Cars > Driven

Haval Jolion DCT Supreme: Elegantly styled crossover contender

Packs a lot of features for the money

Not a bad-looking crossover, wouldn't you agree? PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

There’s no shortage of crossover choices these days. Whether it’s Korean, Japanese, Chinese, German, or American, every major brand has at least one entry right now catering to the middle-class market. Into this hotly competitive market comes Haval, the SUV brand of Great Wall Motor.

It may be new to the Philippine market—having only debuted earlier this year—but Haval has steadily been gaining ground in Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, and Europe. The smaller of two crossovers—the larger one being the H6—the Jolion comes chockablock with features and is wrapped in handsome sheet metal.

But first, the elephant in the room. “What kind of a name is Jolion?” you ask. Just like with the GAC Empow (which apparently means “shadow leopard” in Chinese but which also has amusing, local connotations), Jolion’s Chinese pronunciation is “Chulian,” which means “first love.”

The English explanation is that it’s a combination of “joyful lion,” and is said to have been polled from over 40,000 online voters. A British agency also did an Internet survey for a new boat, and ended up with “Boaty McBoatface,” so I’m not so sure about the wisdom of trusting the Internet for these things.

Like other Chinese cars, the model name will take some getting used to. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

But as more and more Chinese cars flood our territory, I suppose the market will just have to adjust to linguistic nuances after decades of being used to Western-tailored names. Anyway, “Jolion” sounds cheerful and welcoming.

Plus, the Jolion genuinely looks nice. The design was overseen by Phil Simmons, former Land Rover studio director. It cuts a handsome profile with a square-jawed front and a chunky Euro-chic profile that kind of reminds of an Audi. The front fascia has a distinctive, jeweled grille with “halberd-style” LED headlamps.

The wheel wells are nicely filled up with 55-series 18-inch rubber, scalloped flanks to avoid the slab-sided look, and the back has stylized taillamps to look like the number 7. Especially in our unit’s Sea Blue color, the Jolion looks mature and substantial.

Sculpted flanks, handsome wheels, and just enough chrome. Nice paint job, too. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

And like most other Chinese brands, it has very competitive pricing. The Jolion starts at P998,000 in basic trim, then tops out at P1,588,000 for the hybrid variant. This particular “DCT Supreme” gets almost all the features of the top spec, but retains the conventional 1.5-liter turbocharged in-line-four and is priced at P1,248,000.

That gets you said engine plus a seven-speed wet-type dual-clutch transmission, leather, panoramic moonroof, all-disc brakes, front strut, rear torsion beam suspension, LED lighting, and a laundry list of advanced safety systems that are quickly becoming the norm these days.

For starters, it has hill-hold assist, automatic emergency braking, 360° cameras, blind spot warning, traffic-sign recognition, and lane-keeping assist. Front, side, and curtain airbags; six in total. Of course, it’s one thing to stuff all of this in a car, and it’s another thing to get them to all work harmoniously.

The 1.5-liter turbo has good midrange pull, and works well with the DCT. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA
A rotary dial for the shifter frees up space on the center console. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

By itself, the Jolion is as pleasant to drive as any other crossover. Soft suspension that’s good at cushioning you from bumps, but quickly loses composure if you drive too fast over rough surfaces. The steering lacks feel, but can be adjusted for effort (my preference was Sport). The all-disc brakes deliver good stopping power and have a linear effort, are easy to modulate, and give confidence when you’re hustling in the twisties. The wheelbase measures 2,700mm, longer even than a Honda CR-V’s (2,662mm) even though that’s one size up. It pays off in exceptional highway stability for its class.

Ergonomically, the driving position is sound with good visibility all-around, controls within easy reach. The cabin has been really maxed out for room, though, so taller drivers will find their left leg resting on the wheel hump rather than the dead pedal.

Power from the 1.5-liter turbo is decently pokey for most applications, only losing steam at the 5,000rpm mark. Since it’s a small displacement, not much noise or vibration comes through the firewall and you’ll only hear a hushed snarl at full throttle. For the most part, the DCT is a good partner for the motor, working smoothly and seamlessly.

You get paddle shifters, too. The only time it gets tricky is reversing on a slope as there’s some hesitation with the drivetrain before it lurches backward once you give it enough gas.

You can customize the level of active safety features to your level of attentiveness. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Advanced driver safety features are quickly becoming must-have items on brochures these days, whether it’s called “Honda Sensing,” “Toyota Safety Sense,” “ADAS,” or what have you. Haval doesn’t have a fancy name for its safety suite, but the pertinent features include lane keeping and changing, adaptive cruise control, blind spot assistance, and automatic emergency braking.

With everything activated, changing lanes in Manila traffic can be nerve-racking if you’re already a defensive driver, but they do help when you’re being inattentive. Change lanes if there’s someone behind you and the system will beep like crazy, just in case you haven’t already checked your mirrors.

An impressive active safety suite here. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

More useful is the blind spot assistance, because this is the Philippines, and who hasn’t ever gotten annoyed at pedestrians who’ve already seen you pulling out and still walked faster to cross behind your car, eh? Aside from audible beeps and camera views, the system will even step on the brakes for you if it detects an imminent collision while backing up. This includes a “door open warning” system that will also warn you from opening a door if there’s someone or something in your blind spot, preventing the latter from getting “doored.”

On the highway, the adaptive cruise control is effective. You still need to slam on the brakes if the car ahead suddenly stops for whatever reason, but slight changes in speed are smoothly done to maintain a safe distance.

As for the lane-keeping assist, I have yet to try a system that didn’t feel like there was an invisible hand tugging at the wheel. The Haval’s can feel unnerving when it insists on pulling at the wheel, and it’s the first thing I deactivated when I started the car.

By the way, it resets to default “ON” every time you start the car, so add this to your startup checklist if you dislike artificial intervention. Most useful is the 360° camera system, which helps a lot for tight spaces.

Minimalist, Asian-themed cockpit looks very nice and has quality fit and finish. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The interior is also a very likable aspect of the car, said to be “Asian minimalist” themed with a low-hung dashboard, a wide armrest with a flat center console, and soft-touch materials all around to complement the leather upholstery.

The 12.3-inch infotainment screen is nice and crisp, but accessing the A/C can be tricky. With no physical dials to work with, setting the fan and temp means accessing menus and submenus, and it’s easy to inadvertently turn off the compressor if you rest your palm on the dash because some A/C buttons are also placed there.

The rotary dial for the shifter takes some getting used to if you’re coming from lever-type shifters. The infotainment system is Apple Carplay– and Android Auto-compatible, and I particularly liked the businesslike presentation of the seven-inch digital instrument panel. No superfluous graphics or a bewildering number of display options, just clean data in an easy-to-read-at-a-glance format.

Supportive, beautifully upholstered seats. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA
The back seat is comfortable for three Asian-sized adults. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Size-wise, the Jolion is somewhere in between Chinese rivals like the GAC GS3 Emzoom and the bigger Emkoo. It’s also bigger than a Honda HR-V, but smaller than the CR-V.

There’s room enough for five Asian adults, and the seats are plush and provide good support in front. Maximum trunk volume is 1,133L with the seat backs folded, and a still-impressive 337L with the seats up. A total of 26 storage spaces are strategically placed throughout the cabin, too.

Throughout the test duration, the Jolion was reasonably entertaining to drive, gave decent fuel economy of 10-11km/L in the city, and didn’t squeak or rattle. Fit and finish are on par with the major players, and it feels like an honest-to-goodness, well-made car.

Of course, the big question on many potential converts’ minds centers on reliability and long-term upkeep. A five-year/150,000km warranty is part of the deal, but unlike Geely and MG, for example, which already have substantial dealer networks, Haval is still in its infancy in the Philippines.

Clean, gimmick-free instrument cluster. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA
You even get a heads-up display. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA
And wireless charging. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Just one dealer is open, and that’s on UN Avenue in Manila. Three new dealerships are on the calendar: San Fernando, Cagayan de Oro, and Alabang. But that’s still far too few to make a serious dent in the market, and rather inconvenient if you don’t live anywhere near these areas.

Still, the Jolion looks, drives, and feels like a complete package, and should be given serious consideration if you’re car-shopping this year.


Engine1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline
Transmission7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Power141hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque220Nm @ 2,000-4,400 rpm
Dimensions4,472mm x 1,841mm x 1,619mm
Drive layoutFWD
UpsideElegant styling. Comprehensive safety and luxury features. Impressive fit and finish.
DownsideSteering lacks feel. Soft suspension doesn’t like to hustle. Lane-keeping system is intrusive. Aircon controls are too fussy.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.