A new SUV out of China offers premium quality at a very attractive price
You get what you pay for. It’s one of those little nuggets of life advice that one should file under “Wise Counsel” and keep top-of-mind when spending your hard-earned money. It’s almost always true. Almost. What you’re looking at here is a rarity … an exception to the rule.
Haval may not be well known on our shores, but since its launch here in May 2017, this Chinese luxury automotive brand has made an increasing number of people sit up an take notice. It’s a momentum gathered through the H2 and H6 C crossover models that have offered a level of build quality and refinement that one would expect from vehicles further up the price list.
This latest vehicle from the Haval stable steps it all up notch further. In terms of size, build quality, spec and price, the H9 moves into new territory for the brand in our market. At over 4,8m long and nearly two metre high, this is one big car … the kind that has grab handles on the door pillars to give all but the young and tall a little help in hauling oneself inside.
Once ensconced though, you’ll be impressed with the generous space it offers – not only by the three rows of seats, but also so the leg, shoulder and head room available. The standard spec list is equally vast and, apart from leather seats, you’ll get such amenities as a panoramic sunroof, third row seats that are electrically lowered, multi-zone climate control with outlets for all three rows. Both driver and passenger get heated and ventilated power-adjustable seats – that include a massage function – and the second row passengers get heated pews as well.
Standard too is a comprehensive infotainment system that includes navigation displayed via an 8-inch screen mounted centrally on the dash, as well as another 7-inch LCD behind the steering wheel displaying key driver information to supplement to flanking analogue displays.
Our time with the H9 included 600 km road trip through the Western Cape, from the Mother City through to Riebeek-Kasteel and Greyton via national, regional and gravel roads. With the second and third rows folded, the gargantuan luggage space (a claimed 747 litres) swallowed all our luggage plus a mountain bike … with room to spare.
On tar the H9 felt impressively refined with excellent NVH dampening characteristics that allowed very little engine, tyre or wind noise to intrude into the cabin. Like its immediate competitors, the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest, the H9 is a bakkie-like body-on frame chassis that can be a compromise in terms of ride comfort, but here – thanks to its multi-link rear suspension and independent double-wishbone front suspension – the H9 was suprisingly comfortable.
The vehicle has six drive modes you can select of the fly via a rotary dial next to the gear lever (Auto, 4L, Sport, Sand, Snow, and Mud) but, while we drive a fair distance on gravel, we didn’t do any hardcore off-roading and therefore kept it in Auto mode throughout the trip. On the gravel, the H9 felt composed and inherently stable with the 256/60 R18 Cooper Discoverer rubber providing excellent grip and its high-profile volume adding to the ride comfort.
Powering the H9 is the same 180 kw/365 N.m 2.0-litre turbopetrol found in the smaller H6 C and, while it’s certainly refined enough, one can’t help but yearn for the extra grunt a torquier turbodiesel would add to the mix in the heftier H9. This is a sizey vehicle that tips the scales at nearly 2.4 tonnes and, where power delivery is very smooth via the 8-speed gearbox, it could do with a little more grunt off the-line and some punchier in-gear acceleration for swift overtaking at highway speeds. Fuel consumption is therefore unsurprisingly on the high side and we averaged 12,6 L/100 km on our road trip.
If you are in the market for a Fortuner of Everest, this Haval H9 is definitely worth a test drive. It’s not only priced at around R50k less, but it’s going to offer you more interior space, better standard spec and a build quality that’s at least as good. Where its competitors do score pints though, is with their torquier turbodiesel motors and better fuel efficiency. That said, in the 700-odd kilometres we did in the H9, I never felt it to be prohibitively underpowered and given the value it offers, it would certainly be on my shopping list. “A lot of car for the money” about sums up the Haval H9.
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbopetrol
POWER 180 kW
TORQUE 350 Nm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed auto
TOP SPEED 190 km/h
FUEL ECONOMY 10,9L/100km*
SERVICE PLAN 5 year/60 000km
BASE PRICE R599 900
WHO IS HAVAL?
It’s the luxury SUV division of Great Wall Motors (you’ll know them as GWM) and in China it has ranked no. 1 in sales volume for 15 consecutive years. In 2017, Haval sold 1.1 million units in that country. To date the brand has 32 dealerships around the country.
H1 R179 900
H2 R259 900 – R319 900
H6 R244 900 – R264 900
H6 C R329 900 – R399 900