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Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Haval H9 Ultra.

Haval‘s H9 is the latest and largest entry from the Chinese based car maker. Available in two trim levels, the Lux and Ultra (aka Premium), they’re well kitted, aren’t terrible to look at either inside or out, and well priced too. The Lux starts at $41,990 and the Ultra at $45,990 with both being drive-away. The only real options look like external paint and interior colours.

Both have a turbocharged 2.0L petrol engine, eight speed auto, and weigh over 2000 kilograms. This equates to an official fuel consumption figure on the combined cycle of 10.9L of 95RON per 100 kilometres from the 80L tank. Around town the Haval H9 Ultra, weighing 2250kg plus fuel and passengers, delivered a pleasing 12.5L/100km from the 180kW/350Nm engine. Towing capacity is 2500kg.The 4826mm long machine seats seven and the rear seats are powered. Activated by toggles which much be held to have the seat go from top to bottom and reverse, it’s a slightly painstaking way to get an extra two bums on seats. There are illuminated alloy side steps shrouded in plastic, LED strip lighting inside which can be changed at the touch of a button, the doors have LED puddle lamps that cast the Haval logo in red. Up front there’s “bendy” headlights and the LED system shines a crisp white that provides plenty of safe forward looking distance.Outside it looks like a pumped up version of a early noughties X-Trail thanks to the vertical lights at the rear. At the front there are stylish hints of Toyota LandCruiser and Prado. There’s a fair size comparison too, as the H9 stands and spans 1900mm in height and width. It’s an imposing sight to see, both in a shopping centre carpark and on the road parked.The interior features acres of leather. The (heated for Ultra) steering wheel, front, middle, and rear seats are leather, the front seats are heated in the Ultra, and the rear section has its own climate control system. The Lux has manually adjusted cloth seats, the Ultra’s are powered, have memory settings and a massage function. 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 and the front section is a movable sunroof. These are operated by a dial above the driver and passenger, and seem counter-intuitive in the direction of rotation to operate the roof. It’s a pleasant place to be and the seats themselves in the Ultra were very comfortable, supportive, and the massage function worked well enough too.The cabin the Ultra had was of black and bone. It’s a nice contrast as the bone tended more towards the white shade, not the beige shade as seen elsewhere, and suited the silver the revieww car came with. However the smoky grey faux wood trim in the review car is a matter of personal preference. The dash itself is clearly laid out and easy on the eye, with a sensible design layout, a centre LCD screen with changeable information displays and red highlighting. Haval add a small strip style display about the touchscreen in the centre of the dash that displays height, barometric pressure, tilt angle, and compass direction. The audio system is from Infinity and although not fitted with DAB, the touchscreen system proffers AM/FM and some very clean sound through the ten speaker mix. Switch gear is mostly cleanly laid out however the climate control button labelled Mode doesn’t quite bring up what is expected appears to work and the Synch between driver and passenger isn’t as clear either.Being as big as it is, it’s no surprise the H9 has plenty of shoulder, leg, and head room inside. Although the wheelbase is a surprisingly shortish 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 and there’s plenty of forward vision thanks to the height the driver sits at.
There’s a full suite of airbags on board sans driver’s kneebag. Haval aren’t alone in this though. Safety tech is of a high level such as front and rear parking sensors, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Assist, Blind Spot Alert, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, but no Autonomous Emergency Braking. The head rests in the front seat are crash programmed to move forward and cradle the heads of the front seat passengers.Out on the road that 350Nm and two plus tonnes don’t seem to promise anything other than a lumbering performance. Thankfully that’s not quite the case. A gentle push of the go pedal has the H9 move away softly and with increasing velocity nicely however a decent prod will have the big machine somewhere between “this is ok” and “wow, that’s pretty good”. The eight speed auto will drop quietly down a cog or two and having eight ratios does mean there’s better drivability when needed.

That peak torque is on tap between 1800 to 4500 however that weight counts heavily (no pun intended). This is where a petrol only range needs support from a diesel and with most two litre diesels hovering around the 400Nm mark, it’s perhaps something Haval should be looking at sooner than later. However it’s more likely a hybrid drivetrain would be fitted than an oiler. It’s not all roses and silk though.The eight 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 the variances in between when 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 more refinement as there’s a coarse feeling to the way it spins. The auto, once warmed up, is as smooth as a modern eight speed with European ties should be and it was rare that a gear change was physically felt. It’s designed for off-road as well, the H9, as there’s a switch in the centre console for the AWD and has a locking rear diff, Low Range (where Neutral must be selected to engage), Snow, Sport, Sand, Auto, and Mud. It’s simple to use and although the Haval H9 is capable of off roading, it’s a safer soft roader. On a dedicated 4WD track, the Haval’s capabilities were tested and found to be suitable for soft-roading to mild off-roading. A 200mm ground clearance is where the H9 is let down and a conversation with a protruding piece of granite had the driver’s side sidestep shrouding broken and pushed back a couple of inches. The clearance means the 18 inch alloys and 265/60 rubber look undersized in the wheel wells. Approach and departure angles are 28 and 23 degrees respectively, and the H9 will crawl sideways at 23 degrees as well.

The H9 has a strange steering mix. On centre it feels rubbery yet the chassis will respond to the slightest touch. Left and right movement is virtually instant and allows for adept and confident handling on road. Road manners themselves for the Haval H9, bearing in mind its 1926mm width and 1900mm height, are decently good for such a large machine. The H9 is suspended on double wishbones up front and a supple multi-link rear, allowing for a slightly taut initial ride before quickly transitioning into a beautiful level of comfort.

Haval Australia has a five year warranty, five year 24/7 roadside assistance, but just 100,000 kilometres.

At The End Of The Drive.
The 2018 Haval H9 is a wonderful example of what feedback to a company can achieve. It’s a more refined vehicle, competent on road and to a measure of off road, provides plenty of room and comfort, and certainly fits the bill in the battle for the wallet. With a range now spanning four models, Haval’s becoming something to watch on the radar. Head here for more H9 info: 2018 Haval H9

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