REVIEW | Haval scales new heights with value-packed Jolion
SA consumers have shown little appetite for low-quality Chinese cars in spite of their bargain price tags, which saw firms such as Chana, Chery and Geely sent packing after failing to gain a local foothold.
Haval Motors has bucked the trend with its GWM bakkies and Haval SUVs making a decent sales impact over the past several years, and their products have steadily improved — especially Haval, which is the premium division of blue-collar brand GWM. Cars like its H6 and H9 have shaken off the cheap-and-nasty Chinese-car mantle, just as happened when Korean cars went from bargain-basement specials to products that could go toe-to-toe with mainstream Japanese and European brands a decade or two ago.
Succeeding the H2, the new Haval Jolion represents another leap forward.
The cabin is the best we’ve yet experienced in a Chinese car, with a look and feel that, at first glance, matches or exceeds any rival in this market segment. How well it will age is an unknown factor, but first impressions are good.
The interior’s garnished with appealing colours, textures and soft-touch materials, including stitching on the steering wheel and dashboard that is normally the preserve of more expensive cars.
The cabin is digitised as per the modern trend, with a virtual instrument cluster and a floating touchscreen. Fully-specced connectivity includes USB ports for the front and rear seats that will keep the whole family charged and happy.
The cabin’s impressively roomy and seats four tall adults comfortably, while the 337l boot swallows a good deal of retail therapy.
Dapper exterior styling is another Jolion drawcard, and its LED lights and large grille are right on point in terms of design trends.
With a step-up in build quality comes a higher price, but the Jolion is still very competitively pitched within its market segment.
At 4,472mm in length the car is a similar size to more expensive crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Peugeot 3008 and VW Tiguan, but in price it is pitched against smaller rivals like the Volkswagen T-Cross, Ford EcoSport and Hyundai Venue.
The Jolion is sold in five variants, all powered by a 1.5l petrol turbo engine with outputs of 105kW and 210Nm, available in a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
On test here is the range-topping Haval Jolion 1.5T Super Luxury auto priced at R398,900.
The turbo engine feels reasonably punchy and the car gets off the line without any major lag, though it’s quite noisy when revved hard. The dual-clutch auto shifts with slickness, though in sport mode it holds onto lower gears for what seems longer than necessary, and keeps the engine in that noisy zone.
Keep the revs low and the Jolion hums along in good refinement, with wind and road noise well muted.
There’s no pretence at off-road ability with all versions front-wheel driven, and the 168mm ground clearance is only slightly higher than a regular car’s. It doesn't feel top heavy through corners and handles neatly, with light steering contributing to an all round easy-going driving experience.
Riding on 18-inch alloys with high 55-profile tyres, the ride is reasonably well cushioned and the car feels solidly built, with no obvious judders or rattles on rough roads.
The Jolion has not yet been crash tested but airbags, ABS brakes, electronic stability control, driver fatigue detection and a tyre pressure monitoring system are standard across the range.
For the price the range-topping Jolion Super Luxury is very well stocked, with features including a wireless smartphone charging, a larger touchscreen than its cheaper siblings, 360° parking camera, high beam assist, head up display and adaptive cruise control.
It also has driver-assist features like lane-keeping assist, blind spot detection, traffic sign recognition and pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking. These safety systems proved annoyingly oversensitive, however, sounding bleeps if the car was in the general proximity of other road users or obstacles.
If you don’t like the car sounding like a mobile casino when driving, the bleeping safety systems can be separately switched off in a rather time-consuming process, but they automatically reactivate whenever the car’s started. The lower-priced Jolion models don’t have these intrusive safety nannies.
That aside, there is plenty to like about the Haval Jolion, not least it is great value for money in a crammed market segment. In build quality and sophistication it is the best Chinese vehicle we’ve yet tested.
Type: Four-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Seven-speed dual clutch automatic
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: N/A
Fuel Consumption: 7.5l /100km (claimed); 8.5l/100km (as tested)
Tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel, stability control, ABS brakes, six airbags, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, panoramic sunroof, wireless smartphone charger, touchscreen infotainment system, cruise control, electric windows, trip computer, digital instrument panel, driving modes (standard, eco, sports, snow), leather seats, electrically adjustable driver seat, tyre pressure monitor, 360° parking camera, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, pre-collision warning, dual zone climate control including rear air ducts
Warranty: Five years/100,000km
Maintenance plan: Five years/60,000km
*at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Haval Jolion 1.5T Super Luxury automatic
WE LIKE: Price, features, smart and spacious cabin
WE DISLIKE: Overintrusive safety systems
VERDICT: The best Chinese car we've tested
Motor News star rating
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Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSi Highline, 85kW/200Nm — R421,9 0
Hyundai Venue 1.0T Glide, 88kW/172Nm — R407,500
Peugeot 2008 1.2T GT, 96kW/230Nm — R479,900
Honda HR-V 1.8 Elegance, 105kW/172Nm — R491,400
Kia Seltos 1.4T-GDI GT Line, 103kW/242Nm — R493,995
Mazda CX-30 2.0 Dynamic auto, 121kW/213Nm — R499,000
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 2.0 GLS, 110kW/198Nm — R439,995
Volkswagen T-Roc 1.4TSI Design, 110kW/250Nm — R489,400
Nissan Qashqai 1.2T Midnight Edition, 85kW/165Nm — R485,400