HAVAL is Great Wall’s SUV offshoot brand, and the H9 is the only proper 4x4 in the Haval range.
While a ‘take’ on the Toyota Prado in general size and layout, thanks in part to Haval’s recruitment of former Toyota chief engineer Suguya Fukusato, the Haval H9 is petrol-fuelled only. The engine in question is a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder, reportedly designed in-house at Haval. The 4x4 system uses a self-locking and self-proportioning electronic transfer case (built under license from Borg Warner) much like that used in the Ford Everest.
The model supplied for 4X4OTY was the top-spec Luxury. The cheaper Premium loses the sunroof, leather, electric-seat adjust and has 17s in place of 18s and no terrain settings for the otherwise similar 4x4 system.
The Haval H9 delivers a surprisingly compliant ride on secondary and gravel roads and it displays good behaviour at touring speeds, as well as impressive road-shock isolation courtesy of its separate chassis architecture. However, at higher speeds it starts to feel a little untidy on rough roads and the steering becomes vague.
Despite its relatively small turbocharged petrol engine, on-road performance is more than adequate for a family wagon. Poking around town the engine feels smooth enough, but open the throttle and it becomes noisy and harsh as the revs rise.
The ZF six-speed automatic transmission delivers smooth shifts and the ratios are well-matched to the engine. Under full throttle there is little discernible difference between the Auto and Sport modes within the Haval’s All-Terrain Control System (ATCS), although the latter is programmed to hold on to gears for longer before upshifting.
The H9 recorded an average fuel consumption figure of 14.3L/100km on test, so touring range from the 80L tank is limited to a tad more than 500km.
The H9 is equipped with an impressive arsenal of traction goodies to assist when it ventures off-road. The Luxury model tested here has Haval’s All Terrain Control System with Auto, Sport, Sand, Snow, Mud and 4L modes – it automatically apportions torque to the axle that needs it up to a split of 50:50 (front:rear).
Selecting the required mode is by way of a dial, which is easy enough to operate but is a bit of an ergonomic miss as it’s set to the left of the centre console and is not clearly marked.
By selecting 4L the rear diff lock automatically engages, which is great if you have a gnarly and slippery hill to climb, but a bit superfluous if you don’t, in which case you can easily disengage it by pressing a button. Nevertheless, the diff lock, effective traction control system, good wheel travel and adequate ground clearance, combined with the engine’s decent low-rpm grunt and good low-range gearing, endow the H9 with surprisingly good performance on a trail.
Over-bonnet visibility isn’t great compared to its rivals and we had a couple of odd warning lights momentarily appear on the dash (such as “E-Handbrake System Fault”), but the H9 proved reliable and capable on bush tracks despite the sometimes-challenging conditions.
SET-PIECE HILL CLIMB
As the judges stood around at the bottom of our set-piece hill climb expecting the Haval H9 to come unstuck at the first big wheel rut, there were soon gasps of surprise and admiration as the H9 made the climb look easy.
The H9 climbed the hill over and over again with barely a hint of wheelspin. In fact, the only complaint on the climb was the lack of over-bonnet visibility when cresting the hill.
Coming back down, the H9’s engine braking wasn’t fantastic, and the Hill Descent Control was set too fast, but good brake feel made it easy enough to retard the descent without fear of an uncontrolled slide.
It didn’t bottom out on the set-piece hill climb, but the H9’s ground clearance is best described as adequate. Additionally, a fair amount of care must be taken to avoid damaging the wide sidesteps.
CABIN, EQUIPMENT AND ACCOMMODATION
The H9 Luxury is absolutely loaded with gear belying its $50K drive-away price. Standard equipment includes leather trim, electrically adjustable front seats with heating, cooling and massage function, electrically folding third-row seats, sunroof, parking sensors, reversing camera, driver condition monitor, tyre pressure monitor, eight-inch TFT screen, GPS navigation, 10-speaker sound system, tri-zone climate control air-conditioning, and much, much more.
It’s not hard to get comfortable behind the wheel of the H9 and the cabin is generally a very pleasant place to be, with good quality materials and trim.
The electrically folding third-row seats are a great feature, but passenger access to the third row is compromised by the 60/40 split of the second row being set up for left-hand drive markets. In fact, without someone outside the vehicle to fold the second-row seat for you, you can only exit the third row on the driver’s side – which isn’t ideal for the Aussie market.
When the third-row seats are not in use, the H9 offers generous cargo space, with decent luggage tie-down points and a 12V power outlet in the rear. There’s also a comprehensive tool kit located in the cargo door.
The H9 Luxury runs 265/60R18 Cooper Discoverer HTS tyres on alloy rims. This tyre size matches the Toyota Prado, so tyres should be easy to source outside of major centres when on a trip.
Haval has ensured the alternator and electrics are located high up in the engine bay and the air intake is through the right-hand inner guard, giving the H9 a claimed 700mm fording depth. If you wanted to, and with a bit of fiddling, you could fit a small auxiliary battery under the bonnet.
Up front the H9 has a pair of decent recovery points, and there’s one at the rear. Other than the aforementioned wide sidesteps, we didn’t have ground clearance issues on test and everything is tucked up and out of the way.
Loaded with gear, the Haval H9 represents good value for money. It’s also a comfortable tourer, has good off-road capability and appears to be well built, but without a diesel engine option we can’t see it becoming a sales success in Australia. And this means aftermarket accessory manufacturers are unlikely to develop bullbars, snorkels and other essential off-road equipment for it.
A Tough Dog suspension kit has not been developed for the Haval yet, but watch for a release in 2017. The H9’s design similarities with other vehicles on the market means that there may be some components already developed and suitable for this vehicle.
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo-petrol
Max Power: 160kW @ 5500rpm
Max Torque: 324Nm @ 2000-4000rpm
Gearbox: six-speed automatic
4x4 system: dual-range full-time
Crawl ratio: 43.6:1
Tyre spec: 265/60R18 110H
Kerb weight: 2236kg
Touring capacity: 2500kg
Fuel tank capacity: 80 litres
ADR Fuel Claim: 12.1L/100km
*Price are drive-away.