Munster show of cars but, on the day, we were running on empty
Garage Watch: Lyons of Limerick, Ballysimon Road, Limerick
THIS was no ordinary Saturday. We weren't the only visitors rolling up Shannonside. Toulouse were in town to take on the mighty Munster in the Heineken Cup.
And while they were hoping to get one over their hosts, we had similar aspirations and a mission of our own.
We were in search of a strong, dependable and affordable second-hand car and stopped on Lyons of Limerick in pursuit of a bargain.
Pulling into the Lyons complex, we were glad to stretch our legs after a long drive. On approach, we were impressed with the sheer size of the complex and the seemingly endless rows of cars ‘for sale'. We were optimistic.
After a quick solo browse in the main car park, we realised we were going to need guidance to single out suitable options. Although there were plenty of cars about, we felt the stock would have been a whole lot more navigable had there been clearly marked information – especially price and mileage- attached to the windscreen of each car.
We easily found a salesman, Stephen Tuohy, by the entrance to the main showroom. We followed him to his desk so he could get a sense of our aspirations and budget. As we sat down, we commented on the size of the front car lot, packed to the brim, and how we didn't recall seeing one so big on all our travels. “Well,” he explained, “we have Ford, Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover all together on the same premises, so we have no trouble filling the space out front.”
Our pitch to Stephen was simple: we wanted a flexible vehicle for a young professional. The car would need to be capable of handling long journeys comfortably and economically but at the same time, be practical for city living. We had €7,000-€8,000 to spend.
From the moment the sum of our budget left our lips, we could sense from Stephen's face that we would struggle to find any suitors in budget.
“We're expecting a few more in next week, but at the minute I don't have much in that price range.” What he did have boiled down to two choices: a 2008 Ford Focus, 1.6-litre diesel (over budget for €8,750) or a 3dr 2008 Opel Astra VTi, 1.4-litre petrol for €8,000.
We took the keys to both but with match-day traffic at a standstill outside, the best test drive we could muster was a few laps of Lyons' own sizeable campus. The Focus looked well kept inside and out, and in good condition for its age. But as we turned the key in the ignition, the car chugged and spat and eventually gave in. The tank was completely empty. Test drive over before it could begin. Oh well! the Focus was out of our budget anyway.
We found the Astra a few rows away. A sporty 3dr, with gold paint and low carriage. We were interested to see how it felt. A couple of laps later and we were pleasantly surprised. The car was comfortable, stylish and nippy. However, lack of space in the boot and back seats were definitely an issue on practicality; on purely driving terms, we liked the Astra.
Back indoors, we explained as much to Stephen. He said he'd knock €500 off its price as we weren't trading in, bringing the total to €7,500. That made the offer that bit more tempting, but ultimately, we knew deep down that neither car really fitted the bill for us. We left the office with a strong invitation to call back the following week, when stock would ensure greater choice for our budget. We took Stephen's card and hit the road.
On a day where everything went right for Munster, we couldn't help but feel that we were against the odds from the off. If we were to call in on a different day, the story could have been so much different.
Such is the nature of second-hand car buying.
Customer Parking: 8.5
Customer facilities: 7
Customer service: 8
Models on display: 5