News Detail

The Haval Dargo (BIG DOG) Is An Off-roader That Can't Off-road

Issuing time:2022-03-23 10:59

What is it?

Have you ever considered just how important the name of a car can be? Automakers spend billions developing a new model, then hand it off to the marketing department and say, “Don’t mess this up!” That’s how we end up with middle-of-the-road names like Accord and Mondeo.

But sometimes a company really goes for it, which is how we get something like the Haval BIG DOG, a car whose name can only be written in all caps Impact font.

OK, so the cars official English name is Dargo, but that's a terrible name and nowhere near as good as the direct translation of the Chinese name, which is BIG DOG, so we're just going to use that instead.


A Defender/Bronco/G-Wagen

Wheelsboy is on a roll recently when it comes to reviewing cars that are, let’s say, “heavily inspired by those of more well-known brands. The BIG DOG looks like at least three different off-roading icons: the Ford Bronco, the Land Rover Defender, and the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen.

Haval is really committed to their dog theme, as evidenced by the fact that you can choose from colors including Red Dog, Blue Dog, and Black Dog. Can you guess the official name for the color of our test car?

Actually, it’s shimmering pearl metallic. Just kidding, it’s White Dog.


The BiG DOG looks almost toy-like in its proportions, due in large part to the exceedingly small greenhouse. This is compounded by the fact that, despite being almost half a meter shorter than something like a Ford Explorer, it is 2cm taller.

The rear end styling is a bit more unique than the rest if the design, with wraparound taillights that distinguish it from the Bronco or Defender. Overall, it comes off as a bit generic, like something you might find in the discount section of the toy store simply labeled “off-roader”.

What’s your breed of choice?

The BIG DOG isn’t marketed as a luxury off-roader, and it’s priced accordingly. For 18,000 USD you can get into an entry-level “Husky” trim, and from there you can upgrade to the Labrador, Border Collie, Malinois, and finally the range topping Chinese Rural Dog trim. That last one will cost you around 23,000 USD.

Our test vehicle was a “Malinois” trim level, putting it somewhere around the upper-middle of the lineup. What you get for 21,000 USD isn’t half bad, and includes a heads-up display, 360-degree camera system, automatic braking, and a 12.3-inch center screen. We would have appreciated heated seats during our drive, but that’s just about all it is missing for this price.


Interior material quality seems to be aligned with what you’d expect from a car at this price range. It’s plastic as far as the eye can see, but everything seems to be screwed together well, and this 10,000km example is free of any squeaks or rattles. There was only one area that caught our attention in a bad way, and that was the transmission knob. The chrome comes off as looking very cheap, and somewhat inappropriate for something that’s supposed to have utilitarian pretensions.

Back seat space is adequate in terms of both head and legroom, with two easily accessible USB ports on the back of the center console. There is no official number for rear cargo space, but it seems in line with other vehicles in this class. The high floor, however, was an issue when loading and unloading items.

A new dog with new tricks

The BIG DOG’s range topping “Chinese Rural Dog” trim level comes with all-wheel drive and a 2.0L turbo four pushing out 155 kW and 325 Nm of torque (207 HP and 240 lb-ft), while all other models are front-wheel drive and come with a 1.5-litre turbo four making 125 kW and 285 Nm of torque (169 HP and 210 lb-ft). Both put power through a 7-speed DCT.

When it to comes to the driving experience, there isn’t really that much to say about the BIG DOG. It’s remarkable only in how much better it is than some of the older Havals that we’ve driven, particularly in terms of power delivery. The turbo and the 7-speed DCT work together well to make smooth power.

The suspension is soft and there is plenty of body roll, but that makes for a comfortable ride as well. We didn’t even pretend to try and take this thing off-road, because that’s not what it’s actually for. It was built to look like it could go off-roading, not actually do it.


For the same price you’d pay for a 1.5L version of BIG DOG, you could get a 2.0L version of its sister car, the Haval H6. The H6 is one of the best-selling cars in China, and a perfectly competent compact SUV. That 2.0L H6 might get slightly better or equal fuel economy considering the fact that it’s not shaped like a box. The H6 seems like the obvious answer, doesn’t it?

But the reality is that the BIG DOG isn’t just an alternative to more traditional crossovers like the H6, it’s also a cheaper alternative to something like a Jeep Wrangler. Before you get out your pitchforks and torches, we’re not trying to say that it can compete from a performance perspective. This thing couldn’t keep up with even a base Wrangler. What we mean is that it’s a cheaper way of expressing to the world, “I am an adventurous, outdoorsy type”, without having to pay for all the extra equipment that would allow you to, you know, actually take it off-road.

People who buy this thing want to look like an off-roading legend, while also enjoying the economy and comfort of a front-wheel drive vehicle with a 1.5L engine. Compare that to the person who convinces themselves they need a Jeep Wrangler with locking diffs just to go to the grocery store. They’re both posers, but we wouldn’t blame someone for choosing the comfort of the BIG DOG.

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