Driven: Haval H9 seven-seater 4WD
MOTOR industry veteran John O’Brien and a group of investors are behind the Chinese brand and the return of Great Wall at a new dealership on Mulgrave Rd southbound at Earlville.
Haval has come to Cairns and Australia with a full suite of SUVs, starting with the compact H2, the midsized H6 and H8 and the seven-seater H9.
The H9 goes up against strong competitors such as the Ford Everest, Toyota Prado and Je e p Gr a n d Ch e r o ke e , competitively priced starting at $ 46,490 drive away in base guise.
Interest in the yet proven brand is growing as people seek alternatives to the usual fare and value for money.
The H9 is surprisingly better than I was expecting. It’s no cheap plasticky affair.
Standard kit includes a large 8in 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 offroad instrumentation including altimeter, compass, barometer and pitch angle.
Safety s y stems are well covered with curtain airbags for all three rows, a reversing camera, parking sensors all round, a self-dimming rearview mirror, driver condition and tyre pressure monitoring, Bosch ESC, ABS, EBD, Hill-start and descent assistance.
The price is lower than competitors but it is hamstrung by having a smaller 2.0- litre turbocharged four- cylinder petrol eng in e , a u tomatic transmission and four-wheel drive.
When taking into account all the H9’s gear and drivetrain, it goes up against some wellequipped 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 Ch e roke e 3. 6 Ov e r l a n d ($72,000), although the latter is not offered with seven seats.
Getting behind the wheel of the H9 and it’s easy to forget that you are in a reasonably priced, Chinese car. 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 easy, added to by the spacious interior and high-ride height.
As with any seven-seater, the third row is not such a comfortable place as the first two rows, but there are some good features, including cup holders and airconditioning vents.
At night, mood lighting adds another touch of class and I particularly liked the red Haval welcome ‘door mat’ projected on to the ground when the car is unlocked. There is a lot of room inside and the H9 is practical for moving people and bits and pieces .
There were some foibles such as various chimes and bongs that came on unexpected.
Every 30 minutes a bong would emit to tell the driver it was in 2WD mode.
Then there was a mysterious female voice that asked to “select the parking mode” each time reverse was selected.
Overall for cabin comfort, quality and equipment, the H9 punches above its weight.
Under the bonnet of the H9 is a 2.0-litre turbocharged fourcylinder petrol with 160kW, which frankly, in a vehicle that weighs more than 2.2 tonnes, is not enough. There is no diesel option either.
Considering the mass, the four-cylinder does not struggle as much as expected.
It’s no sports car and needs to be revved to get moving and for overtaking and tackling hills.
Once up and running the standard automatic transmission does a good job.
Fuel consumption is not good. Haval quotes 12.1 litres per 100km, but over the weekend of 3 0 0 km - p l u s , i t re t u rned 13.9L/100km and twice I had to top up the tank.
Open- road cruising is the H9’ s for t e wi t h pl e n t y o f comfort gear and space for everyone, a comfortable ride with low wind, engine and road noise levels.
Handling is what is expected 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.
A spongy brake pedal was no t i c e a b l e . Ev e n un d e r moderate braking the hazard flashers automatically engaged, which puzzled motorists behind me.
The front double wishbone and multi-link rear suspension se t u p cr a shes ov e r so m e imperfections in the road but the fussiness over some surfaces is an acceptable trade-off for a 4WD. We didn’t challenge the big SUV to serious off- road work but a stint on Tinaroo Cr e e k Rd f rom Ma re e b a through the national park to Lake Tinaroo was a breeze.
We didn’t even engage 4WD at all but it would have been a different story if it had been wet and slippery.
All the usual elec tronic stability and driver assistance systems are available in the H9, including ESC, ABS, EBD and hill hold assistance as well as a good selec tion of off- road settings.
A reversing camera with parking assistance and sensors, adaptive headlights, selfdimming 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.
The Hava l H 9 ca n n o t b e dismissed beca us e i t i s a n unknown Chinese brand.
With prest ige- 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 o n an d of f - ro a d an d fo r a reasonable price. There are a fe w teething d r iving an d development problems, but it is worth consideration.