Small SUVs are far cooler than the normal shopping car fare. They stand out in the crowd of a supermarket car park, offer useful extra room and will generally prove to be robust, reliable machines capable of taking most things in their stride.
They’re not the cheapest to buy new, which is where the nearly-new market comes in: here, we’re looking at two value-priced SUVs that you can pick up today for less than £10,000. The boxy Kia Soul is about as different as they cone, while the SsangYong Tivoli is also standout, albeit not as widely available secondhand as the Kia. Which is best – and is it worth the extra effort to find a Tivoli? We found out.
Neither of these two diesel machines is exactly fast, but they’re quick enough for the daily grind. They deliver their power differently, though. The SsangYong has more low-down pulling power, so you don’t have to change gear as much. But the Kia is more refined, and it has the better gearbox. Indeed, the lower overall noise levels of the Soul might mean many people prefer it.
The Kia handles better too, feeling more secure and easier to drive thanks to its lighter steering – this is particularly beneficial when parking. The Kia’s ride is also better, smoothing out potholes more ably; you need more muscle to drive the SsangYong, and you’ll feel more bumps as you drive.
Kia Soul 1.6 CRDi 134 Connect (4 stars)
Engine size: 1582cc, 4cyl, diesel
List price when new: £16,600
Price today: £8500
Torque: 192lb ft@1500-3000rpm
Top speed: 112mph
Fuel economy: 58.8mpg (official average)
CO2 emissions: 128g/km
SsangYong Tivoli 1.6 D EX (3 stars)
Engine size: 1597cc, 4cyl, diesel
List price when new: £15,850
Price today: £9500
Torque: 221lb ft@1500-2000rpm
Top speed: 109mph
Fuel economy: 65.7mpg (official average)
CO2 emissions: 113g/km
Further proof that both of these cars get the basics right comes inside. They have excellent driving positions, with multi-adjust seats and steering wheels. The Kia’s front seats are marginally more comfortable, and its dashboard is more user-friendly, with greater clarity and simplicity. However, although the SsangYong uses harder plastics than the Kia, it still feels of decent quality.
Where they really score over superminis is in terms of space. They’re enormous inside, with really impressive rear legroom and headroom, and wide-opening doors will be a boon for families. They have similarly-sized boots, with the Kia’s load space proving longer and taller, and the SsangYong’s being wider.
Running costs will be manageable as both have economical diesel engines. The Tivoli gives the best official figures, averaging 65.7mpg compared to 58.8mpg, which translates into a real-world advantage too. Better economy means lower CO2 emissions, so it costs less to tax; £30 instead of £110.
The SsangYong also has better retained values, which is a good result, given its relative rarity. This does mean it’s harder to find though – and so too are SsangYong dealers, meaning the Soul will be easier to get serviced. The low numbers of Tivolis on the road mean it’s hard to form a picture of reliability, but it would be impressive if it beat the dependable Soul, which ranked fourth out of 33 small SUVs for reliability. That’s why Kia can offer a seven-year warranty, compared to the SsangYong’s still-decent five-year scheme.
Overall, the Tivoli puts in a strong performance. It’s practical, cheap to run and competent to drive. We don’t think it has what it takes to beat the Kia, though. In terms of value for money, it’s hard to beat, and it’s a great step up into small SUVs for those who want to do so on a budget. No wonder they’re so popular.
Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing