Haval H2 1,5T Luxury vs. Honda B-RV 1,5 El­e­gance vs. Renault Duster 1,5 Dynamique vs. Toy­ota Rush 1,5 MT

They’re small in stature and big in char­ac­ter, but which of these tough, small SUVS is best?

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

WHETHER you see them as a gen­uine lifestyle com­pan­ion or a mar­ket­ing con­trivance, SUVS and crossovers have be­come the au­to­mo­tive equiv­a­lent of a Swiss Army knife, deal­ing with ev­ery­thing from round-town du­ties to the school run, mo­tor­ways and even, on oc­ca­sion, stray­ing onto dirt roads in search of ad­ven­ture. There­fore, it’s un­der­stand­able that the en­trance of a new model into the hotly con­tested seg­ment for small SUVS/ crossovers is met with a rip­ple of ex­cite­ment, grow­ing to a ver­i­ta­ble groundswell of ex­pec­ta­tion when said new­comer wears the Toy­ota badge. Form­ing the en­try point to Toy­ota’s lifestyle sta­ble, the Rush faces stiff com­pe­ti­tion from both es­tab­lished play­ers in the field, as well as up­starts from Chi­nese firms such as Haval.

THE CREW

In essence, the gath­ered cars can be split into two cat­e­gories: those based on MPVS from their re­spec­tive sta­bles; and those with car-based un­der­pin­nings. Fall­ing into the for­mer bracket are the Rush and B-RV. The Rush can trace much of its me­chan­i­cal lin­eage to Toy­ota’s ba­sic but ven­er­a­ble Avanza MPV, while Honda’s B-RV is es­sen­tially a re­bod­ied and mildly re­worked ver­sion of the now-de­parted Mo­bilio and

has be­come the sole seven-seater in the firm’s local line-up.

Spun off the plat­form un­der­pin­ning the ro­bust Lo­gan bud­get sedan, the Duster treads closer to the small-suv line than the oth­ers, es­pe­cially when you bear in mind the 4x4 model is a par­tic­u­larly ca­pa­ble off-roader.

As for the H2, its roots are a lit­tle harder to trace but it’s one of a host of mod­els based off Haval’s fam­ily of uni­body chas­sis and can there­fore be linked to any num­ber of sedan and cross­over mod­els from the firm’s ex­ten­sive global line-up.

Why is this rel­e­vant? Well, each fam­ily coun­ters the oth­ers’ par­tic­u­lar strengths and weak­nesses – from pack­ag­ing to drive­abil­ity and ev­ery­thing in be­tween – mean­ing buy­ers’ de­ci­sions won’t be based on looks alone. Even so, we’d be kid­ding our­selves if we were to ex­clude the aes­thetic el­e­ment.

STYLE vs. SPACE

On pa­per, the Rush, with its bold nose, bulging bon­net and cross­over cladding, ticks the req­ui­site styling boxes and looks rea­son­ably rugged. Meet it in the me­tal, though, and there’s no es­cap­ing the fact that these el­e­ments have been ap­plied to a de­cid­edly Avanza-shaped frame. How­ever, while its bluff sides and tall pro­file with a strong down­ward curve to its nose may not scream

pseudo-suv, it does play host to a par­tic­u­larly spa­cious in­te­rior.

In other mar­kets, the Rush – also badged as a Dai­hatsu Terios – is fit­ted with a third row of seats but South Africa gets only a five-seat ar­range­ment with a slid­ing se­cond-row bench, likely in an at­tempt to keep the new­comer from tread­ing on the sev­enseater Avanza’s toes. Los­ing the rear bench does, how­ever, cre­ate a load space which com­fort­ably eclipses those of its ri­vals, al­beit with­out the added se­cu­rity of a ton­neau cover.

The B-RV con­tains its spa­cious in­nards in a frame that, with its two-box pro­file and roof rails, has a touch more cross­over flavour than the Rush but still doesn’t quite man­age to hide its dowdy MPV roots. The third row can be rolled away to free up a sim­i­lar amount of lug­gage ca­pac­ity to the Rush, although the boot be­comes lit­tle more than a sliver of airspace with seven aboard.

Thumb­ing its nose at the oth­ers’ gen­teel curves and creases, the Duster is un­apolo­get­i­cally chunky and util­i­tar­ian in its styling, and pos­sessed of a hand­ily pro­por­tioned boot.

Look­ing very much the sophis- ticate in this com­pany, the H2 is ev­i­dence the Chi­nese have fi­nally re­alised the cor­re­la­tion be­tween chrome and class isn’t 1:1. Block out the badge and you could just as well be look­ing at any num­ber of up­mar­ket Euro­pean small crossovers and, while its boot is the small­est here at 232 litres, it’s still de­cently pro­por­tioned.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL

Climb­ing into the Rush, you’re im­me­di­ately aware of the com­mand­ing view of the road the seat­ing pro­vides, but that’s about where the ben­e­fits of the lofty perch end. With lim­ited rake ad­just­ment for the steer­ing col­umn and the low­est seat-height set­ting still rather high, taller driv­ers will find the wheel un­com­fort­ably

close to their lap. The chunky prop­shaft tun­nel of this car’s RWD con­fig­u­ra­tion eats into the footwell, leav­ing lit­tle space to rest your clutch foot.

Although hewn from hard plas­tics and fin­ished with faux stitch­ing, the Rush’s cabin feels well screwed to­gether and the two-tone trim lends some live­li­ness to the at­mos­phere. The neat touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment/sat­nav (stan­dard fit­ment) sys­tem sports a crisp in­ter­face and sits use­fully high on the fa­cia.

The Duster’s in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, although func­tion-rich and with an in­ter­face as chunky as the ex­te­rior, sits way down by the driver’s knee and forms part of a cabin that’s well enough con­structed but marred slightly by the scat­ter-gun lay­out of some an­cil­lar­ies. Thank­fully, the driv­ing po­si­tion is a touch more nat­u­ral than the Rush’s, if not quite as com­mand­ing.

With their closely set gear­ing and snappy (al­beit in the Duster’s case, slightly rub­bery) gearshifts, these two prove suit­ably brisk and wieldy round town but things be­gin to go awry when mo­tor­ways beckon. That close gear­ing sees the Rush’s rev-happy 1,5-litre en­gine climb to about 4 000 r/min when travelling at the na­tional limit, with in­tru­sive dif­fer­en­tial whine ac­com­pa­ny­ing the thrashy sound­track.

It’s bet­ter at 3 200 r/min on the mo­tor­way in the Duster and, with a mite more torque and bet­ter NVH sup­pres­sion, it doesn’t feel as strained as the Toy­ota’s fre­netic-but-seem­ingly un­burstable 2NR-VE en­gine. The con­sen­sus among the team is both of these cars would ben­e­fit from a tall sixth gear to make mo­tor­way driv­ing less of a dron­ing af­fair.

Although it’s only 11 kw up on the Rush and Duster, the B-RV’S 1,5-litre unit man­ages to be both free revving and ac­cept­ably re­fined. It’s also cou­pled with a pleas­ingly snappy gear­box and eas­ily mo­du­lated clutch, mak­ing it a breeze to pi­lot.

An­other Honda-ism is the in­te­rior, which is awash with hard plas­tics but er­gonom­i­cally well con­sid­ered and solidly put to­gether. While it does feel durable, though, the B-RV has a cer­tain light, slightly hol­low over­all feel to it, sit­ting at odds with its other­wise bul­let­proof build.

The H2’s tur­bocharged 1,5-litre in­line-four is com­fort­ably more pow­er­ful than its ri­vals’ nat­u­rally as­pi­rated units and even bests them when it comes to re­fine­ment. This is es­pe­cially apt, as the Chi­nese car’s cabin leaves the oth­ers’ in­te­ri­ors in the shade. Slush-moulded trim panels, qual­ity switchgear and a design that’s both er­gonom­i­cally sound and solidly con­structed make the H2 feel a cut above the rest in its seg­ment.

Un­for­tu­nately, the H2’s driv­e­train is a chink in its other­wise pol­ished suit of ar­mour. The en­gine be­haves a bit like an old-school turbo unit, wad­ing through pal­pa­ble lag be­fore de­liv­er­ing the goods at higher revs. Lift­ing off the throt­tle sees it quickly drop out of the power band. Fac­tor in a notchy gearshift that can­not

be hur­ried and the re­sult is some­times la­bo­ri­ous progress to the meat of the per­for­mance on of­fer, of­ten ne­ces­si­tat­ing ex­tra revs to keep momentum go­ing. The heavy 1,52-tonne H2’s 13,50-se­cond 0-100 km/h sprint is the slow­est in this com­pany, while it (lit­er­ally) lags any­thing from four to six sec­onds be­hind the oth­ers when over­tak­ing from 60-80 km/h in top gear. With the turbo fi­nally turn­ing, the H2’s top-gear 100120 km/h time sees it claw back some re­spectabil­ity, be­ing the se­cond-quick­est.

The Rush’s ride, although some­times choppy, doesn’t suc­cumb to un­gainly re­bound and man­ages to iron out most ob­struc­tions in its path. It’s in the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence where echoes of the re­lated Avanza be­gin to emerge. With its nar­row track, long wheel­base and a pro­file that presents a good deal of sheet­metal, the Rush has a top-heavy feel to its de­meanour. Brisk cor­ner­ing un­earths sig­nif­i­cant body lean, while a pro­file that presents a good deal of me­tal to cross­winds can make it feel a bit un­sta­ble when caught in a gust.

In fact, with its 220 mm of ground clear­ance, sta­bil­ity con­trol (the only car here so equipped) and me­chan­i­cal ro­bust­ness, the Rush seems bet­ter suited to a leisurely pace on dirt roads. It’s only when the Duster makes an ap­pear­ance that the Rush has to con­cede some rough ground. Although marginally down on ground clear­ance, the Duster’s im­pres­sive axle ar­tic­u­la­tion and suspension is adept at tam­ing rut­ted sur­faces and tar­mac, and make it a ver­sa­tile go-al­mostany­where ve­hi­cle. Although its steer­ing feels slower geared than the Rush’s, it’s nonethe­less pointier and the ad­di­tional weight lends the Duster a more sub­stan­tial feel.

Although its 210 mm of ground clear­ance matches the Renault’s, the B-RV doesn’t have quite its dirt road-tam­ing abil­ity. That’s not to say it’s averse to stray­ing off the tar­mac but its real tal­ents lie with its well­bal­anced on-road per­sona. The steer­ing is typ­i­cally Honda, be­ing ac­cu­rate and pleas­antly weighted, if not feel­some, and the ride and body con­trol are re­solved to the ex­tent of be­ing more hatch-like-wieldy than its ri­vals here.

THE VER­DICT

The first con­tes­tant to fall away is the Rush. Although it’s the most spa­cious and is rea­son­ably well equipped, the Toy­ota’s rough edges and com­pro­mised road man­ners do con­trast with the near-r300k price it com­mands. Granted, that money nets you what should be a me­chan­i­cally ro­bust car (look at how many of its Avanza rel­a­tives ply our roads) with a six-service/90 000 km main­te­nance plan via a dealer net­work com­fort­ably larger than those of its ri­vals. We were just left rather un­der­whelmed by the lack of me­chan­i­cal re­fine­ment and road man­ners that feel clumsy when compared with the oth­ers.

As the old­est mem­ber of the group, the Duster’s third placing isn’t a bad re­sult. The R266 900 sticker price is some­thing of a bar­gain, given its level of dirtroad rugged­ness and a rea­son- able suite of stan­dard fea­tures. Like the Rush, the en­gine’s mo­tor­way man­ners would ben­e­fit sig­nif­i­cantly from a sixth gear, while the hodge­podge cabin er­gonomics are irk­some. It must be noted, though, a new (read: heav­ily facelifted) Duster will ar­rive here to­wards the end of the year, bring­ing with it slightly sharper ex­te­rior styling and, most im­por­tantly, a cabin with sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in er­gonomics and ma­te­ri­als.

Just two points sep­a­rate the se­cond-place H2 from top hon­ours, tes­ti­mony to the huge strides taken by the Chi­nese car­maker. Bar­ring sat-nav, it’s the most gen­er­ously equipped and lav­ishly ap­pointed mem­ber of this quar­tet, not to men­tion dy­nam­i­cally adept and re­fined.

How­ever, that en­gine/baggy gear­box com­bi­na­tion mars pro- ceed­ings some­what. It’s worth men­tion­ing that an ad­di­tional R10k can net you the slightly less equipped City-spec model with a six-speed dual-clutch auto that not only plays nicely with the en­gine, but curbs the man­ual’s 8,2 L/100 km thirst.

The B-RV isn’t small-cross­over per­fec­tion; stan­dard spec­i­fi­ca­tion is de­cid­edly spar­tan compared with the oth­ers here and the two-year/30 000 km service plan is stingy. But, much as the Volk­swa­gen Golf does in the hatch­back sphere, the B-RV doesn’t ex­cel in one par­tic­u­lar field; rather, it man­ages to ably tick more boxes than its ri­vals. Seven seats, spa­cious cabin, solid build and good road man­ners, not to men­tion what should be bombproof me­chan­i­cals, are all present and cor­rect, mak­ing the B-RV a con­sum­mate all-rounder and the smartest choice in this com­pany.

THE B-RV MAN­AGES TO ABLY TICK MORE BOXES THAN ITS RI­VALS

The H2 feels re­fined and so­phis­ti­cated in this com­pany Terence Steenkamp

The Rush is prac­ti­cal but lacks the pol­ish to best its ri­vals here Gareth Dean

Re­fined B-RV is the least quirky and eas­i­est to live with Ian Mclaren

Duster for ad­ven­ture but the B-RV ticks the most boxes Ni­col Louw

main im­age The Duster pro­vides a soft ride, the H2 the most re­fined over­all ex­pe­ri­ence, the B-RV feels more pointy than the oth­ers and the Rush ... well, it strug­gles some­what at high­way speeds. smaller images, from far left the Renault's en­gine is ac­cept­ably re­fined; Haval pow­er­train prom­ises much but per­for­mance is sub-par; Honda unit the perki­est here; Toy­ota en­gine proven.

above, from left to right the Toy­ota of­fers the largest boot but some team mem­bers ex­pressed con­cern over the qual­ity of car­pet­ing and a third row of seats re­placed by poly­styrene blocks; Haval has the small­est boot and aper­ture; the Honda of­fers lots of pack­ing space with the third row folded; Renault strikes a mid­dle ground in the boot space race.

clock­wise from top The Rush of­fers and ex­cel­lent in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with sat-nav as stan­dard; B-RV looks more plain but coun­ters with easy us­abil­ity; H2’s fa­cia fea­tures slush mould­ings and a solid feel; place­ment of the Duster’s in­fo­tain­ment screen is poor, be­ing far too low.

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