It was Brendan Behan who said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. And since another famous Dubliner Bill Cullen ended his connections with Renault, both Bill and his partner Jackie Lavin are seldom out of the news. The pair are never shy about talking up their new venture, a Ssangyong dealership at Bluebell on the Naas Road out of Dublin.
Bill has survived the downturn and so has the Korean company; they were saved by a huge investment from Indian conglomerate Mihandra and Mihandra , who acquired a 70 per cent share in the debt-ridden company four years ago.
Ssangyong, who returned to Ireland in 2013 after a five-year absence, has a reputation for building huge, powerful diesel people carriers, most of which were not very pretty, but functional. You may be familiar with the Korando, Rodius and Rexton. Now they have introduced their first car since the take over and last week I got to test drive the Tivoli.
I was expecting a saloon or hatchback. So I was a bit surprised to pick up a mid-size SUV instead. But it has its own name, Tivoli. Now that’s a good start. I like cars that have their own name, not a Ssangyong ZX1 or Ssangyong ABC2.
The Tivoli is a high vehicle with a boxy-look to it and you will enjoy the view over the hedgerows. I’m told it’s aimed at the 25-35 age group and especially women. Now I can see some men going for one, but I think ladies might take a bit more time to be won over as there is huge competition out there with attractive mid-size SUVs.
At the front the design doesn’t really grab your attention; it’s fairly bland and only has the logo to give it a lift. It’s unusual to say, but the tail end seems to have a more attractive design.
Inside there is plenty of leg and head room for the front and back seat passengers and the seats are very comfortable. As with most cars I have driven recently the infotainment screen dominates the dash. Naturally there is decent space in the boot and you get a ‘mini’ spare wheel, which is always appreciated.
Did I like it? Yes, it’s a decent effort. I drove a dark blue-coloured version, but then when I saw a picture of the red Tivoli it looked much better. As I have often said before on these pages colour makes a huge difference to everything in our lives.
Prices start at a very reasonable €19,995 for the 1.6 petrol, while the 1.6 diesel version I drove will cost you €21,495. I drove a manual version, but it’s also available in automatic in petrol and diesel. Road tax is only €190 in the diesel, while it’s €390 for the petrol.
Ssangyong has 12 dealers countrywide and Cashman’s Midleton are the only dealer in Cork.
I started with an Irish saying and will end with a Chinese one: ‘‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’’ Welcome back to Ireland Ssangyong, the competition is fierce and naturally it will take time to gain a foothold in the Irish market. I think that maybe you may need more smaller cars to really win over the Irish motorists.