HAVAL MAKES IN-ROADS OFF ROAD
MORE polish for considerably less price is Haval’s pitch for its updated H9.
The seven-seat SUV plays on price against the Toyota Kluger and Hyundai Santa Fe. In reality, the ladder-frame chassis and off-road focus, including a lowrange mode, set it against the Toyota Prado and Ford Everest.
That’s tough competition but Haval has form as the largest SUV manufacturer in China and is determined to make inroads here.
Chief marketing officer Tim Smith knows it is a slow burn. The brand sold 710 vehicles here last year, well up on the 286 shipped in 2016 and largely due to word-ofmouth referral from existing owners.
Haval says the arrival of a new platform in 2020 – which will accommodate hybrid and pure electric vehicle drivetrains – will boost handling and active driving aids. Lane-departure and blind-spot warnings and rear cross-traffic alert are already standard on the H9 but the next-gen vehicle will add autonomous emergency braking.
Standard gear on the base H9 Lux includes front and rear sensors, reversing camera, satnav, cruise control, tri-zone aircon with vents to all three rows and separate controls for those in the second set of seats, and a 220V power outlet in the back.
The top-spec Ultra picks up a panoramic sunroof, higher quality audio, headlights that turn with the steering wheel, powered front seats with heating and massage settings, and power folding third row seats.
The obvious questions for any new player are: is it safe, is it well-built, is it value for money and is it efficient?
The answer, mainly, is yes. The H9 earned a four-star ANCAP rating when it was assessed in 2015, earning 12.08 out of a possible 16 points.
Measured against the Santa Fe price rival, the H9 can’t match the monocoquebodied SUV for on-road manners but doesn’t disgrace itself against vehicles with similarly solid underpinnings, and is dramatically cheaper than those rivals.
The brakes are good on the bitumen or in the bush and hitting the stoppers while
turning no longer activates the hazard lights. Kumho tyres, replacing the previous Cooper rubber, help reduce road noise while still giving decent grip on the more slippery surfaces.
The engine now has more grunt but could do with more.
The throttle still lags when pushing along uphill or hitting the go pedal when rolling up to lights when they turn green.
Haval is improving with every release.
It is let down here purely on power but those looking for a cheap four-wheel drive with off-road ability and seven seats should give it a spin.
Haval H9 is making in-roads into the Australian market.