Haval H9 seven-seat SUV: The best Chinese car NZ has seen?
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For any company looking to crack New Zealand’s new car market there’s only one hard-and-fast rule nowadays — be sure to offer an SUV.
Good thing then that Chinese newcomer Haval (pronounced “Hav-el” not “Hav-al”), the SUV specialist brand of billion-dollar conglomerate Great Wall, has an engineering force of more than 3000 to call on when developing the biggest thing in Chinese motoring (physically and technically) to arrive in New Zealand.
Penned by Pierre Lecklercq, the same mind behind the first Mini Countryman, coupe-styled BMX X6 and second-gen X5 SUV, the H9 is the third model to join Haval’s local line-up.
That’s due in large part to our Anzac neighbours. The H9 has been available in Australia for three years and in that time owners and engineers have used feedback to implement a raft of updates to the MY18 H9s landing here.
A base Lux model starts at $43,990, but Driven tested the all-bells-fitted Ultra model priced at $47,990.
The H9’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine now boasts more power and torque, with better fuel economy than the previous model.
Power is up from 160 to 180kW and torque from 324 to 350Nm. Better yet, bolted to the back of the engine is a newly adopted ZF 8-speed automatic, the same ’box used in BMW’s V12 7-series and Aston Martin Rapide S.
As a result, the powertrain can haul the H9’s 2230kg mass plus a braked trailer up to 2500kg.
In the cabin there’s a new centre console design with all-terrain control system and Haval’s first fully digital speedo and instrument panel that displays everything from speed and temperature to tyre pressures.
Both grades come in a seven-seat configuration with GPS navigation, driver-fatigue monitoring system, 18-inch wheels, parking sensors front and rear, rear camera, sunroof, anti-glare mirrors, blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning.
The top-spec Ultra adds an almost roof-long (1178 x 505mm) panoramic sunroof, upgraded 10-speaker Infiniti sound system, eco-leather seats for all with heating, cooling and massage functions in the front row, and the middle row also gets heated seating.
The third row can be raised or lowered using two buttons in the boot and a movable middle row means more room can be made for those in both rear rows.
Externally, the H9 features the boldest design seen so far from this brand, one that is not ashamed to wave the company’s flag. A five-bar grille proudly presents the Haval logo in big characters up front and is paired with an even bigger, brighter chrome-plated logo on the rear door.
Xenon High Intensity headlamps are standard kit on both grades, but the Ultra model adds adaptive front lighting with electronic levelling that moves the headlights in conjunction with the steering wheel.
At 4.8m long and 1.9m wide and high, the H9’s confident exterior proportions are bigger than that of Toyota’s Land Cruiser Prado or Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport — the two models that Haval eyes as the H9’s biggest competitors here.
Due to the car’s large proportions, all passengers have generous head and leg room and middle row occupants in the LUX will find their own controls for the heated seats and tri-zone air conditioning. The factory-fit side steps are a necessity when climbing aboard, even for those taller than 1.82m (six feet).
The driving position in the six-way adjustable seat is commanding. The view looking forward of the H9’s long, flat bonnet will tick that “high-riding” box for those wanting to tower over other motorists.
Once the H9 is on the move, blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems and large side mirrors are needed around town. The hydraulic steering rack gives little in the way of feedback through the wheel, but inputs are immediate with only a small amount of steering angle required to change lanes.
The helpful kerb-facing camera fitted to the mid-sized H6 is, however, absent in the H9 and missed when parallel parking.
But when you consider the H9 is almost half the price of its main competitors, the features list is impressive.
The best surprise for me is the way all the parts come together. Engine and gearbox are well matched and calibrated, the interior doesn’t rattle, and the ladder frame chassis and suspension do the job on- and off-road.
Will it last? Too early to say but Haval’s five-year, 100,000km warranty offers early adopters plenty of peace of mind.
After the H9’s local launch Driven knew the full-sized seven-seat SUV could perform off-road. After a week of city, highway and back-road driving it’s more than up to the task for daily duties — if you’re brave enough.
Haval H9 Ultra
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo, 8-speed automatic
Pro: Size, space, spec and bang for buck. Engine and gearbox will surprise, too
Con: Good luck parking it in a tight spot