AIM­ING HIGH

Driven: Haval H9 seven-seater 4WD

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

DE­TAIL­ING

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

DE­CID­ING

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.

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