Haval 2021
launch-review

2021 Haval Jolion Ultra launch review

Haval’s new small SUV brings premium touches to the budget end of the SUV market.
- shares

While the Haval brand has more or less ticked away quietly in the Australian market, it’s long held aspirations to be bigger and better.

Compared to the 2021 Haval Jolion, the previous Haval H2 was cheap, but that was about the only positive attribute it had. Its indirect successor aims to make up for that by being better in a number of ways: better to drive, better value, better equipment and better safety.

As we’ve seen when we tested the larger Haval H6, the brand isn’t just making empty claims. What’s really been happening behind the scenes is a continual improvement of product in Haval’s home market of China – until recently Australian-delivered cars fell out of step with these advancements.

Now with a fresh focus on international markets, the GWM Haval brand has a new platform to build new models on, unlocking right-hand-drive markets like Australia, and looping us into the latest technological and dynamic developments from the SUV-specialist brand.

In the case of the Jolion, a three-variant range is available in Australia. The Jolion Premium kicks off from $25,490 drive-away, the mid-spec Jolion Lux is priced at $27,990 drive-away, and the top-shelf Jolion Ultra tested here carries a $30,990 drive-away price tag.

For full details of equipment and specifications read our comprehensive run-down.

Needless to say, Haval has positioned the Jolion as a lot of car for the money. Most of the range slots in under the price of smaller and less powerful light SUVs, like the Mazda CX-3, Ford Puma and Nissan Juke.

Being one size larger, officially designated a small SUV, the Jolion settles in against natural rivals like the Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos, Mitsubishi ASX and Honda HR-V.

Key data2021 Haval Jolion
Engine1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power110kW at 5600–6000rpm
Torque220Nm at 2000–4400rpm
Weight (tare)1400kg
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
TransmissionSeven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Power to weight ratio78.6kW/t
PriceFrom $25,490 drive-away

Interior comfort

Interior space here is generous, but there are a few shortcomings that mean it won't be perfect for everyone.

The cabin is big for the segment, so there’s not really any shortage of interior space. The wheelbase (the distance between front and rear axles) is longer than that of most rivals in the segment, and that means more in which to spread the seating layout across.

Rear seat space is plentiful, and even with the standard panoramic sunroof of the Ultra specification, head room is acceptable for adults. Features you might not expect to find in lower-priced compact SUVs are present here, including a pair of USB charge points and air vents in the back of the centre console.

With a flat floor there’s no awkward straddling for the centre occupant, and there’s even enough back seat width to make travelling three-up in the back more than bearable.

The front seats are equally spacious and set far enough apart that front occupants aren’t jostling for elbow room.

On the surface, the Jolion Ultra looks swish, with leather-look trim, heated front seats and a powered driver’s seat. Long-range comfort is a little hampered, though. There’s no driver’s lumbar adjustment, and the steering wheel moves up and down, but not in and out, positioning it close to the dash yet a long way from the driver. And I say that as someone with unusually long ape-arms.

Boot space is decent too. The boot floor is a little on the high side, which can make lifting in heavy items a bit of a chore, but the big square space available is a generous 393L. Again, that’s at the large end of the segment.

The boot misses out on extras like a dual-height floor or tie-down points, and there’s a pair of bag hooks, though they aren't pronounced enough to keep all bags in situ. The rear seats can be folded via a 60:40 split opening up a claimed 1193L of space.

Infotainment and connectivity

As the flagship, the Jolion Ultra comes packed with all the bells and whistles, as you might expect.

So in the case of the Jolion Ultra that means a 12.3-inch touchscreen display versus 10.25-inch screens in the lower grades. The Ultra also picks up features like wireless phone charging and a driver’s head-up display.

The Lux and Ultra also come with a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, and a six-speaker audio system with DTS audio processing.

The infotainment system itself comes with wired smartphone mirroring for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus Bluetooth and AM/FM radio. No grade of Jolion comes with either digital radio, satellite navigation or any kind of connected features.

It’s also worth mentioning here that the Jolion, much like the H6 before it, dispenses with traditional buttons and controls most features and functions through the touchscreen.

That presents some problems. For instance, if you want to adjust the seat heating or climate control, you’ll need to find the menu for that function and make the change. If you’re using your phone’s software, there's no shortcut access despite the massive screen, though you can swipe down from the top of the screen to access a menu shortcut.

A little bafflingly, seat heating isn’t in with climate control, but is buried in vehicle settings, and there are still some right-hand-drive quirks. For instance, the driver's seat is operated from the left side of the screen, but the passenger’s is from the right.

The climate screen also displays the left zone on the right and the right zone on the left, and the home key is at the far-left of the screen instead of within the driver’s reach.

It’s all a bit more frustrating than it ought to be, and Haval hasn’t done the best job with its user interface. Here’s hoping the Australian arm can expedite a software update that pulls those left-hand-drive origin quirks into line.

There is, at least, the option of a blue list-style infotainment design, or a purple tiled layout if you’d like to change those parameters. Plus, you can store photos and videos in the infotainment system if you desire.

Safety

At the time of publication, safety authority ANCAP had yet to publish crash-test results for the Jolion (or any of GWM Haval’s new-generation products).

The entire Jolion range shares the same list of safety features, including seven airbags, including one between front seat occupants to reduce the risk of head-clash, and pretensioning seatbelts too.

Stability and traction control with secondary collision mitigation is standard, as is tyre pressure monitoring.

There’s even a USB port up near the interior mirror – not for safety per se, but for the peace of mind (and tidy installation) of a dash cam if you need one.

Value for money

The Jolion gets a big tick when it comes to value. The range starts from $25,490 drive-away with the only add-on option being a $495 surcharge for metallic paint.

That base-model Jolion Premium comes well stocked with 17-inch alloy wheels, a 10.25-inch infotainment screen, cloth seat trim, keyless entry and push-button start, halogen headlights and manual air-con.

Stepping up to the $27,990 drive-away Jolion Lux adds in LED headlights, leather-look seat trim, heated front seats, a powered driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control and a 360-degree camera.

It feels like the sweet spot in the range, and brings plenty of premium upgrades for a small extra outlay over the base model.

Bigger infotainment, 18-inch wheels, wireless charging, a panoramic roof and a head-up display make up the Jolion Ultra’s highlights, and at $30,990 it keeps pricing sharp for that level of equipment.

Driver technology

Driver technologies and assistance features are available no matter the grade.

All Jolion variants come with autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection and intersection intervention, rear cross-traffic alert and braking, blind-spot monitoring with lane-change assist, lane-keep assist with lane centring and departure alert, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, and camera-based driver-attention monitoring.

That latter feature is a little clunky. Whereas most brands hide the driver-facing camera in the instrument cluster, Haval tacks a chunky pod into the side of the driver’s A-pillar. Still, better to have the tech than not.

The one step-up the Jolion Ultra adds is a multi-angle high-res 360-degree camera system, over the reverse camera on other grades.

In action, the lane-assist functions work well, but the adaptive cruise control would often pick up vehicles in adjacent lanes and slow suddenly to match their speed unnecessarily.

At a glance2021 Haval Jolion
Fuel consumption (claimed combined)8.1L/100km
Fuel consumption (on test)9.9L/100km
Fuel tank size55L
Tow rating1500kg braked, 710kg unbraked
Boot volume430L/1133L
Length4472mm
Width1841mm
Height1574mm
Wheelbase2700mm
Turning circleN/A
ANCAP safety ratingUnrated
WarrantySeven-year, unlimited km
Servicing cost$810 (three-year) / $1550 (five-year)
PriceFrom $25,490 drive-away
Colour as testedHamilton White
Options as testedN/A
CompetitorsMitsubishi ASX | MG ZST | Kia Seltos

Powertrain performance

With a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine producing 110kW at 5600–6000rpm and 220Nm from 2000–4400rpm, the Jolion looks to be competitive on paper.

In start-stop urban traffic, the turbo engine exhibits plenty of lag, so there’s a slight delay between pressing the accelerator and getting a significant response from the engine.

It’s not the worst in its class but most modern turbo engines have overcome this, so the Haval feels a bit behind.

The sole transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Dual-clutch autos can be either sharp and super-smooth, or a bit jittery and hesitant, and the Jolion leans more towards the latter. It can be hard to get a smooth start, and some of that hesitation setting off, coupled with the engine lag, makes for a surgy drive in heavy traffic.

Ask for a burst of acceleration and the Jolion will deliver, though it’s never particularly quick about it. On the open road it will often change down what feels like one too many gears, and often dropping from seventh gear down to fourth.

There’s plenty of noise as an accompaniment, but not a steady build in speed, nor a strong one.

It’s not inherently bad, for all of that, just far from the head of its class. There’s a sport mode, which makes the transmission a touch more assertive, though selecting it is confirmed via a rapid flash from the hazard lights, which is needlessly alarmist.

Energy efficiency

Haval claims a stout fuel consumption figure of 8.1 litres per 100km in combined use. That’s not astronomical, but it’s on the higher side for a segment usually filled with six-point-something claims.

On test we saw 9.9L/100km, which isn’t spectacular for the segment, though for the most part we kept to town use more than open-road touring.

The Jolion does at least suggest it will be happy on a diet of cheaper 91-octane regular unleaded. No need to feed it more expensive premium unleaded.

Ride and handling

A little like the powertrain tuning, the final settings for the suspension feel close to the mark, but not quite there.

The Jolion is comfy, and presents no rude surprises to speak of. There's a bit of thumping into the cabin over abrupt bumps, and what feels like some shudder or shimmying from the rear end over successive imperfections.

The body takes an extra recovery bounce or two on some occasions before settling fully, but the trade-off is a ride that’s more compliant over tarmac joins and expansion joints than some rivals.

The steering is fairly light and a little wooly.

All up, it’s not as if the Jolion is pretending to be some kind of new dynamic benchmark or hot-handling SUV. It’s a mild-mannered urban SUV and fits the role well – just not excelling in any particular area.

Brake hard or tip eagerly into a corner and the Jolion isn’t going to provide cheap thrills, but it is stable and controlled in its roadholding to feel safe and secure.

Fit for purpose

With small SUVs often highlighting their compact dimensions, and usually trimming back rear seat and boot space as a result, the Jolion feels like a true crossover in the segment.

It doesn’t quite match the proportions of medium SUVs in the next segment up, but it offers freedom and flexibility for users that might call the rear seats into action on a regular basis, but don’t want a vehicle that’s too cumbersome to drive.

It also shines a light in value with the top-spec Jolion Ultra lining up uncomfortably close to entry-level models from some rivals.

Conclusion

As with the Haval H6 before it, the new Jolion sweeps in as a fresh start for the brand, and far improved compared to its predecessor.

With agreeable styling and bold head- and tail-light signatures, the Jolion is hard to miss. Add in a plush equipment list, and contemporary interior design that cleverly puts all the soft and squishy surfaces under your arms and elbows, but keeps hard plastics (largely) out of reach, and the Jolion is a pleasing compact SUV.

It’s not going to turn the segment on its head. The engine is a little uninspiring and doesn’t always gel with its transmission, and the ride and handling lack clarity in what they’re trying to achieve.

Still, for buyers who don’t demand a car that excels in all areas, the Jolion makes sense. Importantly, it excels where it counts: lots of equipment, generally sized, and with a modest price tag.

Expect to see plenty more of these on Australian roads.

MORE: Jolion news and reviews
MORE: Everything Haval