The new Haval Jolion is significantly more affordable than rivals like the Kia Seltos and the Mitsubishi ASX – but is this Chinese-made small SUV cheap for a reason?
The Haval Jolion has arrived in Australia with a price that will shake up the small SUV segment.
That’s a good thing, because most small crossovers sold in Australia represent pretty poor value for money when compared to the traditional hatchbacks they are usually based on.
That’s not the case for the Jolion, which is priced from $25,490 driveaway in entry-level form, $27,990 driveaway in the mid-tier Jolion Lux tested here, and $31,990 driveaway in loaded-out Ultra trim.
But is the Jolion too good to be true? Is this Chinese-built small SUV cheap for a reason?
Well, it turns out that to get the Jolion to such an affordable price point, corners were inevitably cut in some places – particularly inside the car.
But in other ways, the Jolion surprised us with how adequate it is, despite costing thousands less than better-known rivals.
The Haval Jolion rides comfortably on its 17-inch wheels and chunky 215/60 tyres. It also has a noticeably superior chassis tune than some rivals.
The Jolion feels settled most of the time. The limits of the handling are modest, and the Jolion pushes into understeer quite quickly, but it steers with reasonable confidence as long as you don’t push too hard.
Compared to a Skoda Kamiq or Kia Seltos, the Jolion doesn’t feel as planted, but it’s noticeably less wayward in the corners than an MG ZS or Mitsubishi ASX, both of which trigger intrusion from stability control much sooner.
On a smooth and straight road you will notice a few tremors from the suspension as the Jolion’s fixed dampers never totally settle down – it’s similar to a Hyundai Kona in that sense.
Perhaps the biggest problems with the Jolion’s dynamics aren’t about the mechanical components at all, but the driving position – which is impinged by a steering wheel that is, astoundingly, not adjustable for reach.
Under the bonnet is an adequate engine – a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder producing 110kW of power and 220Nm of torque. The forced induction means the Jolion has decent responsiveness at low revs and it pulls up hills quite strongly.
Noticeably, the engine is far less thrashy than the naturally-aspirated motors used by many of the Haval’s rivals.
The Jolion is only available with front-wheel-drive, and torque is transmitted via a seven speed dual-clutch automatic. The DCT is unobtrusive enough in ordinary driving but demand more power and it can become confused, hunting for a gear and at times feeling as though a clutch is being slipped.
Refinement is quite impressive in the Jolion, with good levels of noise suppression at highway speeds. This is also where the fuel consumption calms down to about 7.5L/100km – the Jolion uses about 10L/100km in combined driving.
Haval are generous with safety kit, and all models benefit from AEB, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and even a front centre airbag.
The Jolion has not yet been rated with an ANCAP safety score, but the inclusion of a centre ‘bag indicates that Haval are trying for a five-star result.
However, the mere inclusion of these modern technologies is not enough – they also have to be tuned well.
The lane keeping assistance is overzealous, at times pulling the steering wheel towards the centre line or the edge of a road, misreading the situation – and the “safe distance” alert is oversensitive.
The Jolion’s interior presents very smartly, but closer inspection reveals the beauty is skin-deep.
In a hugely lazy move, Haval have failed to convert the angled structure of the dashboard for right-hand-drive use.
The central touchscreen, climate touch-buttons and dash shape itself are tilted towards the passenger seat – which is the driver’s side in the Jolion’s home market of mainland China.
While you eventually become used to the odd angle from the pilot’s chair, frustration shifts to two other considerable blights on the Jolion’s otherwise pretty cabin.
The handsome contrast-stitching steering wheel is adjustable for rake but not for reach – a decision that is wildly out of step with rivals and leaves you steering with locked elbows, which is deeply unsafe and quite uncomfortable.
Simultaneously, too many key functions are controlled through a touchscreen based around arcane menu structures. While there are (unlabelled) shortcut panels accessible by dragging from the various edges of the interface, the absence of buttons and knobs for things like volume, fan speed or temperature makes life harder than it should be.
The cabin of the Jolion isn’t all bad, though.
That ten-inch touchscreen (12-inch in the Ultra variant) is bright, high-resolution and much snapper than the display in the new Volkswagen Golf, for example.
It includes wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and these systems look great with the crisp resolution – as does the 360-degree camera, which is superior in resolution and quality than any rival we’ve tested.
The seats are reasonably comfortable though they lack under-thigh angle adjustment, leaving longer-legged drivers feeling unsupported – and the vinyl-like upholstery in the Lux leads to sweaty backs in summer.
But it’s big in here, and practical. There’s a lot of storage space up front, but it’s the rear seat where the Jolion shines.
It’s simply huge – limo-like, even. Six-footers are swallowed up by the space in the rear with ease, with enormous amounts of legroom and headroom. Haval have also managed to make the floor totally flat, making the middle seat usable.
There’s a 430-litre boot in the Jolion, too, which is on the larger side for this class. A space-saver spare wheel sits beneath the floor.
The Jolion is reasonably affordable to run when compared to key rivals.
First, Haval have smartly matched Kia’s warranty of seven years with unlimited kilometres to make the Jolion more reassuring to keep long-term.
That is important, because the reliability and durability of this car are basically untested in Australian conditions – so the peace of mind of a long warranty helps.
Haval also publish capped price servicing costs for the Jolion, which amount to $1,550 over five years.
The first service is due at 12 months or 10,000km, while the subsequent services are annual or every 15,000km.
Fuel consumption is where the Jolion fails to impress as an ownership proposition.
We found it hard to keep the Jolion under 10L/100km in mixed driving: not exactly frugal. On the highway, this settled to 7.5L/100km or so.
The Haval Jolion will be a welcome arrival for SUV shoppers on a budget.
It’s relatively handsome and packs an enormous, practical interior. It also includes a long specification sheet, with many safety features, at an appealingly low price.
However, it’s clear that this price was achieved by cutting a few corners. Compromises in the tuning of that safety tech, along with silly mistakes like the incorrectly orientated interior fittings and lack of reach adjustment for the steering wheel, limit the appeal.
Still, if these things don’t bother you, the Jolion is – quite honestly – an adequate SUV. It rides and handles in an acceptably sorted manner and the engine offers more usable torque than many rivals.
What is clear is that Chinese-built cars are continuously improving. Watch this space.
Key specs (as tested)
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