HAVAL remains determined to continue its upward trajectory in South Africa with the addition of yet another model to its popular Jolion line-up. TopGear SA is privileged to bring you an exclusive pre-launch review of the all-new HAVAL Jolion HEV.
Only a week after the launch of the new Jolion S model, HAVAL SA has opened the order books for the most frugal Jolion one can buy. And this HEV model should be taken as a sign of a few things.
For starters, HAVAL has the ability to land product on our shores in timeous fashion. Whilst others suffer the ills of stock shortages to no end, the availability of HAVAL SUV’s remains robust, a clear reason for the continuously high sales figures in recent months.
The second thing to note re the HAVAL HEV is the firm’s ability to listen to consumers and quickly find a solution. It’s no secret that the Jolion 1.5T is more thirsty than any of us imagined, and so the HEV presents its case as the frugal alternative, albeit R130 000 more for this Luxury spec version over a Jolion Luxury 7DCT. Considering HAVAL’s value-for-money public perception, the price is significantly higher for the fuel-saving option and we’re not sure just how sales of the hybrid will go based on this. Hybrids are generally more expensive anyhow but if we look at the HAVAL Jolion HEV pricing compared to its most obvious rival, the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid (priced at R482 200 ) and even the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (priced at R698 000), the pricing of the Jolion is still relatively higher than expected. Is it worth the money? Yes it is. It is comparatively a market-related price and offers a lot of aggressive argument to justify that price.
The new Jolion HEV isn’t just different in powertrain over the petrol-turbo model but it also brings some slight design tweaks which do move the car forward in terms of desirability. For the most part, the design is the same but for a workover on the grille which now sports the spider-web design as per the H6 HEV, and revised headlamps. These new headlamps incorporate DRL’s and animated turn signals, in addition to offering very cool welcome animations when the car is unlocked, not unlike Audi’s famed lighting displays.
The overall revisions are better, offering a classier use of the chrome detailing. The HEV won’t suffer the criticisms of garish chrome accents as per the other models in the Jolion line-up.
The exterior shift hasn’t translated into any significant changes on the inside of the Jolion HEV. This doesn’t take anything away from what is a well put together cabin. 6-way, electronically-adjustable seats for both the driver and passenger as well as a modern and clutter-free design architecture are great first impressions. Faux leather abounds with beautifully embroidered HAVAL logos on the front seats. The packaging is good too in terms of passenger legroom and headroom. Boot space is slightly compromised by a battery pack under the boot floor but at 410-litres it isn’t anything to worry about.
The biggest criticisms of the Jolion in general stem from the user-experience within the 10,25-inch infotainment unit. As a general comment, the overall ergonomics aren’t good and then when you look at all the functionality within the system, there are some disappointments. In every driving experience, there are functions that are used so often that they need to be easily accessible for both driver and passenger. Climate control and volume control are the main ones and unfortunately, the HAVAL system doesn’t allow for quick access to these. These both require an extra touch of the screen to then access another sub-menu where these functions are displayed, but when you consider that the screen isn’t positioned well enough for easy touch, and the graphic functions are quite small, it makes for a sometimes frustrating experience. Sometimes, turning the climate control up by 2 degrees just takes a little longer than you’d like, especially while driving.
That said, the Jolion is still brimming with tech features and niceties such as sunroof and cruise control not to mention Apple CarPlay and Wireless charging pad. But for it’s infotainment worries and thin steering wheel, it’s an airy and comfortable cabin.
Some have also complained that there is no spare wheel in the HEV, instead replaced by a puncture repair kit.
Hybrid power means a small, 1.5-litre petrol engine mated side by side to an electric motor. As mentioned, the battery pack is located at the rear of the car and altogether, these components work to deliver a healthy dose of performance as well as real-world economy. 140kW and 375Nm is on paper, an excellent output but it translates into a torque-steery experience when you try to exploit it. It’s normal for a vehicle with FWD and when it does eventually overcome the torque steer, it does accelerate strongly enough. The HEV even features launch control which essentially exploits the immediate power from the battery off the line and then the combined motors do the rest. It's surprising that it's there but no less welcome. Launch control is important.
Dynamically, the Jolion HEV suffers some body roll and weight shifts are pronounced, more so than some competitors. As an everyday cruiser, however, the Jolion must be commended for its ease of driving and its overall comfort.
The big feather in its cap is its frugality. With a 55-litre petrol tank we exceeded our range expectations by some margin. HAVAL claims a 5.0l/100km fuel economy, but we managed 4.7l/100km and managed to turn out 920kms on one tank of fuel. It is really impressive. The drivetrain’s behaviour can only be criticised in its lack of overall refinement and how it switches between the different power modes. Toyota seems to have this a little more refined but don’t let it detract from what is an impressive offering.
This Luxury spec features a number of safety and convenience features but does without the Adaptive Cruise Control available in the Super Luxury version. This is a good thing. Whilst HAVAL has made amazing progress in perceived build-quality, luxury and drivetrain options, I’d not recommend its Adaptive Cruise and Collision Avoidance systems. This Luxury spec is the one to have.
The whole TopGear SA teams spends a significant amount of time discussing HAVAL ownership with potential HAVAL customers. We get the calls daily about after-sales, service and the big question, long-term reliability. The short answer in terms of long-term reliability is that we just don't know. This new wave of HAVAL products doesn't have glaring issues in terms of longevity so we simply have to wait and see. In our experience, most new cars don't run hassle-free especially with the amount of electronic components and computation in modern cars. The bigger questions perhaps, is whether the growing HAVAL network is growing at a rate fast enough to handle the significant shift in sales. Our answer there is perhaps not...yet.
HAVAL SA is putting resources into growing their network as well as making parts available in shorter time but whether it can gain the kind of momentum in service that it has in sales is anyone's guess. What we do know is that Jolion makes a good proposition as a first entry into the brand for many. My take is that there is a real shift in how HAVAL sees our market and I would guess that they will do everything in their significant corporate power to win us over not just with desirable products, but with the additional service levels that we expect as consumers.
HAVAL Jolion HEV is a good car in its segment. It provides an entry into hybrid motoring at a good price all considered. Where can you buy a car with so much standard specification that will also offer a practical motoring proposition with a really unbelievable fuel economy? It's a strong entry into the fold and to those customers demanding a new hybrid Corolla Cross or RAV4 Hybrid but can't get their hands on one, the Jolion is a strong option.
The ergonomics will irritate you at first but as with anything, if you're able to resolve that compared to the overall value, then you'll enjoy the HEV addition to the Jolion fold. Get one in Mars Red for a standout expression or Hamilton White, the colour of our test car.