Haval H9: Discounted Land Cruiser Prado

Andrew Muzamhindo..Analyst

Chinese SUV specialist Haval has arrived in Zimbabwe. The official launch is tonight at Zimoco by Sam Levy Village.They are keen to get a slice of the increasingly lucrative SUV market that is continuously growing in Zimbabwe.

The H9 intends to steal some market share from the perennially popular Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with the promise of greater value for money. Trust me they will.

At the start of 2018, Haval took into account customer feedback to fine-tune the H9, making improvements to handling, performance and equipment. Does the H9 have what it takes to muscle into the segment dominated by the venerable Prado?One of the H9’s biggest strengths is its generous equipment levels, especially when considering its price.

It comes with a number of luxurious features including 18-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated first- and second-row seats with ventilation and massage function for the front seats, an upgraded sound system, tri-zone climate control, adaptive front lighting, electrically folding third row seats, faux-leather interior, eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment display and a colour digital instrument cluster display — the only Haval model to score this feature.

This is in addition to standard safety equipment including six airbags, blind-spot monitor, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, tyre pressure monitor, hill descent control, hill-hold assist and a driver status monitoring system. Autonomous emergency braking is one notably absent technology. Overall, the H9 is packed choke-full with high-end specs, and one would be hard-pressed to find a vehicle with a more generous level of comfort and convenience features for the price.

From an equipment standpoint, it represents one of best value-for-money propositions on the market and can comfortably best most of its rivals in that department.

With its generous levels of equipment, the majority of the H9’s extra features can be found in its interior, which combine with a good fit and finish to give it a premium feel for a car of that price. Most touch points are covered either in faux-leather or a wood-like trim which, while it is not 100% leather, still it lifts the cabin and gives the impression of luxury.

With heating, cooling, massage function and lumbar support, the faux-leather seats are comfortable, and add to the generally comfortable ride quality of the H9. Few vehicles will come with such a full suite of comfort features for the price.

Head and legroom for both front and rear passengers is generous. The H9 comes with an eight-inch touchscreen using Haval’s own multimedia system, and while the screen offers good size and resolution, the operating system is not yet as polished as that of segment leaders, but I believe the Chinese will get there with the next edition.

Glovebox, door bin and centre console storage are all generous, with the latter also featuring a phone charger.The instrument cluster features an analogue tachometer and a digital cluster — one of the new features added from customer feedback — which houses the speedometer and an extensive number of other selectable readouts including things like pitch, yaw, wheel angle, torque distribution, coolant and transmission temperature, air pressure and elevation.

A large panoramic sunroof adds ambience to the interior, and can be fully covered or partially opened. It is another example of standard kit that would be a costly option with its competitors. Second-row passengers are well looked after with a separate adjustable air-conditioning cluster and roof-mounted vents, 12V and USB charging ports, and a centre armrest with cupholders.

Two third-row seats can be electrically folded up or down with buttons both in the boot and behind the second-row seats.Like the Prado, the H9 features a side-opening tailgate, which is useful for loading items. Powering the H9 is a two-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, driving all four wheels through a part-time four-wheel-drive system.

In a 2018 update, the ZF unit replaced the existing six-speed auto, while power output was increased from 160kW/324Nm to 180kW/350Nm. Power has been increased due to customer feedback, while the eight-speed is designed to improve fuel economy.

For the 2230kg H9, engine performance can be described as adequate. Power is suitable for normal, everyday driving, however it needs to improve on oomph when taking off. Once the car is up and moving it is unstoppably nimble. The engine needs a second to wake up when sticking the boot in, however, the eight-speed ZF generally does a commendable job of shifting smoothly.

It changes cogs intuitively and does a good job of keeping the little turbo-petrol mill from getting too stressed. It also helps keep the engine noise fairly low, especially when cruising at highway speeds.

As could be expected, the major downfall of the H9’s engine is its fuel economy. Over our week of testing we recorded a fuel economy figure of 13,3 litres per 100km across a range of driving conditions, up from the official figure of 10,9L/100km. While the H9 sports a relatively large 80-litre fuel tank, the engine’s excessive thirst can be expected to turn off many potential customers.

The H9’s size means it is able to blunt road imperfections well. It offers a comfortable and settled driving experience. It has a comfortable suspension calibration. The mere fact that the brand is supported by Zimoco locally should give drivers peace of mind, as Zimoco has a heritage to protect, being a tried and trusted brand.

andrew@muzamhindo.com