Haval's smallest SUV offers genuinely impressive value when compared to its rivals from the mainstream brands most will be more familiar with. Right now, it's also available at even more of a bargain price.

Haval is fast cementing itself as a strong challenger to the traditional mainstream SUV brands the majority of Aussies have bought from, and its smallest model, the Jolion, clearly demonstrates why when you look at the price tag. With the order books opening at just $28,490 drive-away for the entry-level model, that price is enough to make anyone look past the perhaps unfamiliar badge.

The variant you see here, the Ultra Hybrid, sits at the very other end of the range but still presents strong value for money at $40,990 drive-away. However, if you’re prepared to settle for a 2023 model rather than the newer 2024 (which is virtually identical bar the fitment of Haval’s updated logo) you can score an incredible deal. Until March 31, 2023 models start at just $25,990 drive-away as per the Haval website, while this top-spec hybrid is only $37,990 drive-away. Now we’re talking.

The availability of a hybrid drivetrain in both Lux and Ultra variants does give the Jolion a place to stand out in the market, with the Toyota Corolla Cross, Subaru Crosstrek, Kia Niro, Honda HR-V, and the latest Hyundai Kona positioned as its chief rivals in that regard.

As far as its looks go, the Jolion looks quite smart – particularly with the full-length teardrop daytime running lights fitted to the hybrid models. Finished in Glacier Blue as you see here, which is the sort of fun colour I believe more cars in this class should be finished in, I think it meets the brief for looking stylish and modern quite well. It’s perhaps a bit derivative in some areas – I can see some elements of Cadillac and Peugeot among others on the front-end design – but as a complete package it looks well resolved.

Ultra models like this one come as standard with 18-inch alloy wheels with a bespoke design for the hybrid. A full-size panoramic sunroof is also included on Ultra and S variants. LED headlights are standard on all variants bar the base model, while hybrid variants also score sequential turn signals. You’ll also be able to spot the difference between the hybrids and petrol-powered variants by some subtle tweaks to the lower bumper and rear spoiler designs.

On the inside, the Jolion Ultra sports a fairly up-to-date design with a rotary shifter, soft-touch materials in all the places you’d expect, and a big 12.3-inch infotainment screen with a 360-degree camera display. Admittedly, there are more hard plastics present than in the larger H6, but everything feels acceptable considering the price point.

Mind you, there are some touches which can feel a bit dated such as the tacked-on driver drowsiness monitoring sensor, the 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster display which is frustratingly illegible on sunny days due to the glare, and the lack of integrated navigation on its infotainment system. At least there is a head-up display to address the gauge cluster’s woes.

Interior space is quite good for a small SUV, though, with plenty of room for both front and rear occupants. Those up front are also treated to heated seats, while the driver scores six-way electric adjustment and Comfort-Tek faux leather upholstery is standard on all but the base model.

Open up the boot and you’ll find 390 litres of cargo space in hybrid variants, expanding to 1069 litres with the rear seats folded flat. While certainly still sizeable, the battery pack does penalise space compared to petrol models which offer 430/1133 litres of boot space. There are at least some thoughtful interior storage options such as the cut-out in the transmission tunnel, while there’s also a wireless phone charger and various slots for pens and cards surrounding the shifter.

What is unmissable in the cabin is the brightly coloured infotainment interface which curiously is different to what you’ll find in other Haval models including the H6. The display is certainly eye-catching, but it’s not quite as slick to use as Haval’s higher-end system, nor is it as responsive at times. Both suffer the same issue of having too many features located on the screen, however, with even the climate controls entirely operated through it.

On the whole, the Jolion’s cabin feels about right for the price point, with it not quite as premium as say a Mazda CX-30, but equal to or even better than the rest of the competition when you consider the price-point of this top-spec variant.

Powering the Haval Jolion Ultra Hybrid on test here is a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine paired with an electric motor to deliver a combined system output of 139kW and 375Nm. The electric motor certainly does a lot of the heavy lifting, with it chipping in 110kW/250Nm, while the atmo engine offers a meagre 70kW/125Nm at most. It comes paired with what Haval calls a ‘Dedicated Hybrid Transmission’ which is essentially a two-speed automatic. All Jolion variants are front-wheel drive.

The hybrid actually marks a whopping $6000 price premium (at 2023 run-out prices, it’s a $7000 premium for the Ultra model based off the regular list price) so even with the potential fuel savings, it may be worth considering the petrol engine right off the bat. It’s a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, with it serving up 110kW in all variants except the S model which sees power upped to 130kW.

With that said, based off others reports, the hybrid is the far smoother drivetrain of the two, and its smoothness was certainly appreciable during my testing. This drivetrain is at its best is in the city where you can really let the electric motor’s torque handle the majority of the work.

What’s disappointing about the hybrid system, however, is how gruff the petrol engine is when it kicks in. Even when stationary, you can distinctly feel the vibration from it through the firewall, while it’s also louder than you’d like as well even at idle. At higher speeds, it only gets even more vocal the further you press the pedal down which is a shame since the powertrain you’ll find in the H6 Hybrid is so refined. Mind you, when you do put your foot into it there’s some definite punch there thanks to the healthy torque figure.

The Jolion does drive well, with its ride feeling a little bit on the firmer side but its handling is kept fairly well in check with decent body control for the most part, although some hits can upset it due to its torsion beam rear suspension. The S model scores an independent multi-link rear end that would likely iron out this minor gripe. Otherwise, it feels pleasant to drive, particularly with its well-weighted steering which is pleasant both in the city and on winding roads.

It might be the more expensive powertrain by some margin, but it’s the one I’d say is worth it overall. The petrol engine may be noisy and wanting for refinement, sure, but the smoothness of its power delivery thanks to the electric motor and two-speed transmission rather than the petrol’s DCT mean it appears the better option to my eyes.

Of course, the hybrid’s fuel economy is the real draw, with Haval claiming 5.0L/100km on the combined cycle for the Jolion Hybrid compared to 7.5L/100km for the S petrol and 8.1L/100km for all other petrol variants. Over the course of my 629km of testing, I saw a return of 5.9L/100km, with it hovering closer to the claimed figure the more I stuck in the city.

As with all Haval models, the Jolion Hybrid is covered by a seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, while five years of complimentary roadside assistance is also included. Hybrid models are also afforded an eight-year unlimited kilometre battery pack warranty.

One thing to be aware of is that all Haval models feature a slightly unusual servicing schedule, with the first visit to the dealership required after 12 months/10,000km and subsequent visits stretching out to 12 months/15,000km. The first five services are capped to a cost of $210, $250, $350, $450, and $290 respectively for all Jolion variants.

When you take into account the impressive value for money the Jolion offers whether at the entry level or here at the very top of the range, it’s easy to see why Haval’s sales figures are rising rapidly, with the Jolion up 36.9 percent and GWM’s overall sales up 45.3 percent over the course of 2023.

With the Jolion wearing handsome styling, offering an impressive equipment list for the money, and delivering hybrid fuel economy that will be easy on your hip pocket, there’s no denying it stands out against the crowd of similar small SUVs on offer from the usual suspects in this segment.

Sure, the unfamiliar brand and strange name takes some getting past, but I think the price tag will seal the deal for many potential buyers in this segment. You might be losing out on a bit of refinement in some areas, but the potential savings are hard to pass up.

2023 Haval Jolion Ultra Hybrid Drive-Away Price: $40,990 | Until 31 March 2024: $37,990
  • 7/10
    Performance - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Ride & Handling - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Tech & Features - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value for Money - 8.5/10

Pros: Impressive value for money at 2023 run-out prices, handsome styling, roomy interior, punchy hybrid powertrain
Cons: Petrol engine feels and sounds unrefined, body control could be improved over some hits, the unfamiliar brand and strange name will take some getting past

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by GWM Australia for one week with a full tank of fuel.

Patrick Jackson
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