For the first time in my life, I got to test drive a Chinese car, a Haval Jolion, while in South Africa. The verdict? It felt no different than many others SUV crossovers I have driven over the years.
Driving A Chinese Car (Haval Jolion) In South Africa
At the Avis car rental agency in Durban, South Africa, we were assigned a brand new Jolion. These cars are made by the Haval division of Great Wall Motor and began production in 2022 (they are produced in China, Russia, and Thailand).
Over the next couple of days it took us around the KwaZulu-Natal province and operated flawlessly. It’s not that I expected anything different, but I’ve never seen one in the USA before and even on my several past trips to Mainland China prior to the pandemic I recall only driving in Toyotas and the occasional Mercedes.
With prohibitive duties in the USA that eliminate the comparative advantage in Chinese labor costs, I do not expect Haval to be a challenge to U.S. automakers in my lifetime (same story with Chinese-made aircraft like the Comac C919…), but I suspect many South Africans appreciate that a new automobile can be purchased so reasonably (starting at under $20,000).
We drove it over some dirt roads as well as some poorly-paved roads and I felt that it performed perfectly fine, just like driving in any SUV crossover. It reminded me of the Skoda Kamiq I drive in Germany last summer.
In the backseat, where I spent most of the time, the legroom was a bit tight and the USB-A chargers in the center console did not have enough juice to charge my mobile phone.
But our luggage fit in the trunk, Apple AirPlay worked fine, the a/c quickly cooled the cabin down, and the gas mileage was decent (around 7L/100km).
While there was some novelty in stepping into a Chinese-made car for the first time, it performed just like any of the other entry- to mid-grade SUVs I have rented in the past.