• Cheapest luxury large SUV on the market.
• Packed full of functional accessories and creature comforts.
• Performance is less dynamic than more established competitors
The Haval H9 is a good example of how less-established makers need to compete to get a slice of our expanding but crowded SUV market. Haval, a Chinese SUV brand with models in four distinct market categories, has loaded the H9 – its largest vehicle – with an extensive list of standard features and then put it out there at an eye-opening $49,990 drive-away for the higher-spec Lux version. When you’re up against the likes of Toyota Prado, Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero, this is a good start. Now Haval just needs to work on the vehicle’s refinement.
We were still discovering niceties not typically seen in competing models, e.g. customisable LED mood lighting, up until we returned our road-test H9 Lux. The infotainment system is fairly intuitive, making light work of controlling the radio, three-zone climate control system, Bluetooth and reverse guidance functions. The parking guidance is easy to use and delivered succinct instructions, although sometimes it would not automatically disengage and be left beeping at you when you drive forward again.
Satellite navigation is for the most part easy to use, with a few translation quirks, which Haval assured us were being addressed. For instance, turn-by-turn navigation is voiced by a bizarre character which evoked in us feelings of both curiosity and discomfort; it was promptly told to be quiet.
Seated in comfort
Leather seats in the front offer a high level of comfort (including heating and cooling), with all adjustments being electronically controlled, including four programmable positions for the driver, although the seat’s lumbar support oddly is controlled through the infotainment system. The sunroof is operated via an intuitive stepped dial. Less clever is having to monotonously deploy the third row of seats one at a time, holding the button as the electronics slowly unfold them.
Generally, seating room is good. There is ample leg room in the front and second-row seats, with the latter also boasting a high level of adjustment (plus heating) and recessed headrests. Third-row seating is a little tight and requires a responsible adult to let you in and out, as the side-opening rear door is difficult to operate from inside, especially while the seats are up.
The H9 runs with a 2.0-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder petrol engine which puts out a respectable 160kW. Unfortunately, in SUVs torque is generally the critical measurement and here the H9 engine falls short. Most large SUVs with turbo-charged diesel engines will churn well over 400Nm of torque; the H9’s relatively small petrol unit can only deliver 324Nm. It struggles considerably between idle and 2000rpm, making it difficult at times in busy traffic.
Working a small engine hard doesn’t do the H9 any favours in fuel economy. We averaged 13.5L/100km over our 1200km relationship, against the official government figure of 12.1L/100km. And that’s on 95-RON fuel. Where it really got thirsty was around town, where we returned 16.7L/100km. On a few peak-traffic journeys, we burnt 17.9L. Fill some jerry cans if you plan on taking it to the Outback.
Utilising a well-regarded ZF six-speed auto transmission, both upshifts and downshifts in the H9 felt seamless. Using the paddle shifters in sports automatic mode offers a more engaging driving experience, along with helping to keep the revs down during more sedentary conditions.
But we found the on-road handling somewhat floaty. The soft suspension and rigid chassis promote a turn-in body roll comparable to a boat in a light swell. That said, cruising on the freeway was extremely comfortable.
Leaving the tarmac, the H9’s All Terrain Control System in auto mode quickly adapted to the varied road surface conditions. Steering felt light yet at the same time commanding. Not so delicate was the abrasive manner in which the traction control would engage.
At $49,990 drive-away, the H9 Lux is a long way ahead of its competitors, and for a passenger it could very well be the perfect large SUV. But as a driver, the dynamic performance leaves you a bit underwhelmed.
Haval H9 Lux
Price range: $49,990 drive-away. Premium paint: no extra cost.
Drivetrain: 1968cc four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine; 160kW@5500rpm, 3240Nm@2000-4000rpm. Six-speed automatic. Four-wheel-drive.
Fuel economy: 13.5L/100km (RACV test); 12.1L/100km (govt test). 95 RON petrol. 80-litre tank.
Wheels: 18-inch alloys. Full-size spare.
Standard safety: Six airbags (including side curtain for all three rows). Fatigue detection. Reversing camera and parking guidance. Front/rear parking sensors. All-terrain control system. Hill-start and descent assist. Tyre pressure monitoring. Auto headlights/wipers. ISOFIX child seat fittings.
Standard features: Eight-inch touch-screen. Satellite navigation. Tri-zone climate control. Electric/heated/cooled leather front seats; electric/heated second-row seats. Electric sunroof. Keyless start.
Warranty: Five years/100,000km warranty. Five years’ capped-price servicing. Roadside assistance.