JOHANNESBURG – Despite the devastating consequences that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the global automotive industry, the local arm of GWM and Haval managed to continue to invest in the brand’s presence in South Africa with the introduction of the P-Series bakkie in late 2020. Now the brand just began its next phase of local vehicle introductions with the Haval Jolion. The firm’s Managing Director Phil Li stated that the company proudly accounts for 96 per cent of Chinese branded cars sold locally and this market share is set to be cemented by this launch.
Entering the crowded compact SUV arena is not something to be taken lightly and Haval reckon that they’ve done sufficient research and development on the Jolion to grab sales from their closest competitors. In order for the new Jolion to make a strong first impression we were handed the keys to the flagship Super Luxury model at the launch.
The vehicle was penned by the brand’s Design Director Phil Simmons the same man that was responsible for a variety of Land Rover designs over the years including the 2016 Evoque and 2017 Range Rover Velar. As a result, the Haval Jolion’s exterior offers a characterful aesthetic that helps it to stand out from the current crop of compact crossovers. It manages to do so with a large chrome-look grille with horizontal slats or an optional “bling grille” can be selected for an even bolder look.
The LED daytime running lights trail from the headlamps into the bumper while around the back the rear LED lights mimic the elongated design of the front units. The mid and high-spec Luxury and Super Luxury models feature two-tone diamond-cut 18-inch alloy wheels and a large panoramic sunroof that complete the look. On the winding backroads of Gauteng the group of Jolion test cars in their variety of colours certainly managed to stand out on the road.
Underneath the sculpted sheet metal the Haval Jolion rides on the brands L.E.M.O.N modular platform which makes its way to South Africa for the very first time. We had the opportunity to drive on both smooth asphalt as well as severely rutted and potholed roads and on the poor surfaces the Jolion did well to deal with the bumps with some shaking coming through the steering wheel. The ride is thankfully on the softer side and body roll is evident when chucked into a corner. For the most part the vehicle felt refined on the highway with just some wind noise penetrating the cabin at the national speed limit and remained pleasingly supple over shard road imperfections.
All Haval Jolion models are powered by a 1,5-litre turbocharged petrol engines that develops 105 kW between 5 600-6 000 r/min and 210 N.m between 2 000-4 400 r/min with the grunt sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. We drove the latter self-shifting unit and it feels well suited to the vehicle as it works intuitively with your throttle inputs and adapts well to the selected driving mode of which there are four: Standard, Eco, Sport and Snow. There are also paddle shifters should you wish to change gear yourself but it dual-clutch is more than capable than managing the ratios when left to its own devices. When pulling away on steep inclines the transmission can take a while to fully engage as but a standard hill-hold assist function keeps the car from rolling back.
The performance figures are on paper superior to its naturally aspirated rivals like the similar priced 1,5-litre 84 kW Hyundai Creta and 1,6-litre 90 kW Kia Seltos, however, on the road the engine did suffer from noticeable turbo-lag and needed to rev beyond 2 500 r/min before feeling like the turbo was really on song. Our test unit did only have 34 km on the clock when we got behind the wheel and I have no doubt that it should feel livelier once properly run-in. In terms of fuel economy the Haval Jolion claims to average 8,1 L/100 km and we saw an average of 9,2 L/100 km on our 250 km test drive. This makes the Jolion thirstier than expected but again the very low mileage on our test car could also be responsible for the inflated consumption.
The Haval Jolion certainly looks the part, the ride is inoffensive and the performance from its turbopetrol mill is sufficient, however, it’s the practicality, interior ambience and comprehensive equipment levels that impress the most. Step inside and you’re met by a contemporary feeling cabin that’s dominated by a massive 12,3-inch infotainment screen that’s responsible for managing nearly every setting available on the vehicle however there is a touch operated panel below the screen that offers shortcuts to some of the heating and ventilation controls. The perceived quality of the cabin is good too with soft-touch materials used on frequently touched sections of the interior and white stitching on the seats, steering wheel and dashboard. Harder plastics can be found on the upper door sills and on the centre console but we didn’t experience any squeaks or rattles.
Once sat in the six-way adjustable seat you’ll notice that the driver’s instrument cluster is a digital affair and this top-spec model features a colour 8,6-inch heads-up display with traffic sign recognition. The on-board technology continues with a wireless charging pad, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, and a host of safety features. Super Luxury models see the addition of adaptive cruise control with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist and a lane centre assist system that will steer the vehicle for a few seconds without driver inputs. A high-definition 360-degree panoramic view parking camera is part of the package too. Practicality is impressive with 26 on-board storage spaces, ample rear head and legroom and a decent sized boot at a claimed 337 dm3.
The Haval Jolion on first impression is a vehicle that has been well thought out and ticks many boxes. It’s been designed to compete in a highly competitive segment and is built to cost without neglecting consumer expectations regarding practicality, performance, on-board technology and safety kit. Pricing begins at R299 900 and tops out at R398 900 and with a quick glance at similarly specced rivals there’s no doubt that even at a shade under R400k the Jolion offers strong value for money and this alone may be enough to convince potential buyers to take the leap.