Reviews

CHINESE-MADE HAVAL H9: ARE WE IMPRESSED?

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What you’ll want to know about the Haval H9 And why it’s a much better 4WD than you think…
It’s not bad.

We know, we know. Lots of you folk out there won’t even give the Haval a chance in your book. Owing to its country of origin, you’ll write it off before it even gets a chance to prove itself. This kind of sentiment doesn’t come from nowhere, I suppose: Some Chinese-built vehicles over the years have been cheaply made, poorly put together, and thoroughly outgunned by the competition. But in this situation, it’s different.

 

Remember 10 or 15 years ago, when Hyundais and Kias starting popping up on Aussie roads? “Korean? Jeez, I don’t know about that.” After plenty of Excels, Terracans and Sonatas have been getting flogged like red-headed stepchildren with probably little maintenance, these cars have forged a reputation over the years both for quality and value for money.

 

Wind the clock back a bit further: Post-war Australia. Who bought a Toyota or Datsun? Someone who probably couldn’t afford to get one of the more ‘reputable’ brands from the US or UK. They took a punt on a 120Y, Pajero or HiLux. Oh, dear. How those times have changed.

 

There’s a trend here. Emerging brands from emerging manufacturing companies are always met with chagrin and negativity from Australians. It’s how we roll. If they fail, we give it to them with both barrels. But if the car’s good, we stay silent – and wait to see if they pass the 100,000km test for reliability and longevity. And if they do that, they are quietly allowed into the ‘mainstream’ of car-buying options. Chinese brands, Haval and LDV in particular, are sitting now where the Koreans were in the ’90s and where the Japanese were in the ’50s. It’s an uphill battle, and the only way they’re going to get there is with good products.

 

It’s pretty good!

The good news is the 2018 Haval H9 – despite your preconceptions – isn’t a steaming pile of poo. It’s actually closer to the other end of the spectrum: Solid. The interior, along with being impressively stacked with tech for the money, feels ‘quality’ and well put together.

 

The driving experience is also quite good. An 8-speed auto (made in Germany by ZF) is awesome, and gets the best out of the composed and willing 2.0-litre turbo-charged motor. NVH levels are great, and the suspension is quite comfortable on the rough, crappy roads we all know and love in Australia. Think Prado, and you’re on the right track.

 

It’s not perfect.

When compared to other seven-seat 4WDs, the ground clearance is a little on the low side (205mm). We’d like to see more like 225-odd millimetres… a rough industry standard. But it’s well protected underneath and looks well made and organised against off-road impact. Our short off-road stint did test articulation and traction quite well, but we didn’t run into trouble with clearance.

 

When doing some off-road driving, we had some minor electrical problems with the car. The TPMS (which also tells you tyre temperature) wigged out, as well as the reversing camera and an ESC warning light on the dash. These problems went away after about 20 minutes – which makes me thing a bit of water got into some plugs and wires somewhere. Small issues, which could turn into big ones after a few years of off-road usage and subsequent neglect. The transfer case (a BorgWarner TOD unit) also clunks and thumps a bit on tight turns off-road as it adjusts the front-rear torque split.

 

Petrol only.

Yep. In the land of diesel-loving draconians, Haval won’t be offering a diesel option on the H9. Instead it’s a 2.0-litre turbo petrol unit. The compression ratio has been upped a bit lately, which improves the power (180kW @ 5,500rpm) and torque (350Nm @ 1,800-4,500rpm). It’s a pretty good motor; quiet and willing, running through the 8-speed gearbox to give reasonable performance. It’s never giving you more power than you can handle, but it’s definitely adequate. Naturally towing, hauling and hard work probably won’t be it’s strong suits.

 

Serious value.

Let’s talk dollars. Moolah. Folding stuff. Coin. Dinero. The model I drove was the Ultra, which is the top-of-the-line at $45,990 drive away (introductory). You’ve got heated, cooling and massaging seats, which feature a plush and comfortable ‘eco-leather’. There’s a gigantic panoramic roof, tri-zone climate control, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Other safety considerations include six airbags and the usual gamut of electronic driving aids. There’s also xenon HID lights, which swivel around corners with steering wheel inputs.

 

Live without the fancy seats, lights and panoramic roof, electric rear seats and a couple of other bits, and you can reduce the price to $41,990.

 

Off-road goodies.

Along with the variable transfer case, you’ve got an Eaton electric locking rear differential, which automatically engages when you’re in low range. That transfer case has good reduction – which is on the money for your typical low-range driving.

 

The suspension is double-wishbone independent coiled struts on the front and a five-link trailing arm setup on the rear. Like the Prado, it’s tuned for comfort and sponginess… in a good way. It articulates quite well in the rear, meaning the locked axle can push you up some fairly challenging stuff. It’s a proper 4WD, no doubt about it.

 

The Haval H9 has a lot of similarities to something like a Prado or Everest, although it’s not completely of the same ilk. It’s all about massive luxury ‘bang for your buck’ whilst still giving you a genuine 4WD that can tackle some rough tracks. Only having the 2.0-litre turbo petrol donk means its potential buyer base in Australia is small. But the idea of having a daily-driving 4WD without the erroneous emissions device problems of a diesel certainly has merit. I reckon it’s a really solid option. Fair dinkum.

 

2018 Haval H9 Specifications

Engine: Longitudinally mounted in-line four cylinder with turbo-charger, dual VVT and direct injection

Capacity: 1,967cc

Power: 180kW @ 5,500rpm

Torque: 350Nm @ 1,800-4,500rpm

Bore x stroke: 82.5 x 92mm

Compression ratio: 10.0:1

Length x width x height: 4,856 x 1,926 x 1,900

Transmission: ZF 8HP70

Reduction ratio: 2.48

Wheelbase: 2,800mm

Track front/rear: 1,610/1,610mm

Turning circle: 12.1m

Ground clearance: 206mm

Approach angle: 28º

Departure angle: 23º

Ramp-over angle: 23º

Wading depth: 700mm

Kerb weight: 2,230kg

Fuel/capacity: 95RON/80 litres

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