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Rugged off-road arrivals: Lada Niva Travel, BAIC BJ40 Plus and Haval Dargo 2.0T

By Ghaith Madadha - May 30,2022 - Last updated at May 30,2022

Photos from top to bottom respectively courtesy of Lada, BAIC and Haval

Different from the average bland run of the mill SUVs and crossovers that dominate city roads, the genuinely off-road capable SUV carries a sense of authenticity and peace of mind to drive in adverse conditions. More so, the off-road SUV brings a sense of excitement and adventure that crossovers cannot replicate. Fitting such a description, albeit in different ways, sizes and price points, the Lada Niva Travel, BAIC BJ40 Plus and Haval Dargo are among the most interesting SUVs to arrive in Jordan in recent months.

Lada Niva Travel

A wholly Russian-owned automaker independent of the Renault group once again as of recent days, Lada’s latest Jordanian offering however arrived in recent months. First developed as a joint venture with General Motors and launched in its latest iteration in 2021, the Lada Niva Travel is intended as a more comfortably refined, better equipped and more modern vehicle to supplement the brand’s old school Niva Legend legacy model.

It would, however, be a misconception to think of the Niva Travel as a soft-edged crossover. It is instead a slightly less hardcore sister model to the iconic Niva Legend, and rides on similarly rugged live axle and coil spring rear suspension. A tiny five-door SUV of the mountain goat philosophy, the Niva Travel easily maneuvers through narrow and inhospitable terrain, and features generous off-road angles, 220mm ground clearance and 500mm water fording capability. 

Powered by Lada’s familiar and uncomplicated longitudinally mounted 1.7-litre four-cylinder engine, the Niva Travel develops 80BHP at 5,000rpm and 94lb/ft at 4,000rpm. Accelerating through 0-100km/h in 19-seconds, it can attain 140km/h. Driving all four wheels through a 5-speed manual gearbox, the Niva Travel’s extensive off-road ability also benefits from a locking centre differential and low gear ratios for even more demanding inclines and low traction conditions.


Engine: 1.7-litre, in-line 4-cylinders

Gearbox: 5-speed manual, four-wheel-drive,

Drive-line: Low ratio gears, locking centre differential

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 79 (80) [58.8] @5,000rpm

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 94 (127.4) @4,000rpm

0-100km/h: 19-seconds

Top speed: 140km/h

Length: 4,099mm

Width: 1,804mm

Height: 1,690mm

Wheelbase: 2,450mm

Ground clearance: 220mm

Wading: 500mm

Kerb weight: 1,485kg

Suspension, F/R: Double wishbones/solid axle, coil springs

Tyres: 215/65R16

Price, on-the-road: JD17,500


BAIC BJ40 Plus

Faintly familiar with a tapered bonnet, and boxy, upright and utilitarian design similar to a Jeep Wrangler and distant hints of Land Rover to its grille, the BAIC BJ40 Plus’s influences, however, coalesce to its own distinct character. One of the China’s most impressive vehicles to reach Jordan, the BJ40 Plus is an authentic and capable off-road SUV with body-on-chassis construction and coil sprung solid rear axle.

Smooth and forgiving on road, with a faintly rippled ride at the rear and tidy turn-in from its double wishbone front suspension, the BJ40 Plus dispatches lumps, bumps and potholes in its stride and feels better settled on rebound than one would expect. With removable roof, fold-down windshield, safety bars and commanding driving position, it meanwhile allows one to enjoy a configurable and truly open air driving experience.

Powered by an abundant and responsive Saab-derived 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine driving rear or all four wheels, the BJ40 Plus feels quicker on the move than its already brisk 9.5-second 0-100km/h acceleration time suggests. An adept off-roader with excellent off-road angles, generous 210mm ground clearance and axle articulation, the BJ40 also features low gear ratios and a locking rear differential for more extreme off-road and low traction conditions.

Engine: 2.3-litre, turbocharged in-line 4-cylinders

Gearbox: 6-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive

Drive-line: Low ratio transfer, rear electronic differential lock

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 247 (250) [184] @5,300rpm

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 258 (350) @1,900-4,500rpm

0-100km/h: 9.5-seconds (estimate)

Top speed: 170km/h (estimate)

Length: 4,630mm

Width: 1,843mm

Height: 1,861mm

Wheelbase: 2,730mm

Ground clearance: 210mm

Approach/break-over/departure angles: 37°/23°/31°

Kerb weight: 2,095kg (estimate)

Suspension, F/R: Double wishbone/solid axles, coil springs

Tyres: 245/65R17

Price, on-the-road: JD34,000-35,000


Haval Dargo 2.0T

Known domestically as the Dagou in China and Big Dog in Australia, Haval’s chunkiest, most aggressively styled SUV was, however, launched in recent months in the Middle East as the Dargo. A portmanteau for “dare to go”, the Dargo’s scowling, squared-off design goes all out to project a tough and rugged persona. Similarly stylised inside, the Dargo’s cabin is however sophisticated and well-equipped with convenience and infotainment features.

Styled with assertive sensibilities, the Dargo is, however, not quite the traditional SUV one might initially imagine. It is instead built using unibody construction, independent rear suspension and a transverse engine layout, similar to most crossovers. Closer to a so-called “soft roader” in front-wheel-drive guise, the four-wheel-drive Dargo however earns its off-road capable SUV credentials with its limited slip centre differential, locking rear differential and 200mm ground clearance

With centre and rear differentials allowing it to keep going in low traction conditions and even with one rear wheel raised, the top spec Dargo is meanwhile powered by generous 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a 7-speed dual clutch auto gearbox. Producing 196BHP at a 5,600-6300rpm plateau and 240lb/ft throughout a broad 1,500-4,000rpm band, it carries its 1,815kg mass through 0-100km/h at a fairly quick pace in 9.2-seconds.

Engine: 2-litre, turbocharged transverse 4-cylinders

Gearbox: 7-speed dual clutch automated, four-wheel-drive

Drive-line: Limited slip centre differential, locking rear differential

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 196 (198) [146] @5,600-6,300rpm

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 240 (325) @1,500-4,000rpm

0-100km/h: 9.2-seconds

Top speed: 195km/h

Length: 4,620mm

Width: 1,910mm

Height: 1,780mm

Wheelbase: 2,738mm

Ground clearance: 200mm

Approach/break-over/departure: 24°/22.5° /30°

Weight: 1,815kg

Suspension, F/R: MacPherson struts/multi-link

Tyres: 235/60R19

Price, on-the-road: JD37,500


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