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Cheap Chinese SUV put to the test

Summary

We put the little Haval Jolion to the test to see what it’s like on the road.VALUEHaval is a relatively new brand in Australia and the Jolion is priced to make an impact. Our test vehicle was the Ultra model, which is the second most expensive in a four-model range. Haval has upped the drive-away price by $2000 since its launch last year, but at $32,990 drive-away it still undercuts all the major players in the small SUV segment. MG’s ZST Essence is the nearest competition at $33,490, but it’s a smaller vehicle. A similarly equipped Korean or Japanese car would cost closer to $40,000. The cabin is well presented, with a large 12.3-inch centre screen and a digital display in front of the driver, imitation leather and soft surfaces on most touch points. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are standard, as is a head-up display, an electronic parking brake, sunroof, keyless entry, push-button start and a 360-degree parking camera. Services are reasonably priced, the warranty is a generous seven years and there’s five years of roadside assistance.COMFORTThe front seats are heated and the driver’s seat is electrically adjustable, but the steering wheel can’t be adjusted back and forth, so some drivers may find it hard to find a comfortable position. The seats are comfortable enough and rear passengers have their own air vents and USB inputs. The Jolion is one of the largest SUVs in its class, so rear leg and head room are generous and the boot’s deep and wide, with a temporary spare under the floor. The sunroof has a cloth screen rather than a hard cover, so you may have to crank the aircon up on hot summer days. The ride is comfortable enough, although the Jolion sometimes struggles to handle corrugations on poor city back roads.SAFETYOn paper, the Jolion’s arsenal of driver aids is truly impressive. It can keep a safe distance to the car in front on the freeway, pull you back into your lane if you wander, alert you to cars in your blind spot and hit the brakes if you’re reversing out of a driveway into passing traffic. There’s also a door-opening warning, while the head-up display shows you the prevailing speed limit, which is handy. On the road, however, the driver aids are hyperactive and downright puzzling at times. The adaptive cruise function slows the car for no apparent reason at times on the freeway and there’s constant tugging at the steering wheel. A couple of times the hazards went on by themselves to warn the car behind they were travelling too close. The most unsettling was the “smart dodge function” which steers you to the right if you’re passing a truck or bus.DRIVINGThe Jolion is comfortable enough, but not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to corners, thanks to numb steering and suspension that struggles to stay composed on bumpy surfaces. The turbo engine is OK once on the move, but there’s often a delay in power delivery if you hit the accelerator to find a gap in the traffic. That’s partly to do with the engine and partly because the dual-clutch transmission isn’t the most quick-witted in the business. Fuel use is above par for the segment as well – the Jolion uses more fuel to deliver less power than most rivals.VERDICT 3/5The Jolion is worth a look for SUV buyers on a budget.ALTERNATIVESSUBARU XV 2.0i PREMIUM, from about $39,500 D/ASmaller, with less cargo space (310L v 433L) and a shorter warranty but rock-solid resale.HYUNDAI KONA ELITE FWD, from about $35,700 D/ASmaller vehicle, down on power, with fewer features and a smaller cabin. More efficient and better to drive. MG ZST ESSENCE, from $33,490 D/AMatches the features and warranty offered by the Jolion, albeit for a little more. Driving experience similar.HAVAL JOLION ULTRA VITALSPrice: $32,990 drive-awayEngine: 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 110kW/220NmWarranty/servicing: 7-year/unlimited km, $1550 for 5 yearsSafety: 7 airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane-keep and blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert.Thirst: 8.1L/100kmCargo: 433 litresSpare: Space saver

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