HAVAL MAKES IN-ROADS OFF ROAD

Hills Gazette - - COMMUNITY DRIVE WAY - Craig Duff Ver­dict:

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.

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