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Haval Jolion

In an effort to make the name of its new H2 SUV replacement more palatable and pronounceable outside of China, Haval has changed it from Chulian to Jolion. Chulian means “first love” in Chinese, and at the local launch of the newcomer in Midrand, it was the very keen pricing of the newcomer that people fell in love with first.

Five model derivatives – all with front-wheel drive and powered by a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine – are now available at Haval dealers, with the entry-level City model available for under R300,000 and the flagship Super Luxury derivative for less than R400k. And these include a five-year/100,000 km warranty and a five-year/60,000 km service plan!

Following the initial introduction of the H2 to South Africa in May 2017 (three years after it was launched in China), the Chinese SUV quickly gained popularity, with 400 units sold on average per month in 2019. A revamped and upgraded version was launched here in early 2020, with its Chulian (Jolion) successor, based on Haval’s somewhat unfortunately named new modular Lemon platform, first shown at the 2020 Beijing Auto Show in September last year.

Crisp, Contemporary Design

Designed by ex-JLR designer Phil Simmonds, the Jolion has fresh, crisp and contemporary styling. Its prominent grille is accentuated by horizontal chrome bars (a chromed grille with intricate pattern is optionally available) and flanked by slim LED Vison headlamps (on Luxury and Super Luxury grade) and conspicuously upright daytime running lights.

The austere side design features a single character line running to the rear, chrome-rimmed side windows and chromed roof rails. At the rear, big taillights with an elongated C-shape (and unique light signature), a small roof spoiler, and a chrome diffuser complete its SUV-specific shape. It is complemented by attractive wheel designs (particularly on the top models). 

Inside, the quality of the interior trim is surprisingly premium, with soft-touch materials on the front console, plastic panels with a tasteful metallic look, and leather seats (except in the City and Premium derivatives) available in different colour trims. White stitching on the steering wheel, the dash and seats, and Haval branding on the seat further heighten the feeling of elegance. 

A floating 12.3” infotainment touch panel dominates the front console, and the rotary dial gear shifter in the centre console of the auto models (as already used in some JLR products, but with retract function) adds a touch of class. The so-called Virtual Instrument Cluster has three visual modes (eco, normal and sport) to personalise the driver experience, and an 8.6” Heads-Up Display with traffic sign recognition is standard, as is a push-button start and keyless entry.

Well-Equipped

Besides Apple Carplay (and soon Android Auto) compatibility for the infotainment system, the Jolion features charging ports for the driver and front passenger as well as for two rear passengers, as well as wireless charging. A full suite of safety systems, including front and side airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, hill assist, a tyre pressure monitoring system, rear park sensors, anti-roll and secondary collision mitigation, are standard.

With its long wheelbase (2,700 mm), the Jolion offers up to 26 storage areas and substantial boot space (from 337 litres up to 1,133 litres), and besides the interior colour options, the new Haval SUV is available in six exterior colours, including an exciting sky blue and dazzling green hue.

Driving Dynamics

The Jolion is powered by an upgraded version of the four-cylinder, 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine used in the H2. Delivering 102 kW from 5,600 to 6,000 r/min and 210 Nm of torque between 2,000 and 4,400 r/min, the engine is now mated to a seven-speed DCT (versus a six-speed auto in the H2) in the Luxury and Super Luxury auto models. 

On a route around Gauteng in the Luxury and Super Luxury derivatives, it was soon clear the engine management software has been extensively upgraded. As experienced in the H2, the initial turbo lag has been addressed, leading to a substantial improvement in smoothness and a better overall driving experience.

While not overly powerful, the engine felt willing and eager, in part due to the well-spaced ratios of the new DCT. Still, we quickly found it best to let the transmission do its own thing, as it wasn’t keen to react to manual input (the gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel are actually a waste). The different drive modes also led to negligible behaviour changes on the road, and it was best to just keep it in the default setting.

The worst trait of the high-spec models was the very intrusive and highly nervous Lane Support System. The Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Centre Keeping warning bells kept chiming (prematurely and unexpectedly), and this really spoilt the driving experience. For the sake of sanity, we quickly figured out how to switch off all of these systems.

With its long wheelbase, the Jolion handled rutted roads with aplomb, and its overall road manners impressed, but its low ride height and ground clearance (also due to 18” low-profile tyres) can be a concern when you need to tackle rough dirt roads.     

Last Word

The Jolion represents a big step up from the H2 in terms of design, specification levels and refinement while offering the spaciousness and specification levels of a compact SUV – at a small SUV price point. Given all the improvements over its predecessor, it represents excellent value for money, making it a highly attractive alternative in the burgeoning SUV market.

Report by FERDI DE VOS | Images © HAVAL SA & FERDI DE VOS

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