The crossover market has encountered a boom in the Philippines. More and more people want to get their hands on one, thanks to the ever-changing road conditions and unpredictable weather that warrant vehicles with a bit of space from the ground.
Enter the JAC S1. It’s JAC Motor’s entry into the small crossover market. Actually, small is an understatement, as the S1 is even smaller than the popular subcompact crossovers out there.
A Chinese crossover priced lower than small entry-level hatchbacks, here’s our review of the JAC S1.
“It looks cute” - is one of the first reactions I got when the JAC S1 was delivered to our office. It has a crossover vibe going for it thanks to its low approach angles and its relatively tall looking ride height and ground clearance of 180mm. Its looks set it apart from the rest of the cars on the road because of its rear, as it features a hatch mounted spare tire, which is now a rare sight.
Moving on to the front of the car, the JAC S1 has projector halogen headlamps and LED daytime running lights. These are a welcomed addition, especially in its segment since most of its competitors are equipped with halogen reflectors instead. It features front and rear fog lights, too, added perks for low visibility conditions, while there are roof rails for when you want to carry more cargo.
The interior comes in a black and red theme. The dash gets plastic red accents that spill over onto the door sidings as well as the seats. Speaking of seats, the seating material is fabric, which also continues the red and black theme. Seating adjustment is limited, though, the default seating position is high, which lets you see more of the road.
The interior felt rather large thanks to the big windows and short hood. It’s also partly due to the high seating position and wide visibility. All these make you feel like you are driving a vehicle bigger than what it really is. While plastics are plenty, it's well suited to its price point, mind you.
The fabric seats inside the vehicle are comfortable and depending on your seating position; you aren’t going to put a strain on your back during long-distance trips. The tall seating position keeps you upright and gives you a good view of the road ahead as well as a view of what's happening around you.
Passengers at the back might not have a comfortable time, however. The rear seats aren't adjustable but the default seating position is there to maximize legroom. For taller people, however, the headroom can be an issue as the roofline lowers slightly as it sweeps back towards the rear.
Trunk space with the rear seats up is 190L, that's roughly enough to put a small toolbox in comfortably without disturbing interior cabin. With the rear seats down the trunk space increases dramatically. JAC hasn't released the specific amount but expect it to be upwards of 300-liters.
On the inside, the S1 differs from the rest of the market by featuring a digital RPM gauge. While it's a good concept, its execution needs work as there’s a noticeable lag between when you hit the accelerator and when the rev counter goes up.
It also has a 7-inch touch screen with redundant physical buttons. While the touchscreen itself has about a one-second delay before it acknowledges your command, it still gets the job done. The Bluetooth system works well and pairs quickly to phones. The operation and navigation of the head unit is a breeze as the button layout is simple and easy to understand.
The S1 comes with backup sensors and a dynamic reverse camera. Having dynamic lines is useful when you need to park the vehicle. Although the sensors would only activate when the vehicle was already close to an object. Another added feature of the S1 is the tire pressure monitoring system. Useful as it is, it has a weird quirk where you have to drive a certain speed and distance before it will start displaying the actual tire pressure.
Sound is sent through 4 speakers, two of which are located in the dash of the vehicle itself. An odd choice but you will hear the difference compared to the more conventional door-mounted speakers sound setups. It's an easy fix, however, with quick tweaks to the sound settings to match the sound quality of door-mounted speaker systems.
The JAC S1 features two airbags, one apiece for the driver and the front passenger. Three-point seatbelts are standard all around including the middle passenger seat. ISOFIX tethers are also present for those who want to bring children with them. Added passive safety features come in the form of ABS and EBD systems that come standard with the car.
Central door locking and speed sensing door locks are also present, adding a layer of convenience. Some of these features may not even be present in other vehicles in S1’s segment.
Driving & Handling
The 1.3-liter naturally-aspirated engine found in the JAC S1 produces 99 hp and 126 Nm of torque. The engine was willing but sadly the throttle response was not. Throttle delay was noticeable but once I got the hang of it, the vehicle became easier to drive.
Once you get it up to speed and pin the throttle, however, the engine comes online and gives you everything it’s got. While you do have to think a couple seconds ahead if you want to overtake traffic, acceleration is linear and will give you enough power to overtake when you need to.
Body roll was present but only at higher speeds. The vehicle itself felt nimble at slower speeds, partly thanks to its light electric power steering and light chassis. The steering was so light in fact that you could drive with one finger. I highly suggest that you don't drive with one finger.
The brakes were strong but felt rather odd. The initial play was good but once I pressed deeper it was like pushing against a wall. The stopping power was there but getting to the maximum of what the brakes can offer you was rather difficult. Having a more linear brake feel would do wonders for the car.
The crossover displays its fuel economy in liters over 100 kilometers, so a bit of conversion is needed to get its kilometers per liter numbers. In heavy rush hour traffic, the S1 was able to get 6.25 km/L. On the highway, however, it was able to get 14 km/L at an average speed of 90 km/h. In mixed conditions, with half of the trip being city traffic and the other half being highway sprints the crossover was able to get 10.4km/L.
The JAC S1 is definitely a crossover for the city. It's driving characteristics alone make it best suited for the city thanks to its suspension tuning. Even in heavy traffic and with a vague but light clutch, the vehicle is still easy to drive. Having the reassurance that the vehicle won't stall easily will make stop and go traffic, a little bit easier.
Would I recommend it? Yes, but only if you want a manual point A to B no muss, no fuss small crossover. The S1 does have a lot of features no doubt, but where it falls short is the throttle response. If JAC can update the throttle response and lower the latency of the rev counter then it could have a potent vehicle on their hands.
Besides, at its P585,000 price point, its nearest competitors are only available in their base model variants with limited features. No other vehicles in its price bracket comes with a backup camera with dynamic lines, back up sensors, and a tire monitoring system as standard. It also trumps them in terms of power and torque. And of course, the coveted ride height that Filipinos seem to love.