What is it?
The Haval H9 is what it is. A rolling block of flats from Chinese carmaker Haval, part of the Great Wall conglomerate.
It’s visually huge but is powered by a turbocharged, petrol-fed, four cylinder engine. Haval’s own website doesn’t specify the capacity, but the brochure does, and a recent update sees the 2.0-litre engine now produce 180kW at 5500rpm (up from 160) and 350Nm of torque between 2000 and 4000rpm (up from 324).
Transmission is an 8-speed auto only.
Fuel consumption meanwhile has been reduced to 10.9L/100km, using premium 95 unleaded from the 80-litre tank. Our test run saw 12.5L in a mostly urban environment.
The 4826mm long machine has a dry weight of 2250kg and seats seven.
There are illuminated alloy side steps encased in unfortunately fragile plastic shrouding, changeable LED mood lighting inside, Haval logo puddle lamps, rear seat climate control and the rear seats are also powered.
What’s it cost?
There’s a two model range for the H9 and they’re offered at driveaway prices.
The Lux starts at $41,990 and the Ultra from $45,990. Metallic paint is $495 but there’s no apparent option list apart from colour and trim, as the two are extremely well featured.
Externally it looks like a pumped up early model X-Trail with its vertical lights at the rear. At the front there are hints of Toyota LandCruiser and Prado — that’s not a bad thing.
Leather features heavily in the H9. The steering wheel in both is leather clad and the Ultra (as tested) has leather seats. The Lux has manually adjusted cloth seats, while the Ultra’s are powered, heated, and have memory settings plus a massage function to boot.
The third row seats in the Lux are manual, and the second row in the Lux miss out on heating as well. The Ultra also gets a full length glass roof wth a front section that opens.
The cabin in the Ultra we had was trimmed in black and bone. It’s a good contrast and suits the silver the car came in. However the smokey grey faux wood trim is a matter of personal preference.
The driver has a dash that’s easy on the eye and a centre LCD screen with changeable information displays. Haval add a small strip style display above the touchscreen that displays height, barometric pressure, and a compass.
Switch gear is mostly cleanly laid out however the climate control buttons, although mostly clear in intent, have some ambiguity in the way the Mode button appears to work and the Sync between driver and passenger isn’t clear either.
Being as big as it is, it’s no surprise the H9 has plenty of room inside. Although the wheelbase is a surprisingly short 2800mm, the overall width and height give plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room.
All round vision is good thanks to plenty of glass making for an airy cabin.
Front, seat, and side curtain airbags are standard on both, but no driver’s kneebag.
There’s a good level of driver aids such as front and rear parking sensors, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Assist, and Tyre Pressure Monitoring.
The head rests in the front seat are crash programed to move forward and cradle the head of front seat passengers.
There’s no Autonomous Emergency Braking, but the H9 has been updated to include Blind Spot, Lane Departure and Rear Cross Traffic alerts.
What’s it go like?
On paper 350Nm of torque and a heavy vehicle don’t look like ideal partners.
On road that’s partly the case. The 8-speed transmission is frustrating in its inconsistency. Gears are selected via an Audi style rocker item and Park is a button on the top.
The transmission will not engage unless the seat belts are plugged in, which is great — but inconsistency in the way the transmission engages is another.
It’s erratic in that it will sometimes grab first smoothly, sometimes not. There’s some instant engagement, there’s sometimes a delay before lurching forward.
The engine is in need of refinement as there’s a coarse feeling to the way it spins. But the auto, once warmed up, is as smooth as a modern 8-speed should be.
Once underway the system works well enough, and when the transmission hooks up, a flat foot will motivate the big machine smoothly and generate reasonable forward movement.
There’s a switch in the centre console for the AWD with Snow, Sport, Sand, Auto, and Mud settings. It’s simple to use and although the H9 is capable of going off road — it’d be a rare case.
There’s 206mm of ground clearance, meaning the 18 inch alloys and 265/60 rubber look undersized in the wheel arches. Approach and departure angles are 28 and 23 degress respectively, and the H9 will crawl sideways at 23 degrees.
The steering feels rubbery on centre yet has the nose moving the instant the wheel is dialed left or right. It’s surprisingly responsive as a result on road.
Road manners themselves, bearing in mind its 1926mm width and 1900mm height, are decent for such a large machine. It’s supple enough on tarmac, with double wishbone front and multi-link rear setup absorbing pretty much anything that’s thrown their way.
It’s not bad off road, with low range engaged by selecting Neutral and twirling the drive selector dial.
It’ll handle anything from soft road up to reasonable mud/gravel/rocks but unfortunately that plastic shrouding isn’t up to the task — a relatively minor impact shows its fragility (pictured).
What we like?
- Plenty of interior room
- Lots of standard kit
- Plush enough ride
What we don’t like?
- Lack of torque
- No diesel
- Indecisive auto at times
The bottom line?
Haval is making progress, there’s no doubt. The Ultra as tested represents very good value with a good level of standard equipment. But the lack of some safety items considered essential nowadays, plus the slightly confusing climate control, and an engine that feels like it needs refinement — combine to pull the H9 back down the ladder. Overriding all of these shortcomings however is the need for a diesel.
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Haval H9, priced from $41,990
- Looks - 7.5/107.5/10
- Performance - 6.5/106.5/10
- Safety - 7.0/107/10
- Thirst - 7.5/107.5/10
- Practicality - 8.0/108/10
- Comfort - 8.0/108/10
- Tech - 7.5/107.5/10
- Value - 7.5/107.5/10