It’s big, green (well, this one is) and very good value for money … but, up against this armada of super-stiff competition, does the H9 have what it takes to follow in the impressive footsteps of its smaller H6 C and H2 siblings launched over the past few years?
On paper, it presents as a well-rounded flagship for the brand and lines up perfectly with its segment stablemates: a seven-seat body-on-frame SUV with four-wheel drive; multi-link rear suspension; and a high level of standard safety, convenience and luxury spec. At R599 900 it would seem to be a segment bargain, too. But it’s worth repeating, the vehicles in this segment need to fight hard for their share in a market dominated by the Fortuner.
The H9, therefore, really needs to live up to what it promises and so, to truly put it to the test, I headed off on a 1 400-km round trip to the KwaZulu-Natal midlands…
The H9 is a big vehicle, just under five-metres long and two wide and tall… This means that interior space is commodious. With the twin-seat third row electrically stowed (nice feature, although the raising and lowering operation is a little slow), the H9 offers 747 l of luggage capacity – more than enough for a week away.
It’s worth noting that accessing the cargo area is via a side-opening rear door that’s supported by a genius, infinitely adjustable strut that allows one to open the door exactly as much as needed for the amount of space there is behind the car – often a headache with such an arrangement on a conventional gas strut.
Occupant space is huge, too. Thanks to the manually adjustable second row, passengers can get comfortable in any of the seats – the driver’s is eight-way power adjustable, the passenger’s four-way. Especially appreciated in the warm climate of Natal was the front seat ventilation (strangely, no heating function), while the seat-back massage function kept the blood flowing between breaks on the long highway stretches.
The H9 is a surprisingly capable long-distance cruiser. Sitting on front double-wishbone and rear multi-link suspension, it flows nicely with the road. Unfortunately, its ladder-frame chassis throws up a bit of jiggliness on rougher roads – but that’s to be expected of a body-on-frame SUV.
Overall, though, it handles most situations well, including some dirt tracks that we encountered. Here, its 206 mm ground clearance was appreciated (for those who want to cross bodies of water, it’ll ford up to 700 mm), as was the six-option terrain control that adapts the driving and braking forces and includes – among others – sport and 4L modes.
Providing the motive force is a 2,0-litre turbopetrol that produces a staunch 180 kW and 350 Nm. While power delivery is strong and the engine responds well, the fact that the H9 is the only vehicle in the class not powered by a turbodiesel may count against Haval. Indeed, this was something we noticed at the pumps, where the H9 would drain its 80-litre tank at 11,4 l/100 km – which is high especially considering most of our mileage was freeway cruising.
Drive is sent to the permanent all-wheel drive system through an eight-speed ZF automatic that shifts smoothly, responsively and early. Traction is further aided by an electronic limited-slip diff lock on the rear axle. Handling is therefore good, although the steering could do with some fine-tuning as it tends to wander at higher speeds – which meant constant correction on the N3.
Despite its size, visibility is good and is aided by a wide-angle reversing camera, which includes cross-traffic alert. Blind-spot detection; lane-change alert; and automatic, adaptive xenon headlamps aid the driver’s sense of his surroundings further still. The H9 boasts even more safety and convenience features: six airbags, ISOFIX child-seat mountings, tyre-pressure monitoring and a driver status detection system combine with electronic stability and traction control, hill-start assist and Roll Movement Intervention.
While they’re kept safe, passengers will also enjoy the three-zone climate control – needed in such a large vehicle. In fact, the H9’s interior is put together using high-quality materials and is a rather nice environment in which to spend time on an extended journey. The design is modern, there’s a lot of handy storage space, and everything falls easily to hand.
The panoramic sunroof enhances the sense of space during the day, while selectable LED ambient lighting sets the mood at night. The eight-inch infotainment system includes satellite navigation and plays through a decent ten-speaker Infinity sound system.
Returning to Johannesburg, it was clear that the H9 is another stand-out product from Haval. It’s well-spec’d, well made, spacious and seems rugged enough – but are these qualities sufficient to sway staunchly loyal buyers in this hotly contested market segment? It’s fully loaded, value-for-money proposition will certainly count in its favour, although having a diesel-powered option would certainly boost Haval’s chances, too…
Nonetheless, the H9 is well worth a test drive – less than 1 000 km will do…
The H9 has a five-year/100 000 km warranty, five-year/60 000 km service plan, and five-years roadside assistance.
CyberStoep rating: 7,5/10