2018 Haval H2 2WD Premium – $23,990 (plus on-roads)
(3 / 5)
The Chinese SUV onslaught is well underway, with Great Wall offering up its SUV brand Haval to compete on the world stage. But does the Haval H2 compete with the status quo or reset it?
The 2018 Haval H2 hits the market at an interesting time.
With a mass of small SUVs flooding the market, buyers could be forgiven for suffering from SUV white noise. What brand do you choose? And do you really want a Chinese-built SUV?
That’s why Haval has set out to make a name for itself with a small SUV that has plenty of space, is built well and is good value.
Well, that’s the theory, anyway. So, let’s drill down and see how it goes against a week long test.
Let’s start with the outside
The H2 is quite a handsome jigger, with a hint of Audi Q3 at the front, while the overall profile is your typical two-box SUV design.
The bright red badge at the front probably needs to be toned down a little to make it suit all colours; against the blue it’s a bit jarring.
The proportions are very good, and with its tall glasshouse it enables good visibility.
Well, the seats are mounted quite high inside. Indeed, Haval has designed the cabin to take advantage of the high seating position that SUV buyers are after.
Even at the lowest position it still feels like you sit up above everything, and if you lift the seat to its highest, the steering wheel can’t quite get high enough to feel comfortable.
The seats themselves are very well padded, though (if a little firm) meaning they’re very comfortable over long distances.
They’re wide, but not too flat, but the cloth on our test car was a bit too light to be practical – dark colours are a lot better with kids.
The back seats have enough room for adults, with enough legroom and lots of headroom.
In between the rear seats you’ll find a fold-down armrest with two cupholders, and the seats fold 60/40 to avail a luggage space which is about right for the segment.
You’ll also get the standard fare of LED reading lights, average size door pockets, and ISOFIX mounting points for child seats.
The space of the H2 overall is quite good for the small SUV category, and so is the standard equipment.
Here’s what you get
There’s a glass sunroof (which doesn’t impede on headroom) controlled by a dial rather than buttons, cruise control, keyless entry and start, a full-size spare wheel, and a rear-view camera with reversing guides.
The problem with the camera is not its resolution – that’s fine – but in broad daylight, the sun hits the infotainment screen which obscures it from view.
You have to be very careful reversing, especially if you’re relying on the camera, despite the fact we’re told not to – everyone does, though.
Other equipment included is sat-nav, Bluetooth telephony and music streaming, auto-dimming rear view mirror, and a four-speaker stereo (which doesn’t handle much bass at all).
The only issue with the auto headlights is they still ask you to switch the lights off, which doesn’t quite makes sense.
The silver finish on the centre stack looks a bit dated, though if you opt for the darker interior (with light-coloured exterior) you get a black finish which is far nicer.
We do have to say, too, that the Haval H2 has the most unusual temperature measurement system.
Press the plus or minus buttons to adjust the air-con, and unlike every other manufacturer, Haval has settled on a temperature scale called “levels”.
Level 1 is cold, while level 4 is warmer. It works, but it takes a while to get used to the idea.
Tell us how it goes on the road
Under the bonnet you’ll find a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol.
Sounds promising, until you get to the figures it produces.
With 110kW (147bhp) and 220Nm (162lb-ft), its outputs are remeniscent of a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre, however it’s turbocharged.
And that always brings a bit of turbo lag. But there’s another form of lag that’s far more concerning.
When you first start the car in the morning (or indeed, whenever the engine is cold), the engine gives you nothing at all. It sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not.
With your foot flat to the floor, it limps along at walking pace. Initially we thought something was wrong and it had gone into a shut-down mode. Alas, it was a repeatable pattern.
If you pull out of your driveway before work and need to accelerate quickly, don’t. Simply wait a few minutes for the engine to warm up and then it will give you its full power again.
It’s a bit dangerous, especially if someone who isn’t aware of its idiosyncrasies borrows the car.
When warmed up, the H2 isn’t especially quick, as you can probably tell from 220Nm pushing a 1.5-tonne car. But it’s enough in everyday traffic to get you about the place.
The six-speed auto gearbox is fine, with reasonable shifts and decent response when tasked with changing down for overtaking.
Fuel use, though, isn’t great for a 1.5-litre turbo. Normally you’d be expecting somewhere around 6-7-litres/100km, but the H2 comes in around the tens.
Also a pain is the fact you have to use 95RON or the engine pings its head off.
Thankfully the steering is accurate, with reasonable weighting around centre, though the feedback does disappear the more lock you wind on.
The suspension gives an excellent balance of handling and comfort, with a well judged ride that suits our unmaintained roads.
The tyres don’t roar too much, even on coarse-chip surfaces, and the overall refinement is quite good – apart from the strained engine, that is.
The brakes can feel a little spongy, but they work well when asked to haul up the H2, so dynamically (apart from the lethargic motor) this little SUV works quite well.
Here’s the deal
Haval is offering a five-year/100,000km warranty including full roadside assistance, which should allay any fears of being stranded by a Chinese machine.
Also commendable is the five star ANCAP rating it received in October 2017, meaning any worry about its performance in a crash is unfounded.
The Haval H2 is priced quite well ($24K), but with its lacklustre engine and washed out infotainment screen, buyers would be forgiven for paying a little more for other options.
But if you need a bit more space and aren’t scared to take the plunge, it’s a spacious and good looking alternative.
Can you take the Haval H2 off-road?
Unfortunately, no. With only 133mm of ground clearance, it’s less than some sedans, and because this model is only front-wheel-drive, there’s little chance of it getting anywhere that needs all-paw grip.
Strangely, though, it does come with hill descent control, which doesn’t quite fit with the nature of this car.