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First drive in the new Haval Jolion Pro in South Africa

Haval has just launched the new Jolion Pro in South Africa, significantly reshaping the line-up of its popular series in the process.

The Jolion Pro is positioned as a higher-tier version of the already well-equipped crossover with new visual elements and features intended to convey a sportier experience.

I got to spend a day behind the wheel of Haval’s latest product during its launch in Gauteng, where the media took the car on a spin to the outskirts of the province and back.

Visually striking

By far and away the biggest strength of the Pro is its styling, as the new model can be easily distinguished from its siblings thanks to a vertical grille with chrome highlights.

It also gets an aerodynamics package that adds a front splitter, gloss black roof rails and mirrors, new LED headlights, and a pair of slim vertical LED daytime running lights.

The back is afforded a similar treatment, as the taillights have been merged to form a singular lightbar design, which nicely complements the sports diffuser and rear splitter added by the aero package.

On top of this, the Pro sees a new gloss black rear wing and extended wheel arch mouldings that house one of three different 18-inch alloy wheel designs, depending on the trim level.

The wheels are actually the easiest way to distinguish the different Pro units, as there is no model badge on the back of the car.

Speaking of which, it’s important to note that GWM, Haval’s parent company, is in the process of consolidating its brand in South Africa by rebadging the various models across its line-up, meaning that the Jolion series now features a large GWM badge at the rear and a Haval badge on the front grille.

On the day of the launch, the media were given access to one of two derivatives – the Ultra Luxury and the S – though unfortunately the HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) flagship was not featured at the event.

Both options utilize a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine but have different outputs, as the lower-spec Ultra produces 105kW and 210Nm while the S boasts a higher 130kW and 270Nm output.

It should be noted that the interior of the Pro is virtually identical to the regular Jolion, which is only sold in a base “City” grade now, save for the addition of paddle shifters on the steering wheel and a larger infotainment display.

The paddle shifters do highlight another advantage of the Haval, which is that it features a seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox – something that is quite rare for this price bracket as most of its competitors are fitted with CVTs.

Getting comfortable in one of the S units was easy thanks to the inclusion of electronically adjustable seats for both the driver and front passenger, and we were soon on our way out of Joburg.

The power of the Pro is immediately apparent thanks to a relatively sensitive throttle that doesn’t need much encouragement to push the rev count, and the driving sensation is accompanied by a decent noise from the rear end, though the cabin itself is still appreciably quiet.

The various Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are quite aggressive, as the lane-keep assist is very quick to take control of the wheel if you veer to the sides.

It will also beep at you for a number of reasons from going even 1km over the speed limit, to not leaving a big enough following distance to the car in front.

Even when the engine is turned off, the Jolion’s blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert systems will beep when something passes behind it in a parking area, which can sometimes be a bit annoying.

It is possible to adjust the ADAS through the touchscreen, but it’s not something you can easily do on the move as Haval’s infotainment system has you flicking through multiple sub-menus to get to most functions.

For example, the Pro S is fitted with heated and ventilated seats, but the controls for it aren’t located in the shortcut for the climate settings. Instead, you need to go through the settings menu to the comfort tab and then find the seats tab to access the settings for both the driver and passenger seats.

You’ll also need a wired connection for Android Auto, but thankfully there is a sub-shelf for the centre console where you can store your smartphone.

Storage space is excellent with large cupholders, a wireless charging pad, and a good-sized storage bin and glove box, and the cabin itself is reasonably spacious – an element that is enhanced by the addition of a panoramic sunroof with a retractable shade.

After stopping at a petrol station, where the Jolion’s good looks attracted a crowd of curious motorists, we headed for quieter roads where the Pro’s performance got to shine.

It can easily pick up the pace when you put your foot down and combined with the paddles for a quick downshift, you can comfortably overtake what’s ahead of you.

After a lunch break, we switched over to the Ultra Luxury, and the general experience was much the same.

The loss of power is noticeable but, that being said, the 105kW that the lower-spec model offers is still above average for its segment.

You still get all the other trimmings, including the paddles, so aside from a dip in power that is only perceptible if you’ve just driven the S, the two cars offer an almost identical driving sensation.

Final thoughts

The Haval Jolion Pro is a welcome addition to the roster of one of the best-selling crossovers in South Africa.

It achieves what it set out to do with flying colours, providing a more dynamic experience to a car that already offered solid performance within its segment.

At a starting price of R391,150, it’s also substantially cheaper than similarly-themed rivals like the Toyota Corolla Cross GR-Sport and the Chery Tiggo 7 Pro Max, which further enhances its appeal as a compelling value-for-money option in one of the country’s most popular price brackets.

Haval Jolion Pro

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