Haval is a new name in the long list of vehicle brands on sale in Australia. It’s the ‘premium’ SUV arm of Great Wall Motors in China, where it’s claimed to be the largest SUV brand.
Haval came onto the Australian market last October with a three-model line-up and just four dealers nationally, two of which are in Victoria, in Hallam and Geelong. The aim is to have 25 dealers nationally by the end of this year.
The Haval range includes the H2, a small SUV that competes with Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan, the H8, which we tested, and the H9, a larger seven-seater similar to a Toyota Prado.
The H8 lines up with the likes of Kia Sorento and Ford Territory. The Premium spec is actually the entry-level model and comes in either rear-wheel-drive from $41,990 or with an on-demand all-wheel drive system for $44,490. The top-spec LUX is AWD-only for $48,990, plus on-road costs.
The H8 is powered by a 160kW 2.0L turbo-petrol engine. There is no diesel version as the fuel is not favoured for cars in China. The six-speed automatic transmission is a well-regarded ZF unit and the AWD system is from BorgWarner, another well-known international supplier. Initial pick-up from the gearbox is a bit sluggish but once it gets going the turbocharged engine has a strong pulling power. The AWD system does an impressive job of coping with slippery surfaces and dealing with mixed grip levels. We detected almost no slip when accelerating from rest on a hill with two wheels on slippery grass.
The H8 has a heavy, old school feel in its structure; its solidity makes you think it is bigger than it actually is, although at 2175kg it is one of the heavier vehicles in its class. With a petrol engine, this means relatively high fuel consumption. Over our test week we averaged 11.7L/100km, with a best figure on a highway run of 10.3L/100km. Surprisingly, this was much better than the official government figure of 12.7L/100km. However, around town it was difficult to achieve better than 13.0L/100km and the H8’s requirement for premium petrol adds to the fuel bill.
The ride quality is particularly good for an SUV and the H8 felt at home on a long highway run. When the road started to get a bit twisty, it was also able to negotiate the corners surprisingly well for a car of this size and weight. But it’s let down by vague steering that lacks feedback.
Missing modern safety tech
The H8 comes with the usual array of six airbags, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. But it doesn’t have any of the modern safety technologies such as autonomous emergency braking. It has not been ANCAP tested at this stage.
The controls have a good basic layout and presentation but there is also a bit of bling with wood grain and colour-changing interior lighting. Haval certainly has the premium end of the market in their sights with good quality materials.
The interior is trimmed with leather and the front seats are large and comfortable with electrical adjustment for driver and passenger. Heated and ventilated seats are standard in the LUX and an option in the Premium.
Plenty of room
The rear seats have a lot of leg and head room with enough width to fit three adults. There is some shaping in the seats and the middle folds down to provide an arm rest and cup-holders. There’s also separate climate control for the rear passengers. Child restraint anchor points are on the seat back and there are ISOFIX connection points.
The luggage area is large and practical with bag hooks and tie-down points. The rear seats fold almost flat but having to first move the front seats forward and lift the cushions limits the practicality.
The Premium model has a good level of standard features for this class, including satellite navigation and the usual connectivity features expected in modern cars, although pairing the Bluetooth was clumsy and the system was not as refined as in other brands; for example there is no link between the infotainment system and the instrument cluster.
Haval has a five-year/100,000km warranty and guaranteed service prices for the same period.
For an unknown quantity, the Haval H8 is a better overall package than you might expect. It has all the features that we’ve come to expect from a modern SUV and it’s also competitively priced.
It will certainly satisfy the needs of most drivers despite several aspects of its design and build that doesn’t feel quite as developed or ‘together’ as the well-established players in this very competitive market.