The Haval Cool Dog Is a Stylish Compact SUV
Issuing time:2023-04-03 18:10Author:Ethan Robertson
What is it?
Say what you will about Chinese cars, but if there's one thing that Chinese car companies do well, it's names, and nobody does names like the people at Great Wall Motor. GWM are the fine people behind models like the ORA Lightning Cat and Funky Cat, as well as the legendary Haval Big Dog, a vehicle whose name should only be written in bold. It’s fitting then that the smaller cousin to the Big Dog be bestowed with an equally interesting name, Cool Dog.
More than a mini Big Dog
The Cool Dog definitely bears a striking resemblance to the Big Dog, but is smaller in nearly every dimension (not entirely surprising when you consider the names). Think of it as the sleeker interpretation of the dog styling language, the Bronco Sport to the Big Dog’s Bronco.
The Cool Dog only has four-wheel drive available on the highest of its four trim levels, but that hasn't stopped the scamps over at Haval from giving it a design language that would make you think otherwise. The squared-off fenders look ready to swallow off-road tires, but make do with much more road-friendly street tires. There's also the bumper and underbody skid plate that are finished to look like metal, but are actually a much more brittle plastic. To top it off, the skid plate doesn't extend far enough under the car to actually protect you from anything.
If you can forgive its off-road theater, however, the Cool Dog’s design is among the more charming you will find in this segment, if not the most practical. The beltline is incredibly high, especially aft of the C-pillar, leading to a greenhouse that has the area of say, three postage stamps. But form over function reaches soaring new heights on the rear. The main character in this story is the lump, which seems to have scared the tail lights all the way to the edge of the design and eaten up most of the rear window (rear visibility is seriously at a premium).
Yet, the lump serves no purpose beyond aesthetics. It is not a spare tire holder, nor is it a storage area, it is merely a lump. The Cool Dog could use some extra storage, because it’s rear cargo area measures only 493 liters, not an especially impressive number for this class.
While the Big Dog really committed to the bit by having trim levels with names like a “Belgian Malamute” and “Husky,” the Cool Dog has no such sense of humor. The trim levels are so boring that I'm not even going to bother translate them, but they cost between 16,500 and 20,000 USD.
The Cool Dog clearly chose to take after another GWM product instead, the Tank 300. The Tank and the Haval share the exact same shift lever (as opposed to the rotary knob style shifter in the Big Dog), and the same twin 12.3-inch LCD displays. That's a little awkward, however, since Tank is positioned as Great Wall Motor’s premium offroad brand, whereas Haval is the more down-market option.
If the highlighter green paint job and two-tone interior didn’t give it away already, the Cool Dog is aimed at younger buyers. That would help to explain the company’s decision to budget for an 18-speaker JVC sound system, available on three out of four trim levels. This is probably the best sound system available on a car in this price category. The bass is strong enough that the speaker embedded in the driver’s seat basically gave me a back massage, and it includes some of the coolest headrest-mounted speakers I’ve ever seen.
Should you be relegated to the back seat, the Cool Dog still delivers a decent passenger experience. Highlights include the large sunroof, two USB ports (Type A), and copious space. No center armrest of any kind, however.
A bunker out to sea
First and foremost, the Cool Dog has perhaps the worst visibility of any car in this segment. The beltline seems to start at your neck, and the rear window is truly useless. Once you adapt to this, however, it’s not a bad little commuter SUV. All versions of The Cool Dog come with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission and a 1.5 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. But there are two different power levels available: 110 kW and 218 Nm (150hp/160lbs-ft) or 135 kW and 275 Nm (184hp/203lbs-ft).
Thankfully, that 275 Nm is available from just 1500 R.P.M., so the Cool Dog feels peppy enough when driving in city environments. The 7-speed DCT transmission is pretty much invisible most of the time, except for the very occasional hiccup when you're trying to take off from a stoplight.
The Cool Dog only has four-wheel drive on the highest of its four trim levels and similar ground clearance to a Honda CR-V, so we can only assume that its off-roading capabilities are similar. What we can confirm is that it doesn’t handle as well as a CR-V. The Haval feels very much like a floating bunker that’s been tossed into the ocean once you start entering corners at speed. The roll is real, and this compact SUV is happiest when tracking in a straight line down the highway or from light to light.
But while the driving experience isn't going to leave you impressed, it’s not bad enough to take away from the fun exterior and interior styling, as well as the suite of features, which includes adaptive cruise control on all trim levels.
In a world where you seemingly have to choose between jellybean-shaped soft roaders and square, overly capable off-roaders, the looks and comfort of the Cool Dog are likely to be a winning compromise.
Haval Cool Dog
Engine: 1.5L Turbo 4-cylinder
Transmission: 7-speed DCT
Power: 135 kW, 275 Nm
Fuel Consumption (WLTC): 8.29L/100 km
CDM Price (as tested): 20,300 USD
Article classification: Petrol Cars