Haval’s new pre­mium H9 SUV sev­enseater: bet­ter than you’d think!

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS - Story & pho­tos: Dean Evans

HAVAL’S CATCHPRASE FOR ITS range of SUVS is ‘have it all’, and it’s very apt: firstly, it cov­ers the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of the brand, ‘have-al’, and sec­ond, it suc­cinctly de­scribes the equip­ment lev­els of the seven-seat Haval H9 SUV.

There are in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal styling cues from other brands, Mercedes bon­net vents and head­lights come to mind, as do a few Toy­ota Prado el­e­ments, on which it’s clearly in­spired by and tar­geted at. In fact there are many ar­eas where it looks or feels like another car, but for a young Chi­nese com­pany on the scene since 2014, the Haval H9 makes a strong case.

It’s very well equipped, equiv­a­lent to cars al­most twice its price: heated steer­ing wheel, power heated seats – also with cool­ing – and even a seat mas­sage func­tion. There’s lane as­sist, blind spot warn­ings, and plenty of tech like Blue­tooth, tri-zone cli­mate con­trol and an In­fin­ity sound sys­tem in the Ul­tra model we tested, though ab­sent are radar cruise con­trol, smart­phone mir­ror­ing and emer­gency brak­ing. Hap­pily, it off­sets this with a large touch­screen, panoramic sun­roof and switch­able mood light­ing for the over­head con­sole and door trims. The sup­ple­men­tary pas­sen­ger seat ad­just­ment switches on the driver’s side is pure ge­nius!

It’s big, at 4.86m long, slot­ting be­tween the 4.76m Prado and the 4.9m CX-8; and 1.9m tall, so it can be an in­tim­i­dat­ing beast. It does feel a bit boaty be­hind the wheel though, if push­ing a lit­tle too hard, the soft and com­pli­ant sus­pen­sion soak­ing up all the bump and lumps.

Per­for­mance? What en­gine would you ex­pect? Con­sid­er­ing Prado sports a 2.8-litre turbo diesel, and CX-8 gets a 2.2-litre diesel, it’s ini­tially a lit­tle sur­pris­ing to dis­cover a 2.0-litre petrol turbo en­gine. On paper, the power and torque num­bers are rea­son­able – 180kw/350nm – but then throw in the weight of 2230kg thanks partly to the lad­deron-frame chas­sis, and it should be slower than a rainy week in Gore.

Im­pres­sively it isn’t (with apolo­gies to any Gore read­ers, as­sum­ing they can read…). The en­gine runs a strong 18psi boost and cru­cially, the en­gine’s ideally matched with an eight-speed ZF auto gear­box that squeezes the juice from ev­ery last kilo­watt. Zero-to-100km/h ar­rives in a de­cent 9.7 sec­onds, faster than any of the top utes, though the num­bers are a lit­tle de­ceiv­ing as

re­sponse can be doughy at times. Loaded up to build boost against the brake, the H9 moves nicely, but on a street start – foot from brake to ac­cel­er­a­tor – it loses a chunk of speed, with 0-60/0-100 times of 4.6/10.6 sec­onds. What that means in real-world driv­ing is that some­times the handy shift pad­dles are re­quired to man­u­ally choose the right gear.

While the 2.0 turbo does a good job on the whole, it’s some­times short of breath and a lit­tle thirsty; Haval claims 10.9l/100km, though we saw 13s of largely ur­ban work, also not­ing the need for 95 oc­tane.

Sec­ond row seats are fore-aft ad­justable and ac­com­mo­dated nicely, with a large cen­tre fold-down arm­rest with cup-hold­ers and stor­age, though the third row’s ac­cess is mainly by the driver’s/road side. Small kids, who are the most suit­able can­di­dates for the rear, may find ac­cess eas­ier through the rear door, which opens hor­i­zon­tally and piv­ots from the right side, of­fer­ing safe kerb­side ac­cess.

The third row 50/50 split seat also raises/ stows elec­tri­cally, though boot space can be a bit tight with seven aboard.

With a tow rat­ing of 2500kg, it man­ages a lot for a lit­tle. Pric­ing for a com­pa­ra­ble Prado is around $70, so the Haval is priced right, start­ing from $43,990 for the H9 base LUX, or another $4k for the Ul­tra.

It’s not the best SUV around, nor does it claim to be. Even con­sid­er­ing long-term own­er­ship and de­pre­ci­a­tion, it’s a pack­age worth short-list­ing given the low en­try cost and high equip­ment lev­els.

Be­ing bet­ter than ex­pected is al­ways a pleas­ant sur­prise.

In­te­rior is packed with fea­tures. Comfy elec­tric seats fea­ture heat­ing, cool­ing and mas­sag­ing! Note pas­sen­ger seat switches on the driver’s side.

In­te­rior light­ing is cus­tomis­able, good for dis­tract­ing badge snobs.

Clock­wise from top left: Third row ac­cess is via the driver’s side tilt­ing sec­ond row, so kids might be bet­ter suited to climb­ing in via the hor­i­zon­tal tail­gate door. Rear seats fea­ture cli­mate con­trol. Panoramic sun­roof in the Ul­tra model. Boot space be­comes lim­ited with the third row up, though the seats are eas­ily low­ered (or raised) elec­tri­cally.

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