A breath of fresh air
It is crucial for any newcomer to leave a good first impression especially in a market like ours. You blow it on your first try, and you're likely to end up spending years, or even decades trying to build your brand back up.
As a relative newcomer myself in the motoring beat, I did not know Great Wall Motors was already here before until I asked my more seasoned colleagues. They came here in around 2010 under a different distributor, about the time I became a freshman in college.
As with other Chinese brands, GWM back then didn't quite have their vehicles ready to make a significant impact and challenge the established brands in the market. That could be the reason why I didn't see that many GWM vehicles on the roads before, to be honest.
But that was more than a decade ago. We all know how Chinese vehicles are leveling up these days, and the same can be said with GWM. They are out to show the improved quality of their vehicles, and that they are more than ready for electrified motoring.
GWM handed me the keys to their Haval Jolion HEV Supreme – their full-on self-charging hybrid that's priced at PHP 1.588 million, and trust me when I say this hybrid crossover is a breath of fresh air.
There are actually two variants of the Jolion in the market, one is the 1.5 turbo non-hybrid and this HEV which has unique blue elements to the LED headlights and HEV badging on the front fenders. It's somewhere in between a subcompact and a compact crossover size-wise as it's under 4.5 meters long, coming very close to the dimensions of the Corolla Cross.
In the looks department, we all know how modern crossover design tries to be flashy with the use of sharp lines, aggressive styling, and faux tailpipes, but the Jolion is doing a different take which I like.
Apart from the bold front end with its studded grille and large LED lights, the Jolion's design on the elegant vs. sporty scale leans more towards the former than the latter. It won't be for everyone, but there seems to be a Euro-esque vibe to the Jolion. GWM seems somewhat inspired by the appeal of something like a Volvo or an Audi with their crossover.
A car's styling is crucial to its appeal, and that applies both on the outside and the inside. In the Jolion's case, you're welcomed with an interior that not only looks good but feels good as well. The combination of cream, rose gold, and black is something I never imagined would blend in well without being tito-spec, but GWM pulled it off in the crossover.
The materials feel nice to the touch and build quality appears to be excellent, as the interior panels like the door pulls, trim pieces, and transmission don't actually squeak when I applied pressure on them.
Of course, as with most Chinese vehicles, you get a panoramic sunroof for an upmarket feel, but the cover for it serves more like a thin screen. It still allows quite a bit of sunlight (and heat) inside even when totally closed. Nevertheless, the A/C unit is powerful enough to compensate for that and keep the cabin cool.
In terms of room, there's plenty of space inside for 5 adults, and there's generous legroom on both rows. The same can also be said for the numerous storage pockets, and the slots in the center console are a unique feature.
But for cargo space, the trunk may leave you wanting a bit more height, and that is because the 12-volt battery and hybrid battery system is there towards the back, resulting in a shallower loading area. You can only put in stuff that's up to 25 inches tall without scruffing the headliner.
With all the seats up, you have 31.5 inches of length and 40 inches of cargo width. But with the 2nd-row seats folded, that expands to 58 inches long and 51 inches wide. Of note, the Jolion HEV does not come with a spare tire either, so you're left with a patch kit and a compressor at the back.
As for the seats themselves, they are wrapped in synthetic leather with the Haval lettering and they look sporty, but I did feel the need for more under-thigh support to make things more comfortable.
The dashboard has a very minimalist design, much like how Honda did it with the HR-V. The digital display is clutter-free with its layout, and you don't get information overload; just the necessary ones like the usual RPM and speedo, fuel and water temp level, plus the odometer and the fuel consumption reading. It's also nice to see the EV indicator light up in the cluster, signalling that you're not burning fuel. Lastly, having the heads-up display is a neat touch so I can keep my eyes on the road.
While the digital cluster is well laid out, I do miss having tactile buttons to control functions and change settings. Unfortunately, the Jolion HEV follows the modern trend of putting all the functions in the central screen, making it quite a process to change the temperature or even fan speed. But the good thing about the infotainment screen is it has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is in fact an important selling point for vehicles these days.
Under the hood of the GWM Haval Jolion HEV is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine with a series-parallel hybrid system. The ICE alone only makes 94 PS and 125 Nm which is pretty low for a crossover of this size. But since it's a hybrid, it does come with an electric motor that pushes the figures to the tune of 186 PS and an impressive 375 Nm of torque. Now we're talking.
The hybrid system is really what got me curious about this crossover. And from the get-go, I can say that GWM did their homework very well in achieving a very smooth drive experience with the Jolion. The dedicated two-speed hybrid transmission takes care of putting the power down to the front wheels, alternating between fully electric, to ICE, to combined seamlessly.
Step on the throttle hard, and the Jolion HEV will lurch forward with a hint of tire squeal. Since the powertrain gives 375 Nm of torque instantly, you'll have plenty of confidence overtaking on provincial roads and even expressways. It's a hybrid that's not just built for efficiency, but it will also impress with the way it pulls.
In terms of fuel efficiency, the Jolion HEV is also right on the money. With EV mode being the most beneficial in city driving, it's possible to get 14 km/l easily on your daily commute in the metro. When you take it to the expressways where the 1.5-liter engine and the electric motor are working together, that will net you up to 23.4 km/l without doing any hypermiling techniques at all.
We've been trying to find what the EV range will be on a full charge, but it's a bit hard to find the specifics. Mind you, this is a self-charging hybrid similar to the system Toyota uses so there's no plug-in option, plus the hybrid battery capacity is rated at 1.6kWh which is far from the capacity of a BEV, so expect to run on full-electric mode by only a few kilometers at best. We also did notice that the DHT and hybrid system was rated for 340 volts, though we can't tell if it's actually operating at that voltage.
Road manners-wise, expect the Jolion HEV to have a plush ride, at the expense of sporty handling. The suspension is nice and compliant over bumps and undulations with its soft setting, but on corners, it won't be as sharp as a Coolray or an HR-V.
But what I really appreciated is the way the Jolion HEV can be driven effortlessly because of ADAS. It's equipped with things like Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Jam Assist and Intelligent Turning Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Detection, and more.
Now most manufacturers already offer these as standard equipment, but the Jolion HEV has one of the smoothest-performing ADAS features I've ever tested, especially the adaptive cruise and the traffic jam assist. Some ADAS systems would perform phantom braking which leaves you vulnerable to a rear-end collision. But with the Jolion HEV, it tracks and gauges its distance from the car in front very well and the brakes are gradually applied as the leading car slows down. It's perfect for those who are coming from a long drive at highway speeds, then will need to deal with city traffic like in EDSA.
For the most part, I am indeed impressed with the way the Jolion HEV was packaged and how it performs. However, I think it could still benefit from a bit more fine-tuning on some small aspects. One is the horn button which has a split-second delay before it actually activates. It's a matter of milliseconds, but you're more likely to end up beeping on the wrong car. And lastly, the driving position can be further improved by adding a telescopic function on the steering column, aside from the additional under-thigh support I've mentioned earlier.
But overall, if you're in the market for a hybrid crossover, GWM Haval Jolion HEV has a lot to offer. Its hybrid powertrain is impressive, and it's filled to the brim with the nicest features for creature comfort and effortless driving. All that tech and refinement comes at a PHP 1,588,000 price tag - significantly undercutting the Corolla Cross even with a longer list of standard tech.
The GWM Haval Jolion HEV comes with a 5-year, 150,000-km warranty, plus a service schedule that will only make you bring the car in once a year.
Some Chinese brands get caught off guard when it comes to aftersales. And while we can't exactly give you first-hand knowledge of service and long-term reliability just yet, hopefully Great Wall Motors is ready to provide good aftersales service for their vehicles and that their cars are ready for our roads for the long haul. Their enduring presence in the market will greatly depend on both.