As Haima’s first ground-up design, it veers away from the Mazda-like aesthetic of earlier solo efforts for a more European vibe. Despite echoes of Mercedes and Opel, it’s distinctive enough for passers-by to ask questions like “Ano yan?” and “Magkano?”. The sculpted flanks move playfully, and the look is very cosmopolitan and modern.
Interior design takes a step up from previous cars, and finally feels completely mainstream. There’s faux leather on all the high-contact surfaces, and the powered leatherette-clad seats are deeply bolstered and comfortable. Perhaps the only traces of Chinese origin are the clunky touchscreen’s controls and menus. The screen suffers from graphical clutter, and there are no station or track controls on the console.
Though smaller than the old S7, the S5’s Era 2.0 platform makes it roomier. A compact engine bay plays host to a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, while short overhangs make in-traffic maneuvers easy.
Haima further differentiates itself from Mazda in terms of the drive. The CVT prioritizes smoothness over sport, easing rather than jumping forward. Despite this, low-speed acceleration actually betters the dual-clutch MG’s, thanks to the CVT’s infinite ratios.
Still, a few minutes behind the wheel will tell you this car is not meant for spirited driving. The steering is heavy and syrupy, and tall 215/60 R17 GitiComfort SUV tires, while quiet, make for wooly steering feel and turn-in. Damping is good, however, dealing with bumps with nary a clunk nor whimper.
While the S5’s low seat and the thick doors sometimes leave you guessing how much side clearance you have, the small size and the 360-degree parking camera make it a doodle to park. Though video quality is so-so, the system has the bonus of activating with your turn signals at low speeds, helping prevent curb rash in tight spots.
Over the week we had the unit, fuel economy was decent though not exceptional; 10-12km/L in mixed running. On the highway, despite doing just 2,000rpm at 80kph, economy was resolutely average. Despite the ability to save fuel in light use, downsized turbo engines have similar consumption to bigger motors with a full load.
Still, the fact that Haima is forging ahead with new technology while bigger manufacturers play a more conservative game speaks volumes of the its aspirations. It isn’t a big player yet, but the S5 is already a minor sales success up north. It’s only a matter of time, we think, before this brand makes its way down to Manila.
SPECS: Haima S5 1.5T Deluxe CVT
Engine: 1.5-liter DOHC I4
Power: 161hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 223Nm @ 1,800-4,000rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
UP NEXT: MG GS