It had to happen. The Chinese challenge to the heavy hitters of the sports utility segment goes on, with the MY20 Haval H9 continuing to take on the likes of the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Toyota Prado.
While not there yet (Where’s the diesel version?) the H9 has lucked out of its prime target, the American market, thanks to President Trump putting up the shutters on Chinese imports, Australia is still in the game.
We have two versions of the big seven-seat SUV – Lux and Ultra – both powered by a 2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. Lux and Ultra are priced at $41,990 and $45,990 (on the road), respectively.
Haval H9 comes with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as airbags for driver and front passenger (front and side), and side curtain airbags all the way to the back row.
The Ultra on our road test also boasted heated and ventilated massaging front seats, heated steering wheel, rain sensing panoramic sunroof, 10-speaker Infinity sound system, Comfort-Tec seating, power folding third-row seat and adaptive front lighting swivelling as you turn the steering wheel.
Haval provides a seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, as well as five-year roadside assistance through the Australian Motoring Clubs across its entire range.
The Haval H9 is no Ming Dynasty of the Chinese automobile industry. Designers have stuck strictly to the tried and tested elements of the large four-wheel drive wagon.
Upgrades to the radiator grille forgoes much of the chrome favoured by rival SUVs, relying on five strips of the shiny stuff to provide a laid-back canvas for the Haval nameplate.
The lower air intake was reworked for improved airflow into the engine bay and the front fog lamps adopted a more circular design.
Both Lux and Ultra come standard with all-new, five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels.
Ultra occupants have the benefit of Comfort-Tek eco-leather seats, while taking advantage of pleasant, well-lit surroundings thanks to a panoramic sunroof with an easy-to-use dial and retractable sun blind.
Focus of the instrument panel is a large TFT screen – the result of feedback from Australian buyers – that displays a host of information including digital speed readings.
Also accessed are journey time, trip meter, average speed, average and instant fuel usage, driving range and the tyre pressure monitoring system, via a steering wheel-mounted switch.
To the left are a traditional analogue tachometer, with analogue temperature and petrol gauges on the right.
An 8-inch TFT LCD touchscreen takes centre stage, linking with GPS satellite navigation. There’s a 10-speaker Infinity audio (4 tweeters, 4 mid-range, 1 centre channel, 1 sub-woofer).
However Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are absent.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The H9 is powered by a turbocharged petrol engine generating 180 kW and 350 Nm, which is matched to an eight-speed ZF transmission running a Borg Warner torque on-demand transfer system.
In a bit to match rivals, additions include autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning standard across the H9 range.
Passive safety is taken care of by dual front and front-side airbags, as well as curtain bags across all three rows.
Introduction to the Haval H9 was far from welcoming, getting in and out posing some problems: access through the rear doors is skinny and tangling with the second-row seatbelts is a trial.
The seats themselves have their disadvantages, the high floor forcing occupants to sit in an almost head-between-knees position. Children and smaller folk fare well.
Also, with the seat backs in the upright position cargo behind is almost totally eliminated, with space only for briefcase or laptop thickness cargo standing upright.
Considering the bulk it has to handle the engine is quiet and unfussy. Along with fuel efficiency, modern turbocharging can take the credit here.
Petrol consumption on the combined urban / highway cycle in the test Haval H9 was recorded at up to 13 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres on a motorway run.
Not only has the H9 no diesel option, fuel bills are blown out by the need for 95 RON petrol to run the thing.
A major downside was some hesitation on take-off with the stop / start system slow to engage.
Haval’s All-Terrain Control System optimises off-road performance in sand, snow or mud, while 4L is for the toughest conditions, or when maximum traction is required.
Auto mode automatically adapts to any on- or off-road situation, while Sport is for the keen driver, with the ZF transmission holding lower gears for longer. At speeds below 80 km/h, it locks out the two overdrive gears, making it ideal for urban driving.
On the one hand, pedestrian performance and variable seating comfort; on the other, much needed safety upgrades and a plethora of aids for drivers, the Haval flagship faces some rough waters in its attempt to make it in the heavy brigade.
AT A GLANCE
Haval H9 2.0 Lux AWD $41,990
Haval H9 2.0 Ultra (a) AWD $45,990
Note: These are drive-away prices.
(Haval H9 Ultra 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, 8sp automatic, 4WD SUV)
Capacity: 1967 cc
Configuration: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged petrol, eight-speed automatic
Maximum Power: 180 kW @ 5500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 350 Nm @ 1800-4500 rpm
Fuel type: Petrol 95 RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 10.9 litres per 100 km
Drivetrain: Longitudinally mounted in-line four-cylinder engine with turbocharger, dual VVT and direct injection. Eight-speed automatic, 4-wheel drive
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4856 mm
Width: 1926 mm
Height: 1900 mm
Wheelbase: 2800 mm
Kerb mass: 2250 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 litres
Turning circle: 12.1 m
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Seven years / unlimited kilometres