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SsangYong Tivoli XLV road test: Well equipped and good value for price tag

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All have their selling points but now SsangYong has raised the stakes with the first SUV estate. Based on its best-seller, the trendy Tivoli, this 'stretched' XLV can pack in 720 litres of luggage even with a family of five on board.

That's more than 40 per cent greater than the standard Tivoli, first seen last year, and a big advantage over the competition.

XLV prices are competitive too, particularly bearing in mind its generous equipment levels. The front wheel drive manual starts at £18,250 while the flagship four wheel drive with automatic transmission is £20,500. All are powered by the same 1.6-litre turbo diesel, with a useful 115 PS of power and 300 NM of torque.

Acceleration is moderate (0 to 62 mph in 12 seconds) but more importantly for a family car it cruises smoothly and quietly, helping to create a relaxed ambience. The 4x4 manual's official fuel average is 57.6 mpg while the auto version is rated 44.8.

The ride is slightly firm, but a good compromise between comfort and dynamics - it corners well for a 'tall' vehicle with no noticeable body roll. Unusually, the 4x4 is rather better in both departments because of its construction: it gets a multi-link rear suspension instead of the torsion beam used on the front wheel drive versions.

Multi-link is essential for the 4x4, to aid axle articulation over rough terrain but it pays dividends on the road too.

The four wheel drive system, where fitted is of the 'torque on demand' type - the rear wheels remain passive until the front wheel started to slip, when a portion of the power is diverted to the back to maintain stability.

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To create the extra cargo space, SsangYong added 283mm to the body behind the rear axle. The load floor, covering a concealed bay, can be raised to accommodate larger items and one or more of the three rear seats folded flat for more flexibility between cargo and passengers.

The XLV's rear seats can also be titled by just over 30 degrees for passengers who want to take it easy. The back three seats provide plenty of head and leg room for six-footers. The cabin is a nice place to be for the driver, too, particularly one of the test cars - in black paint with a contrasting black and red leather interior.

Leather is standard but the £350 extra for the contrasting red seems worth it for its stylish and trendy atmosphere. Add to that high gloss carbon black trim, chrome and colourful displays and the Tivoli creates the impression of a much more expensive motor.

That complements the comprehensive equipment levels too. Dual zone automatic air conditioning (with outlet for the rear, too), tinted glass, automatic headlamps and wipers, heated front seats, electrically operated, heated mirrors, a rear view camera and a colour touch screen with full audio, connectivity and satnav are a few of the highlights.

Seven airbags, ABS and an electronic stability programme make up part of the safety package. The Tivoli is earning a reputation as a well-equipped and value for money member of the SUV genre and the new XLV adds, quite literally, an extra dimension as a full qualified family transport.

It comes with a five year, unlimited mileage warranty too, which should help keep costs in check.

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