FOR thousands of years, China has been producing ‘great things’; the Great Wall and a host of cultural and architectural marvels among them. Now, in the twenty-first century, that focus has moved to electronics, technology and vehicles. Enter Haval.
The brand is a specialised arm of Great Wall Motors. The parent brand, as in Great Wall, is famous in Australia for all the wrong reasons, including warranty and asbestos issues; and is now self-managing its own distribution channels.
Building cars is not an easy task though and getting it right takes time, just ask Tesla about its build quality issues. For Haval, whose focus is on building a range of SUV’s, that journey continues with the 2018 H2 compact SUV.
The Premium 2WD edition is the base model in the junior sized SUV, and is the smaller sibling to the larger H6, H8 and H9, with the model range part of a grand plan to knock off Toyota as the SUV market leader.
Big dreams for any car brand for sure, but when you consider Haval has sold more than four million vehicles in China and is currently experiencing sales growth in markets all over the world, those dreams don’t seem so impossible.
Our Haval H2 Premium is aimed at the lower end of the compact SUV market, with a starting price of $24,990. There’s an up market model too, the Lux, which like the Premium, is available in 2WD and AWD.
In case you were wondering what the price range is like, the manual AWD Lux hits the road at $28,490 drive away, and all model variants are definitely built to cater for the price point they are targeting.
The Premium has all the accessories one would expect in a modern car, a DVD and video capable information media centre, digital information display on the dash, electric sunroof, cruise control, and auto options for wipers and headlights.
Safety technology is also gets a jersey in the form of ABS, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, as well as an electronic stability program. Missing though are more recent safety enhancements such as blind spot monitoring.
There’s also no lane keep assist or autonomous braking across any of the H2 range in Australia. The Lux gains premium ‘eco’ leather electric heated seats, extra speakers and dual zone air conditioning.
The H2 is powered by a 1.5-litre turbo charged petrol engine, producing 110kW of power and 210Nm of torque. Oddly, the engine sits in front of the driver, with the 6-speed automatic transmission in our test car hidden by a range of filters and batteries.
On the combined fuel economy cycle Haval claims 9-litres/100km, but the average we recorded over the time we had the car was 10.5-litres/100km. We did take the H2 out into the country though, and saw 7-litres/100km on a long country road.
While manual and auto are offered across the front wheel drive version, the top of the range Lux AWD only comes in a manual, which is an interesting choice for the Chinese car maker given luxury car owners’ love of automatics.
Overall, driving the car was not bad, it felt solid on the road and the electric power steering was purposeful and fairly direct, although there was little feedback. For commuting and general city driving it actually surprised and performed quite well.
The gearbox was smooth, but did tend to move up through the gears fairly fast, so the power was always a couple of seconds away as it spun up the revs and down shifted when you wanted to accelerate.
The 2018 Haval H2 Premium (2WD) actually handled the urban assault course that is Sydney roads quite well, taking speed humps and pot holes in its stride. But with a 113mm ground clearance we decided against going off road.
Beyond general commuting performance though, a solid crunching of the accelerator and a grin of determination were required for decent acceleration, and for open road overtaking, a project plan and patience, starting way back from the intended target.
The engine takes time to get up to speed but once the turbo had spooled it was pretty good, but you can definitely tell its a small power plant. Using the gear selector in manual helped a bit, but the effort required was probably more than it was worth.
It does cruise quite comfortably at 110km/h, it just takes a while to get there. It also suffers from the general compact SUV complaint of little rear visibility, with massive C columns and small rear window.
Large and well placed side mirrors offset this though and the reversing camera works reasonably well too. The key less entry system works well too, and features speed sensing locking and automatic collision unlocking.
The H2 was very quiet, with minimal road noise, thanks in part to some good quality Kuhmo tyres and decent 18-inch wheels. The engine too, after starting, was hard to hear, even when pushed.
The family can fit in the Haval H2 comfortably, with four adults and a child in the centre back seat all able to sit without any drama, although the car definitely notices the extra weight. There’s still a reasonable amount of room for the shopping in the boot too.
The usual fare of a retractable rear shelf, connection points for child seats and good seat belts are all present, and the cloth seats are pretty comfortable, although the fabric felt slick and a little strange.
Remembering that it’s a small SUV that probably isn’t really for off road, it’s interesting that there’s a DSR or Downhill Speed Regulation (hill descent assist) button in the centre console. It could be handy if you do actually take it off road.
Somewhat amusingly, we unwittingly activated it when we picked up the car. It activated while driving down a small incline driveway in the inner city. It scared the pants off our test driver; with gears dropping and revs climbing, he thought he’d broken something.
We can’t actually tell you what the infotainment system is like. The touch screen only functioned randomly and while you could navigate around the screens using the steering wheel toggle, it was a long and painful experience.
We gave up on the navigation app too, because the two times we could get an address entered, it could not find them. Likewise, connecting the phone via Bluetooth was problematic and again we gave up after several tries.
We can’t verify it, but officially there is Bluetooth connectivity for smart phones, and one USB connector, as well as an auxiliary plug and 12 volt power through two power ports, with one an actual cigarette lighter – no ashtray though.
There was one feature that we found very useful though. There’s a tyre pressure monitor on the selectable display on the dash, along with with trip meters, fuel monitoring for consumption and range, and service interval details.
All this data was clearly displayed in the centre of the dash between the tacho and speedo, and was super easy to select via the steering wheel buttons.
The 2018 Haval H2 also has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, with lots of airbags and crumple zones in place to keep you safe. The body work feels solid, the doors close with a satisfying deep thump.
Likewise, the body the panels look to be firmly fixed and do not flex when pushed on, like some modern cars. The paint finish is consistent, with large shiny metal sill protectors in the door wells and over the rear bumper adding to the classy finish of the car.
The compact SUV comes with high visibility LED lights on the front bumper as well as a set on the headlight rims and for the front indicators. There is height adjustable halogen lights too but we found them dim and lacking throw on the open road.
The Haval H2 competes with the Mazda CX3, starting at $26,039 drive away, among others, and comes with a five year/100,000km warranty and five years roadside assist.
It comes in White Silk, Pewter, Sepia, Scarlet, Galaxy Blue, and Onyx, along with four combination colours; Dragon (Scarlet with Onyx roof), Caramel (Sepia with White Silk roof), Rush (Scarlet with White Silk roof) and Horizon (Galaxy Blue with White Silk roof).
A black or brown interior colour scheme is available with the standard colours, while the combination colours have the option of a black and red interior.
Our road test vehicle was provided by Haval Australia. To find out more about the 2018 Haval H2 Premium (2WD), contact your local Haval and Great Wall dealer. Sales figures sourced from CarSalesBase.com