Haval Jolion Ultra - the jolly one
It’s red and jolly but it’s not Santa Claus; it’s the newest offering from SUV specialists, Haval. Yes, it has an unusual name, but is the new Jolion a serious competitor?
The world’s most prolific maker of SUVs, Haval, is restocking its local arsenal with the arrival of two all-new models and a refresher for the other. The first along is this new Jolion, quickly followed by a new H6, while the H9 is in for a makeover. We’ve covered the H6 in the news, and details of the H9 are still TBC, but this new Jolion we can elaborate on, having just spent a week behind its wheel.
First up, the Jolion is not the H2 replacement. For one, it’s a bigger vehicle at almost 4.5m long, and two, the old H2 will be replaced by a new one, though when exactly is unclear. So once current stocks of H2 are gone, the Jolion will be the local Haval entry point for a time.
And it’s an attractive prospect given it starts at just $25,990 for the Premium. Yes, that’s what they call the entry model, but it seems appropriate given how loaded the spec sheet is relative to the price asked. That variant won’t be available until July however, but the midrange Lux ($28,990 with things like a 360-degree camera, digital instrument cluster, powered and heated seats, privacy glass and LED lights) and the $31,990 Ultra (glass roof, charge pad, head-up display, ambient lighting), as pictured, will be here by the time you read this.
Jolion, if you must know, is the anglicised version of its name in China, ‘chu lian’, which is Mandarin for ‘first love’. Jolion sits on Haval’s new lightweight, high-strength and scalable transverse platform which the firm curiously labels L.E.M.O.N. Anyhow, it includes more high strength steels and the like to make it sturdier, more refined and perform better in crash testing. There are no official smash results available just yet though.
There’s a new 1.5-litre turbopetrol under the hood with 105kW and 230Nm, and it’s hooked to a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission. That channels the flow to the front end only. The rear is suspended by a torsion beam.
Taking the price into consideration, the Jolion makes a good first impression. Its overall form is on the money and the front end is quite eye-catching, although some might find it a little too blingy with its lashings of chrome. Inside it’s well styled too, even if the form has come at the expense of some functionality. But hey, it does look flash.
The big centre screen lords over everything, and while the menus are logically laid out, some of the key touchpoints, like the home button and temperature controls, are miniaturised, making them hard to hit on the go. The colour theme is interesting too.
There are no buttons, only a few markers on the haptic pad below the screen. It means you’re forever delving into the screen for just about everything, and the only volume controller for the audio seems to be the one located on the steering wheel. It is a vibrant screen however, which makes the scenery look stunning when it displays the reverse and surround view cameras, both of which are top notch. The rotary controller for the transmission looks premium too, but they could have packaged it better to provide more console storage. The few slots offered are rather impractical.
Jolion does have a big accessible charge pad however and the storage bins are good too. Its interior is well made, and has some interesting surfaces but so too a few hard points, especially where your leg tends to rest up against the centre console. The seat is well formed but lacks decent adjustment and as the steering wheel is without reach movement, finding a comfortable driving position can take time.
There are myriad safety minders, most of which can be switched off in the submenus of the touchscreen. The lane keeping nudges you about between the lines and the tailgater warning dings constantly. So you back off to make it stop and then someone moves into the rather large and inviting gap you have just created. The active cruise will take care of slow moving traffic queues, but gets a bit confused when approaching intersections, so best you wrest back control there. And whatever you do, don’t turn the Drive Monitoring System on.
The 1.5 turbo makes good numbers but suffers some lag below 1500rpm before the torque curve plumps nicely. The engagement of the twin-clutch is alright once it’s warmed up, though the take up in reverse can occasionally be quite abrupt. It swaps cogs smoothly though occasionally the shifting protocols don’t quite nail it. Like when it will try to pull away at slow speeds in second gear but there’s just not the torque to achieve that, so watch this at T-intersections and roundabouts. The test car was too new to get a decent gauge on fuel consumption, but the trip computer suggested 8.0L/100km, which seemed about right, and on the claim as well.
Suspension is tuned for a smooth ride, though the dampers will crash over bigger bumps. The steering is light weighted (it actually has three levels of assistance but the control for it is, you guessed it, four menus deep in the touchscreen, as are the various drive modes) while the turning circle is a tad larger than you might expect. Forward vision is well sorted, though the form of the glasshouse means the rear view is a bit tight. A multi-angle camera helps with parking.
Jolion rides reasonably on the highway, noise levels from the road and engine subdued. Overtaking needs a decent straight to achieve, and the engine to rev right out. In the bends, the steering is light on feedback, and so when the front pushes into understeer, it can happen rather abruptly. The ESP can catch it if you’re not prepared, a good thing as occasionally this will upset the front-heavy balance, which can get the rear moving too when the road is slippery.
Back seat occupants won’t complain as Jolion provides excellent leg- and headroom. There’s even some thought given to centre passenger comfort with decent padding to the pew and plenty of foot space too. The boot is well shaped, though the floor is set quite high, robbing it of ultimate capacity. There’s a space saver spare, and split folding is a simple procedure, presenting a flat load area.
The Jolion isn’t perfect but at the price you can overlook the minor foibles; there are no real dealbreakers involved here.
For less money than some small cars ask, you are getting a mid-size SUV with a loaded specification sheet and a five-year, 100,000km warranty. Jolly good value then.
Model Haval Jolion Ultra Price $31,990
Engine 1497cc, IL4, T/DI, 105kW/210Nm
Transmission 7-speed twin-clutch, front-wheel drive
Vitals 10.50sec 0-100km/h, 8.1L/100km, g/km, 1445kg