REVIEW | The 2019 Haval H9 is a compelling SUV - with plenty of foibles

It’s priced very well but there are many more capable SUV alternatives in its price bracket.

08 March 2019 - 13:48 By Phuti Mpyane
A bit of Chrysler here; a bit of Honda there and a whole lot of Toyota converge on the Haval H9 bodyshell. Pic:SUPPLIED
A bit of Chrysler here; a bit of Honda there and a whole lot of Toyota converge on the Haval H9 bodyshell. Pic:SUPPLIED

The Haval H9 is the Chinese brand’s full-size SUV that offers seating for seven passengers and a permanent 4x4 drive train. It’s a hefty car that could easily pass off as an effigy of Toyota’s earlier Land Cruiser models. Haval’s aim when building the largest car it sells was to tempt people out of Toyota Fortuners and Prados, and Ford Everests.

It can work. The Haval H9 is honestly a compelling buy when judged on the sheer number of features installed inside its fairly agreeable cabin, along with refinement, carrying capacity and, of course, price. At R599,000 you’ll find it’s cheaper than a similarly-powered Toyota Fortuner yet significantly more expensive than an entry-level 2.7 VVTi version and it presents a bargain when compared against some diesel-powered segment competitors.

The well-stacked interior features are a particular highlight, including cruise control, a TFT screen, Bluetooth connectivity, power seats, panoramic sunroof, navigation, keyless entry, stop/start and much, much more as listed in the accompanying spec sheet.

Where it falls is in terms of execution of some features. The TFT screen works but it couldn’t seek through a podcast. Many times the cruise control stalk took  up to three attempts to resume previously selected speeds and although the vehicle has swivelling headlamps, they either work secretly or don’t function at all. The lamps too aren’t powerful enough to beam up to a good distance ahead, forcing the constant use of its manual high-beams. It’s a frustrating night driver, this H9. 

The cabin is pleasantly neat, sophisticated and full of enviable features plus space for seven passengers. Pic: SUPPLIED
The cabin is pleasantly neat, sophisticated and full of enviable features plus space for seven passengers. Pic: SUPPLIED

Another distraction is the reverse camera which mutes the sound system and doesn’t switch off or return to the music until you hit about 30km/h.

What of driving dynamics? Don’t expect a Cayenne but the body on frame chassis with double wishbone suspension at the front ensures a cushy drive.

Instead of a big V8 it uses a petrol 2.0l turbo four-cylinder that sends power to a permanent four wheel drive system via a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission that’s impressively refined. With 180kW and 350Nm on tap, this is  more than enough power for brisk dashes everywhere, though it’s a fuel guzzler with a 14l/100km average.

Curious for a peek further into its mountaineering skills, I took it on a not particularly testing path up some Jozi hills. Aside from the permanent four wheel drive it’s equipped with a centre differential lock, several off-road driving modes and low-range gearing, and along with its 206mm ground clearance it’s pitched as a real off-roader capable of tackling tough adventure trails.

Our test vehicle was equipped with a tow bar and its motor feels capable of pulling the claimed braked 2,500kg load. It’s also torquey enough on the streets to maintain highway speeds and overtake seamlessly.

As it charges ahead the good sound deadening keeps outside noises and the rumble from its big tyres at bay. The steering is a touch dead but thankfully not out of sync with driver inputs  as is the case on some of these behemoths.

It’s not exactly good at cornering fast and although the ABS-equipped brakes were equal to the task, they didn’t inspire much confidence for an emergency stop. Three-car following distance protocols must ideally be observed.

Overall it’s a noteworthy effort by Haval to rewire past imaginations or expectations of Chinese vehicles. The quality and aura are now improved and the litany of luxury features found here will soften even the hardest of brand snobs.

The competitive pricing brings a whole lot of equally spacious alternatives into contention, from heavies  such as the Toyota Prado to run-away sales faves like Toyota’s Fortuner. Nissan’s X-Trail is a smaller vehicle but is also listed as a rival due to its seven seats.

Although they’re exclusively diesel powered, you can also add more domesticated offerings  such as the KIA Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe into that particular mixed bag of seven-seater rivals.

I can’t dispute the reality that the H9 is a whole lot of seven-seater SUV for the price.

Its off-road driving envelope is secure but who’d dare scrape such a sophisticated SUV? Pic: SUPPLIED
Its off-road driving envelope is secure but who’d dare scrape such a sophisticated SUV? Pic: SUPPLIED

TECH SPECS

ENGINE

Type: In-line turbo four-cylinder petrol

Capacity: 2,000cc

Power: 180kW

Torque: 350Nm

TRANSMISSION

Type: Eight-speed automatic

DRIVETRAIN

Type: Permanent Four Wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

Top speed: N/A

0-100km/h: N/A

Fuel Consumption: 10.9l/100km (as claimed), 14.1l/100km as tested

Emissions: 254 g/km

 

STANDARD FEATURES

Leather seats in three rows, 8-way electric driver seat, ventilation and massage seats, three-zone climate control and air-conditioning, 8-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, automatic headlights with built-in cleaning system, day-time running lights, adaptive headlights, blind spot detection, lane change warning assist, reverse camera, panoramic sunroof, roof rails, side steps, 18-inch aluminium alloy wheels, airbags, ISO-FIX child seat anchors, tyre pressure monitor, ABS, brake assist, ESP, hill-start assist control, roll movement intervention and cross-traffic alert, 

COST OF OWNERSHIP

Warranty: Five-year/100,000km warranty, a five-year/60,000km service plan, five-year/unlimited km roadside assistance.

Price: R599,900

Lease*: R12,840 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months, no deposit

 

Haval H9 2.0 Petrol 4WD Luxury

WE LIKE:

Specification, Comfort, Engine, Price

WE DISLIKE:

Questionable reliability of digital features 

VERDICT:

Just very nearly got it right, Haval. Try harder with next model

 

MOTOR NEWS

star rating

**Design

***Performance

***Economy

***Ride/handling

***Safety

***Value For Money

***Overall

 

Competition

Hyundai Santa Fe R2.2 ELITE AWD, 142kW/440Nm – R749,900

KIA Sorento AWD 2.2D AT EX, 147kW/440Nm – R649,995

Fortuner 4.0 V6 4X4 AT, 175kW/376Nm – R515,600

Toyota Prado Prado 4.0 VX-L, 202kW/381Nm – R1,007,400                     

Nissan X-Trail 2.5 Tekna, 126kW/233Nm – R513,500

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