved of car fanatics doesn’t feature in the minds of most motorists, they don’t really notice whether or not a car is ‘good to drive’ as long as it looks neat, is reasonably economical and is competitively priced. This is borne out by the fact that SsangYong have sold over 100,000 Tivoli’s worldwide. Whether or not buyers will go for something like the XLV that is basically, in old parlance, a shooting-brake remains to be seen.
Sure, it is a competitive world. Profits need to be maintained. Grasping shareholders need to be pandered to. In all walks of life, things that are sold are constantly refined and altered, often to the embittered loss of customers. Think chocolate bars or breakfast cereals and you’ll know what I mean. There comes a point when too much of a thing is simply too much and just making it cheaper but with less taste is ultimately self-defeating.
The choice of available motors in all sectors is bewildering. Look at how many Audi variants there are across the range. If a crossover is not big enough, get a full-sized SUV of the same brand instead. Car buyers don’t need anything in the middle. It will be neither fish nor fowl. The Tivoli is a good idea, the XLV is probably not and in any event SsangYong have a selection of bigger cars in their range anyway. The XLV is just making the slices of the same pie smaller.
I’m not particularly having a go at SsangYong. Lots of other manufacturers have done and do the same thing. It’s just that the XLV is new out so they take the hit. If you look back through the ages you will find plenty of examples of that careless car too far.
Walk down the breakfast cereal aisles of any big supermarket – both of them, the one with regular stuff and the posh one with seeds and berries – to reinforce my message. The aisles stretch almost as far as the eye can see, packed with many choices and they all probably taste much the same.
Let’s not go that way with cars. Customer satisfaction is not achieved by a huge selection, it is achieved by a delicious taste. Geoff Maxted