With six variants available from $28,490 to $40,990, there is a Haval Jolion for just about everyone. We spent a week driving the sportier mid-range option, in the form of the attractive S model, which hits the road at $36,990 drive away.
Before we discuss the drive experience and practicality of the Jolion S, it’s best to summarise what’s on offer. The Premium is the entry level, and features 17-inch wheels, cloth seats, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
The Lux adds a 360-degree camera, leather steering wheel, Comfort-Tek heated, electric seats, dual-zone climate and LED lighting. The Ultra lifts for a bigger 12.3-inch touchscreen, a head-up display, and 18-inch alloys.
It also gets a panoramic sunroof and wireless charging. Our Hamilton White Jolion S grabs all of that, plus independent rear suspension, blacked out mirrors, bumpers and roof rails, and black alloy wheels.
Above the S sits the Lux Hybrid, at the same price as the S, and the top spec Ultra Hybrid. It has the full monty of infotainment, driver aids and features, and hits the road at $40,990 drive away.
Take a walk around the Jolion S and it’s an impressive vehicle. The blacked out bits, combined with the dark tint, really give the car a sporty, tough look against the glossy white paint.
With chrome highlights such as the grille and the 3D badging, finished off with stylish LED headlights and funky taillights, we reckon Haval have certainly styled the Jolion well. It’s the same inside too.
Here you’ll find high level trim and design elements well beyond the price point. This reviewer was, frankly, shocked at just how good it is. From the carbon-look to the enormous touchscreen and digital dash, the Jolion S has it all.
The dash has acres of soft touch areas and chrome or brushed alloy-look highlights, and climate and mode shortcut buttons that are well placed. So too is the soft centre armrest and drive selector dial. Six-way electric seat adjustment ensures comfort too.
About the only thing missing is seat memory and reach adjustment on the steering wheel, which is a shame. The head-up display is easily adjusted to suit, or switched off should you like to drive without it.
The Chinese-English translation of some aspects of the car’s tech can be a challenge though, and it needs some work. So too do the driver assist functions, because they’re all overly sensitive and difficult to deactivate. Some are poorly calibrated as well.
That said, the amount of assists on offer is certainly impressive, with the list including lane keep assist and departure warning, lane centring, with the latter seeming to have an almost dangerous mind of its own.
Adaptive cruise control was hit and miss too, even with clear highway ahead, and would carry inconsistent speed and even confuse road barriers on corners for traffic and begin to slow. On a positive note, the 360-degree camera is one of the best we’ve ever seen.
The clarity is amazing, as are the angles. It’s as if a drone is tracking the car. Reverse parking, front parking, no matter the situation, it had us covered. Staying with the infotainment system, it’s a little complex but still fairly impressive.
Apple CarPlay works brilliantly, as does the wireless charging pad. On the storage front, there’s two different sized cup holders, and the door bins are a little on the smaller side. You’ll also find little storage slots alongside the gear selection dial.
That’s an interesting bit of kit too, as it rotates completely, meaning shifting from Drive to Reverse, or Manual mode can be challenging. There are actual modes too, in the form of Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow.
The second row offers plenty of space for both adults and kids, and there are two USB ports, air conditioning vents, two cup holders, bottle holders in the doors, and a folding centre armrest. Again, it’s an impressive area.
On the road, the Jolion S offers a decent driving experience, assists aside, with the 1.5-litre turbo engine delivering 130kW of power. It’s a little laggy when you first switch the DCT into Drive or Reverse, but it’s not ugly.
When the power engaged, the Haval will shoot off, kind of like the first time you used the clutch as a learner driver. It makes parking entertaining. We found that with increased engine and gearbox temperature, there was some slight improvement.
Overall though, the drivetrain system isn’t superb, and made us wary of how it would behave in carparks and around kids. Once you actually have some pace up, and are out on the road proper, it gets the job done reasonably well.
It struggles a little to take advantage of the seven gear ratios it has on hand, and that contributes to the 9.0-litres/100km in fuel consumption we saw during testing. Some clutch, engine mapping and gearbox refinement would make for a much improved drive.
The quirks take away from what could otherwise be a really pleasant driving experience. Issues aside though, the Jolion S has good bones. The chassis, braking and handling are impressive, and as a budget SUV it makes a great daily driver.
It actually handles really well and can be quite engaging. The steering is light and while there’s not a tonne of feel, it’s sporty and there’s enough feedback to make it enjoyable. Ride is on the firmer side of plush and there’s minimal body roll.
All-in-all, the 2023 Haval Jolion S is almost there. It needs a version two to build in the refinements and iron out the issues that it’s plagued by, but with some more development, it could be a great car. It’s just not quite there yet.
Our test vehicle was provided by GWM Haval Australia. To find out more about the 2023 Haval Jolion S, contact your local GWM Haval dealer. Images: HMC Photography.