Chinese carmaker Haval debuted in Australia late in 2015 after coming into existence as its own brand just two years earlier in March 2013. Before that, Haval was a series of models produced by Great Wall Motors. In creating the Haval brand, GWM appears to be making an upmarket pitch in a fashion similar to what Toyota did with Lexus.
Haval is China’s largest SUV nameplate and has been for 13 years, and when Haval became its own brand in 2013 some one million Havals had already been sold under the Great Wall banner.
In Australia, Haval sells three models: the H2, H8 and H9.
The H2 and H8 are both light-duty SUVs, while the H9 you see here is a ‘serious’ 4x4. In many ways the H9 is a take on Toyota’s Prado, which it was benchmarked against during development.
The H9 shares the basic body dimensions and seating arrangement of the Prado 150 and, like the Prado, is built on a separate chassis with a coil-sprung live axle at the rear, double wishbone coils at the front and dual-range full-time 4x4. In fact, Haval’s engineering vice president is former Toyota chief engineer Suguya Fukusato, who was lured to Haval to oversee the development of models like the H9.
Where the H9 differs from the Prado is with its engines.
There’s no diesel H9 and the sole engine is a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four cylinder. In many ways that sounds all wrong in terms of its suitability to power a 2300kg 4x4, but this engine is surprisingly effective; although, certainly not perfect.
The engine is a modern design, the likes of which you’d expect to see in a European car, with direct injection
and variable timing on both the inlet and exhaust cams. It also has a low-pressure turbocharger that widens the torque spread rather than adding power at the top of the rpm range.
Maximum torque is 324Nm, which doesn’t sound much when the Prado’s diesel makes 450Nm, but the H9’s 324Nm is available all the way from 2000 to 4000rpm, which makes for nicely progressive power, good driveability and decent performance. At its peak the H9 makes 160kW, a good jump up from the Prado diesel’s 130kW. By way of comparison, the 4.0-litre petrol V6 available in the Prado makes 381Nm and 207kW.
The H9’s performance is aided by a sweetshifting six-speed ZF automatic gearbox and reasonably short overall gearing, where top gear gives just 50km/h at 1000rpm.
This short gearing and the fact that 5500rpm is needed to get at the full 160kW makes the engine feel somewhat busy compared to a diesel like the Prado’s, but general refinement is still impressive.
However, the crunch comes at the petrol pump – as you’d expect. In fact, you only have to look at the official ADR figure of 12.1L/100km to see that the H9 isn’t a fuel sipper. That’s 50 per cent higher than the Prado diesel’s ADR figure and even higher than that of the Prado’s 4.0-litre petrol V6.
On test we averaged 14.5L/100km, which included everything from easy highway driving to low-range off-roading. The H9 is reasonably good on fuel (11.0L/100km) for easy highway driving, but for stop-start urban driving, more demanding country driving (hills, etc.) and off-roading it gets a lot thirstier (16.0L/100km). Rubbing salt into the wounds, it also asks for premium (95RON) petrol that you’d expect for a forced-aspiration engine.
On road, the H9 feels very much like what you’d expect of a 2300kg separate-chassis 4x4. In many ways you can also feel the Prado benchmarking in the good general
running refinement and the comfortable ride quality, even if the H9 is still shy of the Prado’s excellence on both these counts.
The H9 falls further behind the Prado with its steering feel, which is a bit sloppy and vague, and suspension control, which can get untidy at higher speeds on bumpy country roads.
The H9 Luxury, as tested here, has a 4x4 system like that of the Ford Everest (rather than the Prado). This is due to an active on-demand transfer case (BorgWarner design) that directs power to the axle that can best use it, and it will automatically lock 50/50 if need be.
Like the Everest, it also has terrain settings – Sand, Snow and Mud, as well as Sport and Auto, which is the default setting.
The less expensive H9 Premium’s more basic (but still on-demand) 4x4 system doesn’t have these special programs.
Interestingly, selecting low range automatically engages the rear diff lock; although, this can then be manually switched off again. The rear locker can also be engaged in high range. The crawl ratio is a handy 43.6:1 thanks in part to the substantial 2.48:1 low-range reduction.
As you’d expect, the ZF auto works nicely off-road, and if there’s any lag from the turbo you’d never know it as power delivery is very progressive and useable.
The chassis also offers good wheel travel, while the 4x4 system and traction control work very effectively in getting the power to the wheel (or wheels) that can best use it.
Not so good is the too-low ground clearance and too-shallow approach and departure angles. The wide side steps and hard-plastic rear mud flaps are also too vulnerable, all of which reverses the benefit of having an effective 4x4 system and tough chassis.
IN 2014 the world made some 89.7 million vehicles. Comfortably leading the way in production was China, which produced some 23.7 million vehicles, or over a quarter of the world’s total production.
In second place was the USA with 11.7 million, under half the output of China but ahead of Japan with 9.8 million and Germany with 5.9 million.
China’s production even outstripped the combined output of the entire European Union (Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Spain, etc.), which accounted for 17 million vehicles. Thanks to the sheer size and increasing affluence of the Chinese domestic market, the vast majority of vehicles made in China are sold in China.
Climb inside the H9 and you’ll instantly be impressed with the general quality of the fit and finish and the generous equipment level (see ‘What You Get’ sidebar on page 76). The Luxury has plenty of things that open and close, and at night lights up like a Christmas tree with blue ‘mood’ lighting in the overhead console, illuminated footwells and scuff boards, and even bright red ‘Haval’ signature puddle lamps – Range Rover style.
The general cabin dimensions are similar to the Prado, so it feels spacious, and there’s nothing wrong with the general driving comfort. Again, all very Prado-like. Good room
also in the second- and third-row seats, which fold as per the Prado 150.
At this stage the H9 hasn’t been ANCAP tested, but it looks like a comfortable fourstar, if not a five-star car, given the standard safety kit – even if there’s no high-end safety features such as autonomous braking.
The H9 shares wheel and tyre spec with the Prado, which is a major practicality bonus from an ownership proposition. Like the Prado, the H9 is rated to tow 2500kg and its 2850kg GVM is just 50kg short of the Prado.
Not so good is the modest 80-litre fuel capacity, especially given its not-so-great fuel economy figures.
The H9’s trump card is that it offers Prado Kakadu ($84,490+) equipment levels at prices below a base-model, five-seat, manual Prado GX.
The H9 then backs that up with impressive all-round refinement, quality presentation and decent performance. With a little money spent on suspension it could also be made to be more useful off-road and to handle better on the highway.
Of course, what the H9 lacks is a diesel engine and as such it’s hard to imagine it will get decent sales traction given the buyer preference for diesel power in this class of vehicle.
ENGINE DOHC 16-valve turbo petrol 4cyl CAPACITY 2.0-litre (1967cc) POWER 160kW @ 5500rpm TORQUE 324Nm @ 2000-4000rpm GEARBOX 6-speed auto 4X4 SYSTEM full-time dual-range CRAWL RATIO 43.6:1 CONSTRUCTION separate chassis FRONT SUSPENSION independent/coil springs REAR SUSPENSION live axle/coil springs WHEEL/TYRE SPEC alloy/265/60R18 110H KERB MASS 2236kg GVM 2850kg PAYLOAD 614kg TOWING CAPACITY 2500kg SEATING CAPACITY seven FUEL TANK CAPACITY 80 litres ADR FUEL CLAIM 12.1L/100km TEST FUEL USE 14.5L/100km FUEL REQUIREMENT 95RON ULP TOURING RANGE* 502km Based on test fuel use, claimed fuel tank capacity and a 50km ‘safety margin.
HAVAL H9 PRICES* PREMIUM $46,490 LUXURY $50,990 *Prices do not include on-road costs. Automatic only.
STANDARD equipment on the Premium and Luxury H9 includes keyless entry and start, front, side and full-length curtain airbags, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, sat-nav, seven-inch touchscreen, 10-speaker audio, three-zone climate control, tyre pressure monitoring, cruise control, hill-descent and hill-start control, a rear diff lock, Xenon headlights, DRLs, front and rear fog lights, and sidesteps.
The Luxury the adds 18-inch alloys (in place of the Premium’s 17s), leather, electric adjust front seats with heating, cooling and a massage function, power-folding third-row seats, a premium audio system, a more sophisticated 4x4 system, and adaptive headlights, among other upgrades. A rear DVD player is a $1500 option on the Luxury.