ON PAPER, the Haval H2 shows the most promise for the newly arrived Chinese brand.
The smallest, cheapest SUV in its range, the H2 sits between the Mazda CX-3 and CX-5 in terms of size. It looks smart, with good attention to detail – apart from the overzealous Haval badging – and that carries over inside, where smart design and pleasant materials flourish. Even the artificial-leather seats smell like hide. The biggest let-down is the centre screen’s tacky, dated fonts and washy reversing camera.
There’s an odd approach when it comes to features: there’s tyrepressure monitoring, yet no digital speedo; an electronic park-brake, but no ambient temperature readout; and a single USB won’t cut it, even if there are VW-like SD card-readers. Weirdly, sat-nav isn’t even available as an option on this flagship ‘Lux’, let alone the lowerspec ‘Premium’.
The driving position seems high even for an SUV, and while you become accustomed to it, you won’t get used to the thick A-pillars that hide cyclists and pedestrians, nor the slim rear windscreen, blocked by headrestraints.
At least the side mirrors are large.
But there’s no respite from the roughness of the 1.5-litre turbopetrol engine. The 110kW/210Nm four-cylinder rumbles like a power-sander at idle, and the steering wheel shakes when you’re stationary. You could easily mistake it for a diesel LCV.
Sadly, the driving experience is also that of a generationsold tradie. Road noise from the 18-inch Kumhos isn’t as big an issue as the throttle mapping, which gives the accelerator a mind of its own. It’s utterly disobedient: a small amount of throttle and it fails to respond; give it a full kick, and it might – or might not. It’s a lucky dip.
There’s strong pull when it does react, but the discomfort of that throttle snowballs with brakes that bite at the last moment and steering that takes forever to respond. Confidence behind the wheel diminishes, as does any chance of enjoyment.
Around corners, the wellbolstered front seats save you from the bodyroll, but in the second row you’ll slide around excessively. The H2’s saving grace is acceptable low-speed ride, though it’s still clunky over the smallest bumps, and it never completely settles.
In terms of space, those 60/40- split rear seatbacks fold to extend the boot from 300 litres to 890 – less space than most rivals – but the seat-base is fixed, so there’s no chance of attaining a flat floor.
Overall, it’s the H2’s lack of driveability that is the dealbreaker.
Yet what really hurts is the fact Haval is pitching it as ‘premium’. The only thing premium about the H2 is its price.
Poor dynamics; no sat-nav option; too expensive; dorky badging Handsome design inside and out; decent overall finish
This is the thirstiest model in the H2 range, returning an official 9.0L/100km with its six-speed automatic, which is only available with front-wheel drive. A more economical six-speed manual is offered across the range, with economy improving to 8.2L/100km for the 4x2 version. Haval parent company Great Wall’s previous engines have been developments of Mitsubishi units, but this engine (codenamed GW4G15B) is an in-house development. It’s all-alloy and has variable valve timing, but lacks direct injection and idle-stop.