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Haval Jolion 2022 review: Ultra

Sleek and contemporary, the Haval Jolion is a complete departure from its homely H2 predecessor. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

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The Haval Jolion’s mission is stated right there on its rump.

Chinese for ‘first love’, the badge is meant to reflect the warm and fuzzy feelings buyers seeking a meaningful relationship with a new small SUV would want to experience.

And it’s not just the name that’s striving for unbridled joy either, with parent company Great Wall Motors (GWM) hoping to also win over critics thanks to the Jolion’s all-new Lightweight Electrification Multi-purpose Omni-protection and Network (LEMON) platform, which has also debuted on the related Big Dog.

Where does GWM come up with such names?

A far cry from the homely H2 it replaces, Haval’s smallest SUV is ready to mix it with the best in class, and not just cheapies like the MG ZST and Hyundai Venue.

So, without further ado, we go straight to the top of the Jolion range, the Ultra from $31,990 drive-away, to see if it really is love beyond first sight, in the rough-and-tumble of big-city urban Australia.

At the top of the Jolion range is the Ultra. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) At the top of the Jolion range is the Ultra. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

If you prioritise low pricing, showy styling, glossy interiors, lofty equipment levels, high safety specification and a long warranty way above all else, then the Jolion’s value argument seems utterly watertight.

Even the base Premium from $26,490 driveaway includes turbo performance, keyless entry, push-button start, alarm, paddle shifts, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth telephony, a USB port near the windscreen mirror (to plug in a traffic camera), rain-sensing wipers, auto-on/off headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, space-saver spare, roof rails and a seven-year warranty.

But you’ll need to pay extra for a luggage cover, weirdly.

Every Jolion features a driver monitoring system, located at the base of the windscreen pillar. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) Every Jolion features a driver monitoring system, located at the base of the windscreen pillar. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Advanced driver-assist systems include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear AEB, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, road sign recognition, driver attention alert, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert and traffic jam assist, while a reverse camera, rear parking sensors, tyre pressure warnings, hill descent control, hill-start assist and seven airbags (dual front, side, curtain and front-centre SRS items) are also standard in the base model. Good one, Haval.

Stepping up to the Lux from $28,990 driveaway adds LED front lighting, electronic instrumentation, leather-wrapped steering wheel, synthetic (vinyl) seats (heated up front and electric adjustment for the driver’s side), dual zone climate control, 360-degree surround-view cameras, heated and auto folding exterior mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rear privacy glass, automatic windscreen defogger and that AWOL luggage cover.

Finally, the Ultra (as tested) ushers in a panoramic sunroof, 12.3-inch centre touchscreen, wireless charging, a head-up display, 4x (instead of driver’s side only) one-touch electric window switches, key-fob window close, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Metallic paint adds $495.

The Ultra has 18-inch alloy wheels. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The Ultra has 18-inch alloy wheels. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Now, the Ultra’s rollcall of standard equipment for $32K driveaway is astonishing against most equivalent Japanese (Mazda CX-30, Toyota C-HR, Subaru XV, Honda HR-V, Nissan Qashqai, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross), Korean (Kia Seltos, Hyundai Kona) and European (Peugeot 2008, Volkswagen T-Roc, Skoda Kamiq) flagship-grade rivals, all of which have prices either approaching or more likely streaking beyond $40K to match this level of content, driveaway.

What a knockout blow to the competition on the pricing front. Only the MG ZST and Mitsubishi ASX come close, although both are ageing warhorses, and also keep in mind that most rivals also offer all-wheel drive instead of just front-wheel drive at their lofty price points. The Jolion does not.

Also, neither (first) love nor money will buy you reach adjustability for the steering wheel, keyless entry that works on the front passenger side door, satellite navigation, auto high beams, factory-fitted front parking sensors, digital radio or voice control functionality. These are conspicuously strange omissions in such a fresh new model.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Haval’s latest design language as demonstrated on the Jolion is contemporary, attractive and distinctive, from the shamelessly Peugeot-esque boomerang light/bright work up front to the T-shaped tail-lights, while the flowing, wagon-oid silhouette and contoured surfacing are very modern Mazda.

Believed to have been benchmarked against the Honda HR-V, the Jolion is a far more harmonious and proportioned effort compared to its dorky-looking predecessor.

The Jolion has a bold and confident design. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The Jolion has a bold and confident design. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

On the other hand, some might find the nose treatment fussy, the chromey mesh grille a bit much, the HAVAL badging heavy-handed and the rear numberplate mounts are unpainted, which somewhat undermines the illusion of quality. That all said, overall, this is a bold and confident design that deserves to be recognised.

For the record, the Jolion measures in at 4472mm long (with a 2700mm wheelbase), 1841mm wide and 1574mm tall. And, guess what? They all help make the Haval a very compelling proposition the moment you open the door for the first time on the showroom floor.

How practical is the space inside?

With its wagon-like profile and raised ride height, the Jolion epitomises the modern crossover SUV. Think Kia Seltos or Mazda CX-30, but at much lower starting prices. And higher levels of cabin space.

The news continues to impress once sat opposite one of the most modern and up-to-date dashboards available in this class. Touches of Tesla and Mercedes-Benz abound. Not bad brands to draw inspiration from.

The layered look is appealing, as is the soft vinyl covering, stitched material, textured finishes and upmarket ambience in this Ultra version. The three-spoke steering wheel also looks the part, as do the artificial-leather seat coverings. The entire presentation and fit and finish are right up there. Even the hidden plastics don’t feel too cheap.

The three-spoke steering wheel looks the part. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The three-spoke steering wheel looks the part. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

There’s more. The Ultra’s digital instrumentation is mercifully free of clutter and overload, with a big central digital speedo and circular tachometer flanked by clear temperature and fuel readouts. A prolonged press of a steering-wheel button scrolls through more available layout options too. And unlike the MG ZST we recently tested, there isn’t much off-gas plastic odour to assault your senses. Mercy.

Storage areas include a large glovebox, deep centre armrest (as part of a wide console that also adds a touch of class), big door pockets that can hold smaller bottles and a sizeable cubby under the console where two USB-A ports and a 12V outlet are hidden. There are also a couple of cupholders and a smartphone charger directly underneath the low directional air vents.

Speaking of features, standard kit in the Ultra includes a head-up display, heated front seats and wireless charging, as well as that huge panoramic sunroof. However, as mentioned earlier, the lack of satellite navigation is annoying, as is the missing steering wheel reach adjustment; it only tilts up and down, which means some drivers may never quite achieve the perfect position. 

And there are more comfort-related issues besides, starting with the flat and shapeless driver’ seat. OK for short journeys, they just don’t support you in the right places during longer trips. Plus, our Ultra model also has clammy plastic seat coverings, which in the old days was known as vinyl and was relegated to base-model status. How about some lovely cloth, velour or corduroy, if we’re going down the retro upholstery route, GWM?

Plus, there are some odd technological fails, beginning with that lack of passenger side keyless entry; only the driver’s door recognises a hidden key, which isn’t that helpful if you need to load up a car first on the kerb side – as a parent or guardian might when putting children inside. Or, if you're on a date and want to impress with good old-fashioned chivalry. And even then, the entry system’s hit rate isn’t always reliable. We found ourselves pressing the key fob most times, defeating the purpose of having keyless entry.

The climate control interface can be bewildering: endlessly fiddly, badly located and so prone to being inadvertently activated by a resting palm while changing radio stations, for example. It’s worth noting that once or twice we couldn’t get the climate control to work at all – though once we learned the interface, much of the confusion dissipated.  

While the touchscreen is a pleasure to look at and operate superficially, there are complaints here too. The interface is backwards; swipe left to go right, left-hand-drive market placement of the driver’s seat heater controls and wording that makes no sense at all, like ‘Turn Multimode Setting’ for the steering mode. Once you’ve learned these it should be OK, but you’ll need a lesson in Haval-glish to master it.

There are three-plus sub menus to filter through to get to the drive settings that control transmission/throttle response. The nighttime illumination is too strong for sensitive eyes and cannot be dimmed sufficiently. The wheel-sited voice control button did not work in our example. The ‘Hey, Don’t Stray’ alert frequency drove us to distraction, as did the trigger-happy distraction alert (ironically enough). And for a new model, the Bluetooth system in our Ultra was not good enough, sounding tinny to those at the other end of the call.

Plus, the indicator is unnecessarily loud. The front USB ports are hidden behind the front console and a fair reach away. And the wipers shudder.

But let's throw the Jolion a bone. A Haval spokesman said that head office in China is listening to feedback specifically from the Australian market, and is acting on them quickly. Plenty of fixes for the facelift, them, GWM. Or, better still, well before then.

Things look up again for the Jolion passenger once they move to the rear seat.

Wide doors make for easy entry/egress. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) Wide doors make for easy entry/egress. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Interior space is good up front, but a bonanza out back, with wide doors making for easy entry/egress. The outboard cushions are quite comfortable, aided by a nicely angled backrest (non-reclining) and actually useful headrests. A trio of adults could fit across the rear, with greater-than-expected legroom, shoulder space and kneeroom, while even headroom doesn’t suffer despite the inclusion of a panoramic roof in Ultra.

Two more USB ports, directional air vents, reading lights above each outboard occupant, overhead grab handles and coat hooks, two map pockets and a folding centre armrest with two cupholders prove that Haval has done its homework as far as pleasing back-seat riders is concerned. Plus, the windows go nearly all the way down, the door pockets can also hold small bottles and there’s a light and airy feel, thanks to plenty of glass area and the lofty rear cushion.

This is one of the best static back seat evaluations we’ve ever conducted in a small crossover. Good work.

Watch your head though: the tailgate doesn’t open very high. The aperture is large, and the floor is high, with a level load area when meeting the folded rear backrests right up to the rear of the front seats.

The Jolion’s minimum cargo capacity is 430 litres, while its maximum is 1133L. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The Jolion’s minimum cargo capacity is 430 litres, while its maximum is 1133L. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

The Jolion’s minimum cargo capacity is 430 litres, while its maximum is 1133L. Roomy for a compact SUV, the cargo space is large enough to serve as a small family carryall. Below the floor is a temporary spare wheel.

On the other hand, there isn’t much in the way of amenities, save for a light and two small areas to store small things on the side; and removing and refitting the parcel shelf is a tedious job without resorting to lowering the rear backrests first.

Below the floor is a temporary spare wheel. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) Below the floor is a temporary spare wheel. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

To sum up, the Jolion’s interior is stunning on the showroom floor but far from perfect if you have to live with it. Basics like space, vision, features and aesthetics are fine, and the rear-seat area is surprisingly thoughtfully executed, but many annoying details let the side down overall.

Does the same apply to the way the Jolion drives? Let’s see.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Jolion is powered by a variation of the 4G15K 1497cc 1.5-litre turbo-charged direct-injection twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine found in the preceding H2. According to some sources, it is very distantly related to Mitsubishi Motor Corporation’s long-lived 4G1 ‘Orion’ engine family that dates all the way back to 1977.

Peak power is 110kW at 5600-6000rpm. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) Peak power is 110kW at 5600-6000rpm. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Peak power is 110kW at 5600-6000rpm and the torque top is rated at 220Nm between 2000-4400rpm.

Drive is sent to the front wheels only, via a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. No manual option is available. Four driving modes are offered: Normal, Eco, Sport and Snow.

With a kerb weight of 1434kg, the Jolion is not as light as some rivals such as the CX-30, but it offers a respectable power-to-weight ratio of a 76.7kW/per tonne.

How much fuel does it consume?

We expected more from a lightweight all-new architecture.

Tuned to run on 91 RON standard unleaded petrol, our Euro-5 emissions-standard Jolion Ultra returned 9.6 litres per 100km at the pump, against an indicated average of 6.9L/100km. That’s a big discrepancy for a trip computer nowadays.

The official combined average of the Jolion is 8.1L/100km. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The official combined average of the Jolion is 8.1L/100km. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

The official combined average is 8.1L/100km (or 10.4L/100km Urban and 6.7L/100km Extra Urban), a figure that translates to a carbon-dioxide emissions rating of 186 grams per kilometre.

Armed with a 55-litre tank, over 675km between refills is possible. But in reality, the Jolion's fuel consumption is too high.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Haval Jolion has yet to be tested by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP). Its H2 predecessor scored a five-star result back in 2017.

Standard safety features include AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear AEB, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with full stop/go capability, road sign recognition, driver fatigue alert, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, front/rear collision warning, and traffic jam assist, while a surround-view camera, rear parking sensors, tyre pressure warnings, hill descent control, hill-start assist and seven airbags (dual front, side, curtain and front-centre SRS items) are also included.

The Jolion has yet to be tested by ANCAP. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The Jolion has yet to be tested by ANCAP. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

These all come on top of electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and secondary collision braking, and traction control.

At the time of publishing no information about the AEB’s operating speeds and parameters was available.

Two rear-seat ISOFIX points as well as three top tethers are fitted for child seats.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Like all Haval Australia models, the Jolion comes with a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and five years/100,000km of roadside assistance. Matching Kia, MG and others, only Mitsubishi’s conditional 10-year warranty is better, while big names like Toyota, Mazda, Ford, Nissan and Hyundai still stick with just five years.

The first service interval is at 12 months or 10,000km, then rises to 12 months/15,000km from there, while published basic capped-price servicing is available. The current prices are $210, $250, $350, $450 and $290 from years one through to five. Total cost is a very competitive $1550, averaging out to $310 annually over five years at the time of publishing.

What's it like to drive around town?

As with the Jolion’s static cabin presentation, first impressions the moment you push the start button are positive, with that 110kW 1.5-litre turbo promising a lively drive.

A Jaguar-style transmission dial adds a bit of British-chic as you select Drive, though more defined indents are needed as it’s too easy to spin past your desired gear.

Initial acceleration actually isn’t too bad for a DCT auto, unless you’re taking off up a steep hill, with only a little bit of hesitation before the Jolion launches cleanly off the line. And, up to a point, there’s more than enough muscle on offer for most small SUV buyers' needs.

Though not especially quiet, the turbo is tuned to provide its best performance in urban environs, keeping things moving along at a fast and steady pace as you duck and weave between other fast-moving traffic. The Haval is quite at home zooming around the 'burbs.

The turbo is tuned to provide its best performance in urban environs. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The turbo is tuned to provide its best performance in urban environs. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

However, when instant take-offs are required, like finding a gap entering a freeway, the DCT chokes a bit, stuttering before finally leaping into action to get you moving again. Such hesitation is typical for this type of auto, but it doesn’t make it any less irritating.

If the DCT can't help the Jolion deliver leading fuel economy, then why bother? At least the manual paddles provides quick shifting between ratios.

All eager and pushy at lower revs, the turbo runs out of puff surprisingly early at higher speeds, which means you have to constantly drive it within its narrow power band if you need to get a move on. This is exactly opposite to the way a Seltos, Kona or CX-30's atmo engines behave. The Jolion's is peaky, even shrieky, as a result, and so neither quiet nor relaxed. And there isn't as much in reserve for fast and safe overtaking as its lively urban acceleration suggests.

You’d never call the steering sporty, with precious little feel for the keener driver to enjoy, but it does go exactly where pointed without fuss. There are three (deeply buried in sub-menus) modes – Light (ultra numb), Comfort (OK) and Sport (too heavy) – with Comfort the sweet spot for effortless day-to-day handling and tight manoeuvres.

It helps make the Jolion painless to park, aided by a reasonable turning circle, cameras that are among of the best we’ve experienced for resolution and perspectives, and those massive door mirrors.

That said, as left in factory default mode, the rear sensors can be late reacting, letting the car get too close for comfort before sounding off; and the front camera only comes on after reverse has been selected first, which can also catch unwary drivers out. Front sensors would certainly assist here.

We’re not enamoured with the Jolion’s suspension either, which consists of MacPherson-style struts up front and a torsion beam out back. Note the H2 boasted a multi-link rear set-up, though not a particularly well set-up one.

Is going for the simpler arrangement better? Well, it's an improvement, with better handling and a quieter ride in most normal circumstances.

Hit bigger speed humps, railway tracks, tramlines or other road irregularities, though, and the Jolion's suspension can feel a bit stiff and even a little thumpy, with a few odd mystery clunks audible below. Is something loose down there? Maybe this is peculiar to our big-wheeled Ultra fitted with Kuhmo Solus 225/55R18 tyres.

Of more concern is wet-weather roadholding. The steering's lack of feedback caught us out a couple of times in damp conditions, where we couldn't feel the point where the front end was about to lose grip while approaching a small roundabout in a 40km/h zone, resulting in the wheels breaking traction and losing steering ability momentarily. We ploughed straight on until ABS braking helped regain traction and we swerved before mounting the central reservation. This actually happened twice on different days.

In dryer conditions, the Jolion is far better resolved at cornering quickly than any previous smaller Haval we’ve driven, with newfound precision and confidence. But don't get cocky. Drive it a little faster along a winding country road within the posted limits, and the traction control systems intervene early and often, cutting power and interrupting flow. Best to just back off and trundle along slowly with the cruise control on.

Dynamically, our Ultra felt half-baked. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) Dynamically, our Ultra felt half-baked. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Except... while the Jolion’s lane-keep tech works well in keeping the car from straying at speed, the standard adaptive cruise control's over-sensitivity is a joke that quickly wears very thin, cutting speed abruptly even through gentle curves, disrupting smooth progress and generally eliciting expletives.

At least the brakes are very effective in bringing the Jolion to a fast stop (in the dry at least), but the myriad dynamic issues we've just outlined lead us to one conclusion.

Along with sorting out the lumpy suspension, clunky transmission and numb steering, the Jolion is crying out for proper Australian validation testing. Dynamically, our Ultra felt half-baked.

Not good enough, especially at $32K. We hope local feedback is acted on as promised, and fast. Because the Haval could be a very good all-rounder with polish and lots of fine tuning.

“The world’s leading SUV specialist”, cries Haval’s advertising.

A bold claim, and one that implies that the Jolion could be right up there with the best the class offers. But the top-line Ultra is a long way off.

With surprising specification omissions, a distracting multimedia interface, infuriating ergonomic issues, and various driving foibles as detailed, the $32,000 flagship falls in too many areas to be a front runner. Local tuning and even some consideration for Australian buyers would go a long way in making it feel more complete.

Perhaps the $26,490 Premium would be the better Jolion buy, because it still delivers excellent safety specification, generous rear seat accommodation, a big boot, long warranty, dazzling dashboard displays and spunky styling, at a lower price and on smaller wheels.

As it stands, the Ultra is out of its league.

$20,000 - $41,485

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.