I would have brought you news and details of the new Haval H2 when it launched last year at that massive motoring show at Kyalami, but someone messed up my event accreditation and so while the rest of the journos were taking a close look at this new Chinese offering, I was fuming at the gate trying to sort out access. So yeah, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I can promise you that it was worth the wait. Chinese auto brands have been around for a while now in SA, but Great Wall Motors is the one import that has managed to keep up a steady flow of sales in the country and seems to have done pretty well, although their footprint has mostly consisted of bakkies. The company has done a bit of a shuffle and the result is a range of premium SUVs that will be sold under the Haval banner, and so far there are three available in SA, the H1, the H2 and the H6 (plus a bigger H6 C variant). This time round, I take a closer look at the Haval H2, a midsize SUV that not only looks good, it’s got a great feature list, a punchy turbocharged engine and a price point that is guaranteed to elicit a “Is that all?” response.
Some Chinese cars have been an abomination when it comes to looks, “borrowing” styling from various manufacturers and often mashing them together in a Picasso-esque lump that offends the eyeballs. In the case of the Haval H2, the SUV shares similar styling and sizing to the previous generation VW Tiguan and I have to say that it looks pretty damn good, there’s not really any way to fault it if you ask me. The car rolls around on some good-looking 18-inch wheels, there’s daytime running lights, fog lights all round and some rather sturdy roof racks that tell you the SUV will be suited to those with an active lifestyle. That large front grille really does give the thing a premium look and feel, along with the dual exit exhausts and the rear lower diffuser. Argue with me as much as you like, but thanks to the amount of comments I received during my test week I’m convinced that this is one of the best-looking Chinese cars on the market. Interestingly, the other one that I like a lot is the Haval H6, so these guys are on to something.
Inside the cabin things are equally as good, there’s a decent basic layout with a dashboard, centre console and seating that’s all easy on the eyes with not much by the way of hard plastics. The instrument cluster looks good and the 3.5-inch driver information screen in the centre displays all the relevant drive information needed, plus a little extra, and before you reach that you have yourself a multi-function steering wheel with easy to navigate buttons so you can keep your eyes on the road. If I must criticize, the steering could be a little chunkier, but that's nitpicking. The centre console and the screen heading up the infotainment system looks good too, the screen is crisp and bright and functionality is good too. It does feel a little older in terms of layout and the operating system, but cars at thins price point usually have a basic head unit with no features. It took a few seconds to connect it to my Samsung S8 for phone and media connectivity though and I was able to play my weird list of music flawlessly. The screen is also used for the reverse camera display as well as the kerb-side camera that’s rather handy in tight parking situations. Other features include a tyre pressure monitoring system, push button start, keyless entry, a 6-way power adjustable driver seat and a sunroof. There’s also dual-zone climate control that works well too, a real plus for my wife who likes to drive in a fridge. She can freeze while I chill at 25-degrees. It’s Chinese, but it has good safety in place with front active headrests to save your neck from whiplash as well as an array of airbags including those all important curtains for side impact. Space is great too, 5 adults will fit with ease, and the boot space is decent, although having a full size spare wheel and a fire extinguisher does take up some space, but that’s a great compromise if you ask me.
The mid-sized SUV makes use of GWM’s GW4G15B powerplant, a small capacity (1500cc) turbocharged 4-potter with 105kW and 202Nm on tap. This was a surprise for me, I’ll admit I had low expectations to start but the motor is genuinely good. The power delivery and noise is comparable to any Japanese or European manufacturer’s offerings and when you boot it the H2 will run way ahead of the traffic. The model I drove was the range-topping H2 1.5T Luxury AT, fitted with the 6-speed auto transmission. Again, it impressed. The shifts are smooth and quick and I didn’t find it hunting for gears. It’s programmed with a Standard Mode, Economy Mode and Snow Mode and while I didn’t feel the difference, Economy Mode was where I mostly left it to see how the figures match up to the claims. Haval claim 8.6-litres/100km but I had it at 7.5-litre/100km for most of the 500km I did in the car, but the last few school runs were in silly traffic and it rose to 8.1-lites/100km – still rather good. There was a few times that I had no power when I wanted to pull off, but lifting off the accelerator completely and then trying rectified it again – quite possibly a minor issue that can be solved with a software update on the transmission’s ECU. Overall the Haval H2 was a pleasure to drive, the handling was what you’d expect from a taller car, the braking was good (a little sharp even) and the steering was light and easy. It's tall enough for gravel roads and basic sort roading, but it's more of an urban cruiser thanks to the all-wheel drive trim not being available in SA so far.
The Haval H2 is a pretty good offering from the automaker; it feels solid, there were no rattles or noises that shouldn’t be there, it’s got a great feature list and the engine and transmission are good too. Remember some years back when all the journos were telling us that the Korean cars are getting better and better and would one day rival the European offerings? Well I think the Chinese brands are on that same track, especially at Haval with these H models. Sure it will take a while before they make a dent in sales of the usual suspects out there, but the time is coming, especially with the pricing as good as it is for a feature-rich SUV. I do hope that buyers in this segment take a closer look at these cars before signing an OTP with the well-known brands.
There are three products in the Haval H2 lineup with three trim levels, and each of these can be had in manual or auto. All Haval H2 models are come standard with a 5-year/100 000km warranty; a 5-year/60 000km service plan and 5-year unlimited mileage roadside assistance package. For more info and detailed specs, head on over to Haval SA.
Haval H2 1.5T City R244 900
Haval H2 1.5T City AT R279 900
Haval H2 1.5T Premium R254 900
Haval H2 1.5T Premium AT R289 900
Haval H2 1.5T Luxury R274 900
Haval H2 1.5T Luxury AT R309 900