What’s in a name? Here’s a hybrid from Haval
Over the years there have been some interesting names for cars.
Here’s the latest. The Jolion.
Or for completeness, the Great Wall Motors Haval Jolion Ultra Hybrid.
It must surely be the strangest vehicle to hit Australia since the very first Toyota Kluger – which sounded more like a cooking appliance.
Like the Kluger, the Jolion immediately found an audience for its sensible design, strong technological features and impressive build and finish.
Having previously named its models numerically (the H4 and H6), Chinese manufacturer Haval has taken a different path with the Jolion. No one is quite sure why.
Haval is part of Great Wall Motors (there’s a name with some staying power) and, as is the case with most models that have joined this ever-growing Chinese influx, it’s available at a bargain price (the entry-level Jolion costs $28,490) .
Tested here is the Ultimate Jolion – literally – which brings the full technology and luxury package to market for an enticing $40,990 drive away. It is also the first hybrid Haval model to reach these shores.
Haval will soon celebrate its 10th anniversary in Australia and the Jolion is living proof of the progress the company (and most Chinese manufacturers) have made in that time.
The four-cylinder Jolion sits at the lower end of the Haval range (competitor MG has scooped up most of the value buyers in the sub-$20,000 category), but with its clean lines, relatively plush interior and civilized road manners, it’s already enjoying popularity in Australia.
The addition of a fuel-saving, performance-enhancing hybrid powertrain will attract even more new buyers to the brand, even if only the flagship model offers access to it.
And there’s no need to feel shy or self-conscious about driving the Jolion. It’s a stylish thing inside and out, offers decent performance and is undeniably comfortable.
Its hybrid powertrain, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder 110kW engine powered by an electric motor, drives the front wheels to produce a combined 180kW.
Although its design isn’t strictly cutting edge, the Jolion is inoffensive and thankfully creators didn’t go too radical.
Yes, the front styling is bold, thanks to an oversized chrome grille that stops short of being extravagant.
Likewise the presentation of the cabin, which offers a relatively luxurious look with sweeping curves and soft surfaces. Virtually every convenience is channeled through the generously-sized touchscreen display that dominates the dashboard and center stack.
There is a smaller screen that replaces the traditional instrument panel which is useful but a bit clumsy to use. There was no luck finding a rhythm meter, despite half an hour of searching.
The Jolion features a rotary-style gear selector favored by a growing number of brands, although in the Haval it was a touch temperamental and sometimes required two or three attempts to change direction.
While there’s a lot to like about the Jolion, there were some pretty significant complaints.
On the open road it is generally well behaved. It’s a bit noisy over rough surfaces, and the petrol/hybrid combo delivers more than adequate performance while sipping a miserly 5L/100km.
The electronic safety package is comprehensive, especially for a car in this price range. But there is nothing subtle about how it works. For example, the lane keeping assist did its best to wrestle the steering wheel away from the driver every time the car crossed a solid line, or otherwise flipped from lane marker to lane mark on either side of the lane.
More disturbing was the active cruise control, which was very nervous in surrounding freeway traffic, but even worse when it detected a concrete lane barrier, causing it to slow down dramatically to avoid crashing into something that wasn’t there.
Consider braking at 110 km/h highway speed (with a large truck in the rearview mirror), for comparison.
Inside, the electronics fare better, but not perfectly, via two glossy touchscreens as has become industry standard. The main 12.3-inch digital panel was easy enough to navigate and the touchscreen generally managed to handle the regular commands put through it, although some of the protocols are a bit clunky.
Changing climate control settings, for example, required two or three good jabs with the finger before the correct function was achieved. And don’t waste time looking for digital radio – there isn’t any.
None of this (except perhaps the cruise control) should prevent the purchase of the Jolion.
It’s well equipped, nicely built and represents outstanding value for money, silly name or not.
HAVAL JOLION ULTRA HYBRID
* HOW BIG? It’s a small SUV, but offers impressive space for occupants and a decent 370 liters for cargo.
* HOW FAST? With a total of 180kW on tap, it accelerates faster than most can imagine and cruises effortlessly on the open road.
* HOW THIRSTY? Official thirst is 5L/100km which is excellent in any language.
* HOW MUCH? The Jolion series starts at $28,490. The flagship model is good buy at a tick of over 40,000, drive away.
By Peter Atkinson in Brisbane