Car reviews - Haval - H9 - Luxury
Interior fit and feel, cruising comfort, standard equipment, off-road ability
Room for improvement
Asthmatic petrol engine, no diesel option, unrefined ride and dynamics, some detail lost in translation
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16 Mar 2016
Price and Equipment
THIS review is for Haval's biggest model, the H9, which goes up against strong competitors such as the Ford Everest, Toyota Prado and Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it is worth mentioning its siblings for context.
Priced from $24,990 driveaway for the compact H2 and $41,990 before on-road costs for the mid-sized H8, the H9's stablemates are on the more expensive side when compared with the competition, but the largest Haval is more competitively priced, starting at $46,490 in base guise.
Our test car was finished in Luxury specification, which adds a solid dose of extra kit to the equation such as leather and wood, heating for the front seats, several massage and ventilation modes for the first row, large 18-inch wheels, six off-road driving modes, electrically folding third row seats, a sunroof, a posher stereo and even an air purifier.
The extra gear bumps the price up to $50,990 but that's before you get stuck into the options list as someone had with our car, installing a pair of child-pacifying second-row entertainment screens.
Other standard kit includes a large 8.0-inch dash-mounted screen, navigation with free upgrades, cruise control, keyless entry and start, 50:50 split third-row seats, 60:40 split second-row seating, Isofix child seat anchors and a dusting of off-road instrumentation including altimeter, compass, barometer and pitch angle.
Safety systems are also well represented in the H9 with curtain airbags for all three rows, reversing camera, parking sensors all round, self dimming rearview mirror, driver condition monitoring, tyre pressure monitoring, Bosch ESC, ABS, EBD, Hill-start and descent assistance.
Unlike its more diverse rivals, the Haval is only available with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, automatic transmission and four-wheel drive.
When taking into account all the H9's gear and drivetrain, it goes up against some well equipped offerings such as the Toyota Prado VX ($72,990), Nissan Pathfinder Ti AWD ($65,090), Ford’s Everest Trend ($60,990) and the Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.6 Overland ($72,000), although the latter is not offered with seven seats.
Hop aboard the H9 and you may forget, for a moment, that you are riding in a reasonably priced, Chinese car. The expansive tan leather was supple and fragrant, the fit and finish was surprisingly good and the various wood and high-quality components seemed well screwed together.
Highly adjustable seats in the front row and even some tilt and slide options for the second row made getting comfortable a breeze, added to by the spacious interior and high ride height.
Massage functions are often little more than a gimmick, but on its most aggressive setting the Haval administered a genuinely therapeutic pummelling.
As with any seven-seater, the third row is not such a comfortable place as the first two rows, but there are some features to stop occupants feeling as though they have been forgotten, including cup holders and ventilation. The electric fold function is also another example of rich equipment levels.
At night, mood lighting adds another touch of class and we particularly like the red Haval welcome 'door mat' projected on to the ground when the car is unlocked.
With a cavernous interior, the H9 is practical for moving people and things and only its 60:40 split folding second row seats let the side down, lacking the ability to fold completely flat, which would limit your cargo options.
There were some other anomalies that occasionally made the H9 look a little like an unfinished project such as a 'mode' scroll wheel on the steering wheel, which actually adjusted the volume, air-conditioning that would turn on uninvited, and a mysterious voice that asked us to “select the parking mode” each time reverse was selected.
The navigation also asked for a “junction” to be selected instead of the more customary “destination” which took some deciphering.
Generally speaking though, for cabin comfort, quality and equipment, the H9 punches above its weight.
Engine and transmission
Under the bonnet of the H9 is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with 160kW, which frankly, in a car that weighs more than 2.2 tonnes, is not enough, and even more frustratingly, Haval does not offer a diesel option, which is almost essential in the large-SUV segment.
Considering the H9's mass, the four-pot does not struggle as much as we were expecting but the performance certainly isn't sprightly and when loaded up with gear and three people, tackling hills and overtaking required even more advance planning.
Once up and running the standard automatic transmission does a good job of not being noticed, but there was an obvious vibration on pull away, not unlike a contaminated clutch in a manual car.
Fuel consumption was initially close to Haval's quoted 12.1 litres per 100km, but we discovered that, bizarrely, the switchable driving mode defaults to the Sport setting each time the car is restarted, which forces the transmission to hold a lower gear.
After turning sport mode off, the revs died during freeway cruising and fuel use dropped to 10.1L/100km – another example of some strange decisions taken during the H9's development.
Ride and handling
Long road trips are when the H9 really comes into its own, with plenty of comfort gear and space for everyone and a comfortable ride with low noise levels and a panoramic view of the surroundings.
We managed a few effortless hours behind the wheel and were impressed by how easily the Haval covered distances.
Handling is no worse than one might expect from a large high-riding SUV with some roll in corners and steering which is heavier at low speeds and just a touch too light when up and moving. These might have been paltry complaints a few years ago, but with so many competitors driving ever more like cars, all four-wheel drives need to offer some driving involvement in the modern market.
A spongy brake pedal had almost the feel of an often-bemoaned hybrid regenerative brake systems but without the benefits of electric energy reclamation, and we felt a little isolated from the road, but the H9 really doesn't claim to be a sportscar.
The front double wishbone and multi-link rear suspension set up crashes over some imperfections in the road but the fussiness over some surfaces is an acceptable trade-off when it comes to the H9s behaviour when it leaves the beaten trail.
We didn't throw the big SUV at severe off-road challenges that would require us delving into the various terrain and traction settings, which is probably a compliment in itself, but through mud, deep sand and undulating landscape, the H9 behaved admirably. A bit more diesel torque and the Haval would have really shone.
Safety and servicing
All the usual electronic stability and driver assistance systems are on offer in the H9 including ESC, ABS, EBD and hill hold assistance as well as a good selection of off-road settings should you get caught short outback. The H9 is yet to be crash tested by ANCAP.
A reversing camera with parking assistance and sensors, adaptive headlights, self-dimming rear-view mirror, driver condition monitoring, cruise control and tyre pressure monitoring complete a good list of safety tech in addition to the six airbags with curtain type for all three seat rows.
The H9 is covered by Haval’s five-year/100,000 warranty, five years of national roadside assist and a Service Price Guarantee scheme.
During our time with the Haval, we were regularly approached by interested passers-by who were intrigued by the H9 and among the many inquisitive questions was the most frequent what is it?With prestige-segment looks, the H9 attracts the right kind of attention on the outside, provides a comfortable place for up to seven people on long trips on and off-road and for a reasonable price, but besides sorting a few teething driving and development problems, Haval's biggest challenge will be building a brand and reputation in Australia's unforgiving market.
Toyota Prado VX from $72,990 before on-road costs
Like the Haval, Toyota's Prado targets a customer with realistic ambitions to take their four-wheel drive off road with capable ladder chassis and transmission, but has the added advantage of a diesel engine at entry level.
Stepping up to the Haval's level of equipment takes the price up as high as $84,490, depending on the variant.
Ford Everest Trend from $60,990 before on-road costs
Ford's offering in the large seven-seat go-anywhere SUV segment has a gutsy five-cylinder diesel as standard and plenty of blue oval respect, but like the Toyota, equalling the Haval's equipment levels takes a bit more cash.
Jeep Grand Cherokee from $72,000 before on-road costs
Jeep's large off-road SUV can't seat seven but it does have an attractive price in petrol or a silky six-cylinder diesel engine and 4WD from $72,000 in Overland guise. It's off-road capability is well respected but like the other two competitors here, more money has to be spent for the full range of toys.
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