Great Wall Motors is back – after two failed attempts at selling cars in the Philippines, with one focused on offering vehicles to provincial buyers, the Chinese automaker ushers in a promising comeback through Luxuriant Automotive Group, Inc. (LAG), its new local distributor.
To reel Filipino car buyers into the brand, GWM decided to go with the crossover route through its Haval sub-brand. Two models were presented to the members of the media in an exclusive event; one of them was the Jolion hybrid subcompact crossover.
I’ve had the chance to test out the Haval Jolion around the Batangas Racing Circuit. It’s a promising contender, though its probability to sell depends on the brand’s visibility (a.k.a. showrooms) and most importantly, pricing.
The Haval Jolion will call your attention looking at it head-on. Its LED assembly is unique, as well as its massive grille that houses an intricate pattern. The blue accents represent its hybrid nature, though I love the baby blue trim around the Haval badge.
Just as much as I love the front end of the Jolion, the side profile and rear end were a tad too generic and not something I haven’t seen before. Apart from the massive badges on the rear fascia, there’s nothing that identifies this car from the sea of crossovers in the market today.
That said, I appreciate the Jolion’s full LED assembly at the back as they make the car look premium. The playful color options are also a plus, considering that this model aims to entice the younger set of car buyers.
The Haval Jolion’s youthful aura continued in the cabin, primarily because of the various colors and textures that are everything but boring. The white general theme warrants good hygiene from the driver and its occupants, while the copper accents that run across the dashboard and the steering wheel make this interior stand out. I love the whole cabin feel, despite plastics populating much of the cabin’s hard points.
The white leather’s also notable as it felt nice to the touch. Build quality’s okay, too, with inexistent shakes and rattles during the drive. The screens have a clear display, as well, though extreme sunlight and dirt somehow render the head-up display ineffective.
Tech & Safety
As of this writing, GWM hasn’t given the final specs of the Jolion line, though the one I tested was the top-spec model. I’m sure it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though we didn’t get the chance to test them. That said, it comes with several advanced driver-assistive safety (ADAS) features and a total of 14 radars, and five exterior cameras for enhanced safety.
My favorite ADAS feature was the Jolion’s adaptive cruise control, which is notch above the current basic ACC offered by segment contenders in the local market. It’s almost at par with Subaru’s award-winning EyeSight, including a vehicle-follow feature in the absence of lane markings.
Admittedly, the effectiveness of the Jolion’s ADAS features in actual road scenarios wasn’t tested to a critical extent; I’d share a more in-depth take when I get to test the vehicle for a full-fledged review.
Powering the Jolion is a naturally aspirated 1.5-liter inline-four gasoline engine that propels the front axle. The top-spec HEV model that I drove has an electric motor. Combined, the series hybrid system produces up to 186hp and 375Nm of torque. Of note, the gear shifter’s a rotary knob, which look premium though it will admittedly take unsuspecting owners by surprise.
The testing duration at the Batangas Racing Circuit was a bit short, but it was enough to cover important aspects of performance such as acceleration, handling, and braking.
The Jolion HEV benefitted from the instantaneous pull of the electric motor. Transmission lags were inexistent, too, so if you’re one who enjoys spirited drives, you’ll enjoy your time behind the Jolion’s steering wheel.
Meanwhile, taking turns and hairpins of BRC at reasonable speeds proved to be nothing to the Jolion. It performed well in staying planted and gripped to the asphalt, while the steering wheel provided great feedback. For a crossover with considerable space from the ground, body rolls were surprisingly controlled.
The Jolion’s greatest trait was its brakes. The pedal initially felt rubbery because of its regenerative nature. I thought the car would tank the brake test, but I was instantly proved wrong. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the car halted from 80 km/h, and that’s something you’ll appreciate on the highway whenever you’ll need emergency braking.
Before I started spilling my brains for my first impressions of the Haval Jolion, I was asked by someone about which are the top three Chinese automakers in the Philippines today, to which I answered Geely, GAC, and Great Wall Motor, in descending order.
If I were asked this question three days ago, my answer would have been different. That’s the impression that the Jolion left in me. I’m willing to claim that GWM has already surpassed the other Chinese brands that I did not mention. That’s how promising the model is.
But will it sell? That depends on the pricing. Given that the GWM brand isn’t as established as the others, pricing will be a huge factor. As of this writing, GWM didn’t disclose the pricing of its upcoming models. We’ll probably know about it during its public debut at the Manila International Auto Show in April.
For what it’s worth, selling the top-spec Haval Jolion that I drove for around P1.3 million should make it very competitive in the market, especially considering its hybrid powertrain.