2018 Haval H9 Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Haval H9 Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Haval has revised its large SUV, the H9, based on customer and journalist feedback. It’s comfortable and capable and undercuts its key rivals on value for money.
2018 Haval H9
Price from $40,990+ORC Warranty five-years, 100,000km Safety four-star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 180kW at 5500rpm Torque 350Nm from 1800-4500rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive 4×4 – dual range Dimensions 4856mm (L) 1926mm (W) 1900mm (H) 2800mm (WB) Angles 28 (A) 23 (D) 23 (BO) Ground Clearance 185-225mm Weight 2230kg Towing 2500kg (braked) Boot Space 747 litres Spare full-size alloy Fuel Tank 80 litres Thirst 10.9L/100km
HAVAL HAS BIG plans for 2018, not the least of which is to double its sales in Australia from mid-700s in 2017, to around 1500 in 2019. And it will be hoping to do it with vehicles like this revised H9. Global combined sales exceeded one million vehicles; and in its home country of China, Haval is the biggest-seller of SUVs by a country mile.
Haval is following in the footsteps of other Asian brands, like Kia and Hyundai, and has poached key talent from some of the world’s top car makers, with the development boss of Mercedes-Benz’s nine-speed automatic transmission joining the company, alongside Ford’s former NVH boss and an engineering and dynamics boss formerly of Volkswagen. These blokes join other key talent that have joined from the likes of Lamborghini and Toyota.
And there’s some good news for Australia, with Haval launching in South Africa and New Zealand, adding two more right-hand drive markets to the mix. And an engineering delegation is heading Down Under shortly too, to drive the Haval range on Australian roads… Haval Australia has been asking for a localisation program in the same vein as both Hyundai and Kia.
So, what is the Haval H9?
The H9 is the biggest SUV in the Haval range and offers full-time four-wheel drive with low-range, seven seats, and the sort of luxury appointments and at a price its key rivals can’t match.
For instance, in the switch to this revised model, there’s been a 12 and 10% price drop, although features have been added in rather than removed to sharpen the price.
There’s been some jiggery pokery with the model line-up and, what was formerly the top-spec car, the LUX, is now the entry-level variant with a sticker price of $40,990+ORC (or $41,990 drive-away) which is down from $46,490+ORC, while the new top-spec variant is called the Ultra which lists from $44,990+ORC (or $45,990 drive away) which is down from $49,990+ORC.
Upgrades to the LUX model include:
- 18-inch alloy wheels;
- Electric anti-glare mirror;
- All-Terrain Control System;
- Electronic Differential Lock;
- Centre armrest power outlet;
- Blind Spot Monitoring;
- Rear Cross Traffic Alert; and
- Lane Departure Warning.
The range-topping Ultra model adds the following features:
- Panoramic sunroof;
- Heated steering wheel;
- Comfort-Tek eco-leather seats with heating, massage and ventilation function;
- Infinity sound system; and
- Heated second row seats.
Beyond the features update, the H9 has copped a new front end, switching from the old car’s three-bar grille to a five-bar grille. Both variants get new 18-inch alloys. On the inside, which we’ll cover in more detail below, there’s a new dashboard and digital speedo which, according to Haval Australia is a direct result of feedback from Aussie buyers and journalists.
Key rivals for the H9 include the Kia Sorento in SLi and GT-Line trime both of which list at more than $50,000. The Skoda Kodiaq 132TSI undercuts the Haval H9 at $42,990+ORC but isn’t anywhere near as capable as the Haval off-road, while the Toyota Kluger AWD petrol, no matter the variant, lists at more than the H9 with a starting price of $47,550+ORC. Then there are more expensive vehicles, like the Volvo XC90, Toyota Prado seven-seater variants which, even in GXL trim is almost $20k more, or the Pajero Sport, and Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner, and so on. See, the H9 straddles two distinct sub categories of the large SUV segment, including those at the road-oriented end and those at the off-road end, too.
What’s the interior like?
The interior of the Haval H9 has benefitted greatly from a tweak, with a new dashboard and touchscreen. Behind the steering wheel, the analogue speedometer has been dumped in favour of a digital jobbie. The top-spec model misses out on leather but gets Comfort-Tek which is so close to leather that I guarantee you won’t tell the difference, the entry-level Ultra gets a cloth trim.
Now, I must admit that this is my first time with a Haval, although our Robert Pepper is very familiar with them, having pushed the old model H9 very hard off-road and then again recently on a run across the Simpson desert.
I’m not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t this. There’s plenty of soft-touch materials and quality plastics with a fit and finish that’s right up there with anything from Ford or Toyota. The design of the dashboard feels modern and, if I had to call it, I’d suggest it looks and feels more European than Asian.
It’s not all good news, in my opinion, the centre stack is very button heavy and some of them are almost impossible to read they’re so poorly illuminated. Fortunately, there are separate controls for climate with the H9 offering tri-zone climate control and vents in the roof for the benefit of all three rows.
Quickly to the 8.0-inch infotainment screen. It looks good and it’s easy to read and seems resistant to glare which is good, especially given the size of the panoramic glass roof on the top-spec Ultra variant (1178x505mm), the LUX gets a normal-sized sunroof. But the unit in our test car was very glitchy, or, rather, I should say that the sat-nav was very glitchy. After inputting a destination, the system totally failed to guide me to the correct route despite mapping the route and I’d driven a couple of blocks before it caught up. Even when it did it was still trying to get me to do a U-turn despite me being able to see the correct turn up ahead of me. It took a good 20 minutes for the system to settle and get on the right track and the graphics aren’t amazing. That said, I’d like to test it out properly myself before I give it a complete thumbs-down.
There’s no Apple or Android smartphone connectivity but Haval says it’s coming, and that would make a big difference. I didn’t get the chance to really fiddle around with the infotainment beyond the sat-nav, so that will have to wait until I’ve spent a week with the thing.
Climbing into the H9 is easy and the seats, while not overly supportive are comfortable and, while I only drove a short distance in the H9, I reckon they’d be more than up to the job of longer stints behind the wheel thanks to decent under-thigh support and decent length in the base of the seat. A massage function for both driver and passenger on the Ultra is a nice touch you don’t ever find on a vehicle costing $40k.
There’s not a lot of adjustment on the steering wheel up and down or in and out, but the seat offers plenty of movement so drivers of all sizes should be able to get comfortable behind the wheel. There’s good vision right around the vehicle, even when travelling with a full car. The reversing camera offers dynamic guide lines although the camera could be higher-resolution; I don’t think its low light performance would be great.
I got to spent a bit of time in the back seat and there’s plenty of leg, foot, head, shoulder and elbow room. At one stage, there was three of us in the back, travelling around 40km and each of us had plenty of room to sit comfortably. There are rear air vents and pockets on the back of the front seats. The back seats offer slide and recline functionality.
The rear seats don’t tumble and fold forwards to access the back row, folding and sliding forwards instead. It means you’ve got to squeeze through the gap, something that I managed to do easily and I’m six-foot tall. Getting out wasn’t quite as graceful, though.
The third-row is electric (on the Ultra; manual on the LUX), like the Ford Everest, and unlike the Toyota Prado which, raising the third-row is like opening a mousetrap. The seats fold flat into the floor. Don’t go thinking you’ll get Land Rover Discovery like legroom in the third-row, though. See, while the seat itself is comfortable and there’s plenty of headroom, the floor is flat, meaning taller passengers will have their knees up under their chins and, unless those travelling in the second row slide the seats forward, their feet will be skewed sideways. Children, but not infants (no top tether anchors) would be more comfortable in the third-row.
There’s not a huge amount of boot space when all three rows are in-use but that’s the same for a bunch of seven-seat SUVs. Drop the third-row flat into the floor and there’s a decent 747 litres of storage space. The rear tail-gate is a swing out affair which not everyone likes. The good news is that it’s light, nothing like the weighty tail-gate on the Prado.
I’ll have a more complete assessment of the H9 once I’ve spent a week with it but, in short, some of the main concerns, like the lack of digital speedo and the infotainment screen being too flat and prone to washing out in sunlight, have been addressed others remain, like the lights for accessories which are too small and too dim and the fact the shifter (a new T-bar design) still hides the 4×4 mode selector are issues that still need to be addressed.
What’s it like to drive?
I got to drive the new H9 from Melbourne CBD out to Werribee 4×4 Proving Ground and while the suspension and steering is carried over from the old model, the engine has been tweaked for more power and better fuel consumption and a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission has been bolted on. And it’s made a big difference with the shifts at high or low speeds, on- or off-road, smooth and precise.
The engine is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and power is up from 160kW to 180kW at 5500rpm and from 324Nm to 350Nm of torque from 1800-4500rpm. For the grease monkeys, the key tweak to improve output was to up the compression ratio from 9.6:1 to 1.0:1. As mentioned, an eight-speed automatic has been bolted onto the engine, allowing the H9 to sprint to 100km/h in just over 10 seconds (20% quicker than this car’s predecessor).
The Haval H9 is a big bus and, so, if you’re expecting sports car like handling then go buy a sports car. The H9 needs a suspension set-up that can handle both road and track (and I mean a bush track) so there’s always going to be some wallow to the way it moves. That said, mid-corner body roll isn’t anywhere near as severe as a Prado and it’s not far off an Everest which is the best-handling of these seven-seat 4×4 wagons. Bumps and ripples in the road are dealt with comfortably. The steering needs work, there’s some slackness in the straight ahead which means you’re always nibbling at the wheel on the highway. All the pedals offer a nice progressive action, and NVH improvements mean the H9 is a quiet and comfortable cruiser.
The H9 is comfortable on bitumen, but it feels even better on dirt roads where the suspension seems better able to deal with constant movement rather than out of nowhere hits.
Offering low-range, we left the Haval H9 in Auto mode via its All-Terrain Control System which allows you to scroll from low-range to Auto and then into specific modes, like Snow, Mud and Sand. Wading depth is 700mm.
At the Werribee 4×4 Proving Ground, in Auto, the H9 only once failed to proceed and that was as much because of me picking the wrong line up a particularly rocky and rutted track. Stopping on the hill and selecting Neutral, I slotted low-range (you’ve got to wait a few seconds while it grabs), a wiggle of the steering wheel to allow the front tyres to grab at the ground and up the H9 went. If driving off-road with the H9, I’d advise using low-range rather than Auto as it will improve low-speed tractability and, obviously, grip… me testing it in Auto was just to give the vehicle a hard time and see how it coped.
Haval has swapped from Cooper rubbery to softer Kumho road-focussed rubber. Despite that move, and the fact we ran the cars on highway pressures, the H9 impressed.
There have clearly been some tweaks to the hill descent control which formerly only worked at a minimum speed of 8km/h but during the launch I managed to set it at 6km/h (it works via brakes and accelerator to control the speed). The system is nice and quiet with none of the grinding and graunching you get from Toyota’s hill descent. Even without hill descent control, the new eight-speed automatic has improved engine braking and you can manually select a gear via the steering mounted flappy paddles.
The H9 doesn’t have a huge amount of ground clearance at 206mm (the specifications claim 206mm, but the owner’s handbook says 185mm, so, when Robert measured underneath the vehicle last year he found 225mm under the rear differential and 185mm under the front bash plate), but driven carefully you shouldn’t ground it; I managed to touch the side steps which are very big and wide, but not the belly on the various tracks we drove across. And, unlike some launches where you’re directed at carefully chosen tracks, Haval let us go wherever we want and attempt whatever we wanted. While clearance is important, suspension and its ability to flex is equally important. And, here, the Haval H9 does a great job of crawling comfortably across rough terrain.
There’s good low-speed throttle control in low-range and grunt too and, while some journos at the launch griped about the lack of a diesel engine in the range, I suspect that was just because they thought that was what they were meant to say… the extra power and torque and the new transmission mean this thing feels very strong in the rough stuff.
For anyone who’s ever been to Werribee you’ll know the hill climb that’s been dubbed Widowmaker… and for those who don’t, see the video at the top of the page. That gradient is more than 40 degrees; the H9’s inclinometer gives up at 38-degrees. Even on road tyres and road pressures the H9 climbed the hill without fuss. More than anything we did on the day, I’d suggest this was the climb that impressed the most.
Personally, I’m looking forward to spending more time with the H9, especially off-road; my little two-hour appetiser showed that the H9 isn’t an oddity, it’s a proper off-roader and anyone considering a touring 4×4 should put it on their shortlist.
What about safety features?
The Haval H9 continues with the old car’s four-star ANCAP rating but it adds the bits and bobs that were missing from before, like blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert (standard on both variants); autonomous emergency braking and automatic cruise control will be available on vehicles arriving later in 2018. Both variants get Xenon headlights, with the Ultra copping adaptive headlights that will turn and self-level. There are the usual suspects, traction and stability controls (and the stability control system is the latest-generation Bosch 9 unit), all-wheel drive and locking read differential, hill descent control and hill-start assist.
So, what do we think?
Haval has shown, with the updates to the H9, that it is listening to customers and road testers and acting on the feedback. Indeed, almost all the tweaks to this refreshed model have been led by feedback from users. And, for a brand trying to build a following that’s a good attitude to have. The vehicle looks good inside and out, it’s comfortable to ride in on- and off-road and it’s properly capable when the going gets rough.