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Haval is a brand that does things a little differently, it’s a brand that’s trying to think outside of the box. When manufacturers enter a new market, the first impulse is generally to buy their way in with cheap pricing. Haval has taken a different approach. In an attempt to find its place, Haval has opted to offer high-spec models that offer a genuine alternative to the established brands.
Nothing demonstrates this point better than the H9 LUX. This is the model that shows what the brand is capable of, it’s the flagship, the model that sits at the pointy end of the lineup.
Modelled on Toyota’s very successful Prado, the H9 seeks to bring a luxury flavour to an SUV that can actually perform off-road. The H9 is no pretender, it does bring some genuine ability to the table.
At a list price of $49,990 drive away, the H9 LUX is not a cheap car, it represents a significant spend. At this price point, it’s likely to do battle with the Toyota Fortuner and Isuzu MU-X. In saying that, if you can put the badge to one side, the H9 does stack up well when looking at the metal for money equation.
In the LUX spec, the H9 is a well-equipped SUV, there’s no need to reach for the options list. Standard kit includes a sunroof, side steps, rain sensing wipers, alloy wheels, leather trim, sat nav, electric front seats, keyless entry and start, six airbags, reversing camera and two ISOFIX child seat points.
At an overall length of 4,856mm and height of 1,900mm, the H9 is an imposing SUV with some real presence.
Despite the H9 having the necessary exterior dimensions to fill the role of a genuine off-roader, it’s the interior where the H9 stands tall.
The H9 LUX delivers a premium cabin, both materials and presentation are excellent. It’s also very well equipped and spacious.
All interior surfaces provide a pleasing tactile experience, while in the majority of cases, looking the part.
Most obvious is the beautiful leather work that wouldn’t look out of place in an SUV with a German badge. Interestingly, the hides are sourced from Australia. While very impressive, we were slightly disappointed Haval’s Comfort-Tex material is not able to be optioned for those wanting something sustainable.
The electronic front seats with climate and massage functions are very comfortable. It’s a nice place to sit while chewing up the miles.
Looking at the dash and centre stack, the layout is clean and all functions are easily accessible.
The one thing we would elect to change is the overly shiny woodgrain trim, a matte surface would better fit with the premium atmosphere.
The infotainment system does the job and provides satisfactory response times to driver commands, though the sat nav isn’t the most intuitive offering and could be updated.
Interior space is another area where the H9 excels. With the Chinese putting a strong emphasis on passenger comfort, there is plenty of room in the second row. This is also the case in the third row, as the rear two seats are electronically raised, a generous amount of leg room is revealed. The H9 proved itself to be a comfortable family hauler.
Under the hood of the H9 sits a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine capable of producing 160kW and 324Nm. Utilising the engine’s power requires it to be revved up to a lofty 5500rpm.
Despite the numbers looking reasonable, at times, the H9 does feel short on power. The H9 can't escape its weight which can be felt during acceleration. Some extra torque would be welcome, the H9 gives away around 100Nm to its competitors.
It’s rated to tow 2500kg, however, this seems a big ask for this engine.
A consequence of competing in the heavyweight division is consumption. The H9 is thirstier than its rivals, it also requires 95 RON premium fuel.
The combined fuel consumption figure of 12.1L/100 km is achievable with very careful driving. In town, expect consumption to sit around the 13-litres. On the highway, we were able to get it down to 11L/100km.
Some purists won't take it seriously until a diesel engine is available. The majority of the H9’s rivals are diesel powered and this is the accepted norm. Haval will need to consider how it meets market expectations. They may have already declared their hand with the HB-03 pointing towards a hybrid future.
In a good move, Haval has opted for a smooth shifting ZF six-speed transmission. It’s a sound unit that took care of the changes without fuss.
For an SUV of these proportions, both ride and handling will exceed the expectations of those who drive it. The steering is light making the H9 surprisingly manoeuvrable.
Using double wishbone suspension at the front and multi-link rear, ride comfort is impressive. The H9’s ability to absorb bumps, both on and off-road sets a high standard.
Moving to the dirt, the H9 has been engineered to perform in difficult conditions. It will comfortably fill the role of a lifestyle vehicle for families that enjoy some fresh air.
A ladder frame chassis and Borg Warner dual range transfer case establish the H9’s off-road credentials.
To further legitimise the H9’s off-road ability, it comes equipped with All-Terrain Control System (ATCS). It’s a similar offering to the revered Terrain Response system used by Land Rover. The system provides six modes that allow the driver to set the car to the conditions. The pre-set modes include sand, mud, snow, sport, 4L and auto. We found the auto setting to be all that was needed for the majority of tasks the H9 will be asked to perform.
When off-road conditions deteriorate, the 4L low range setting will keep the H9 moving when more traction is needed. The H9 also has a significant amount of wheel articulation. It feels very competent on slippery tracks, no doubt aided by the Cooper-branded rubber.
The H9 feels composed when covering difficult terrain. We were able to put it through a variety of off-road situations and it performed flawlessly.
For those pondering the build quality, the H9 does feel well put together. There were no large panel gaps or fit and finish issues that caused us to take note. What is worth mentioning is the history of our tester, this Kakadu green H9 had covered 17,000km – the most we have seen on a press car to-date. Not many of these kilometres would have been easy, yet, apart from a few marks on the beige mats, there were no squeaks or rattles, everything was working as intended. The H9 should easily handle what most active families will throw at it.
There are many reasons to get excited about the H9, however, for a premium offering, there are some things missing, such as blind spot monitoring, which is available on the smaller H6, and emergency city braking.
Dropping 50k on a car that’s relatively new in the local market without a proven track record is a big ask. For that amount of coin, there are plenty of established brands to choose from. To put buyers somewhat at ease, Haval does offer a five year/100,000km warranty which is above average for the class. Haval also offers transparent service costs, to maintain the H9 over the first 66 months/55,000km owners will need to part with an average of $515 for each service.
The H9 is by far the best car to reach Australia produced by a Chinese manufacturer. In a competitive segment, Haval is aiming to build some recognition by competing on merit and not solely relying on price to develop a following which is a bold move.
The H9 does reaffirm our thinking after driving the H6, Haval is definitely a brand on the move. They will continue to strengthen their local portfolio and we will watch that process with great interest. For now, the H9 is a comfortable and capable family SUV, but to give it the best chance of success, Haval needs to improve its engine performance and economy.
2017 Haval H9 LUX Specifications
Price from $49,990 drive away Engine 2.0L In-line four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol Power 160kW @ 5,500rpm Torque 324Nm @ 2,000 – 4,000rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 12.1L/100km Tank Capacity 80L Length 4,856mm Width 1,926mm Height 1,900mm Wheelbase 2,800mm Kerb Weight 2,250kg Ground Clearance 206mm Turning circle 12.1m Wading depth 700mm Service Intervals 12-months or 10,000km – after initial 6-month 5000km service Warranty five year/100,000 kilometre
Let’s start a Car Conversation, how do you rate the H9 when it comes to value? Do you think it needs a diesel option?
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