HAVAL, the big-selling Chinese auto giants have a seriously refreshed and seriously capable seven-seat large 4×4/SUV on their hands in the just arrived 2018 HAVAL H9.
Launched this week in Melbourne, we got along for a drive sampling the updated model across a route that included city streets, busy highways, rough and poorly maintained outer suburban roads, and then off-road too at the Melbourne 4×4 Training and Proving Ground.
I came away impressed, especially when taking into account the now even lower prices that HAVAL have attached to their updated 2018 offering.
The HAVAL H9 has probably never been in contention for any beauty awards, and HAVAL wouldn’t be concerned about that, but they have made some tweaks and, in my opinion at least, these do help the H9 cut a more stylish line.
New for 2018 are 18″ alloy wheels as standard across both model grades (LUX and Ultra), there’s also some subtle styling changes front and rear, the end result being a vehicle you would be happy to be seen in.
The HAVAL team in China have again taken a large leap forward giving the 2018 version of the H9 a surprisingly classy cabin.
There’s a new-look console, new dashboard, new ‘t-style’ transmission selector, and updated instruments for the driver.
The overall feel and look inside the vehicle is exceptionally good, and might surprise some prospective buyers.
The entry-level model comes with a sunroof as standard, while the top-spec model gets leather and a panoramic sunroof.
Legroom up front and in the middle row is very good, the third row of seats provides enough space for children, or adults for short trips (same as every model in this segment of the market).
Headroom is very good all-round too and this can be put down to the rather square shape of the H9 cabin.
This is really where the HAVAL H9 shines - the entry-level LUX coming as standard with an eight-speed auto, 4×4 low-range (selectable via a dial-type control), sat-nav, reverse camera, the aforementioned sunroof, and 18″ alloys.
You can also add to the list Lane Departure Warning, Blind-Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
The top of the range H9 Ultra gains a ten-speaker sound system, the panoramic sunroof, leather seats, electric third-row seat control, heated and ventilated front seats.
At this stage there isn’t a smartphone link (i.e. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), however HAVAL representatives have promised that it is coming to all models in the HAVAL range later in the year.
Also coming to the H9 later in the year will be Autonomous Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Forward Collision Warning.
The update for 2018 isn’t just cosmetic - the HAVAL H9 also benefits from an improved version of its 2.0 litre turbo-petrol engine.
The improvements bring an additional 12.5% power and 8% torque for new outputs of 180kW/350Nm.
Mated to that engine is a new eight-speed auto transmission.
Together, HAVAL claim the H9 now gets to 100km/h in a much quicker time (10.8 seconds, compared to the previous 12 seconds plus), while fuel economy is also down significantly.
The 10% improvement not just from the tweaks and the transmission, but also the arrival of engine stop/start.
HAVAL has also added in a locking rear diff to both model grades for better off-road performance.
And something else new to the HAVAL is the arrival of Kumho tyres to the H9, these replace the previous Coopers.
The tyres make a big difference on the bitumen and, combined with improved cabin insulation, make for a pleasingly quiet and refined drive.
The ride is good too, though as you might expect, there is some body roll in the bends and the steering could be a bit sharper on centre.
The updated engine and improved transmission make for respectable acceleration both front a standing stop and at speed.
It is certainly no ball of fire in the performance stakes, adequate is again the word that comes to mind.
As mentioned above, we had the chance to give the HAVAL a serious go off-road and the vehicle did well on approach and departures from ruts and inclines, the ladder chassis also giving plenty of clearance while maneuvering around the obstacles at the 4×4 grounds.
The off-road ability, as you would reasonably expect, hampered by the on-road tyres - serious off-road exploits in this vehicle, and any other, should see you invest in a set of all-terrain rubber.
At this stage the HAVAL H9 has a four-star ANCAP safety rating, the vehicle finishing just shy of the top safety score.
HAVAL representatives tell us that the issues that needed to be addressed were, while they are confident it will/would qualify for a maximum safety score with the forthcoming addition of AEB etc.
- Now lower pricing
- Interior space
- Seating capacity
- Interior fit and finish
- Visibility from driver’s seat
- Improved interior refinement
- Off-road ability
- Value for money
Not So Good Bits
- On-road manners could be improved
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto (smartphone link) yet
- No AEB, Adaptive Cruise Control yet
A great value buy, HAVAL has again listened to the Australian buying public and came back with an improved product.
Certainly a must-drive proposition for a family on a budget, we look forward to continuing to watch the development of HAVAL.
It will also be an even more impressive offering when those further upgrades come through a little later in the year.
Facts and Figures: 2018 HAVAL H9
- Engine: 2.0 litre turbo-petrol producing 180kW/350Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed auto
- Safety: Four stars
- Warranty: 5yrs/100,000km
- Origin: China
- Price: H9 LUX from $41,990 drive-away, H9 Ultra from $45,990