AUSTRALIA’S NEWEST AUTOMOTIVE BRAND, HAVAL, HAS ARRIVED WITH THE PROUD BOAST THAT IT IS CHINA’S NUMBER ONE SUV BRAND.
More than that, it is claiming 'premium' status... there is no bargain pricing here in Haval's three model Australian range.
The large Haval H8 tested here sits in the middle of that range, and, unlike some other Chinese brands here who are in the hands of distributors, Haval is wholly factory-backed. Which should mean better after sales support.
Big on size, big on features and - somewhat boldly - free from aggressive discounting, can the Haval H8 woo Australian families?
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $44,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 160kW/324Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 12.2 l/100km | tested: 11.9 l/100km
On price, the H8 range starts from $41,990 (plus on-road costs) for the rear-wheel-drive H8 Premium, adding $2500 for the all-wheel-drive Premium tested here (at $44,490, plus). Those looking for more still can upgrade to the AWD-only H8 LUX, a $4500 step up at $48,990 (plus).
Across the range, a turbocharged 2.0 litre four-cylinder engine is the sole choice, and, at this stage, there’s no diesel or six-cylinder alternative.
And the looks? You be your own judge - it certainly isn’t garish, nor is it original, with a mix of styling cues borrowed from other marques - overall though the conservative style seems to work.
Quality: Climb aboard and you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in the generic version of a previous generation Volkswagen product. It's not bad; there are a few lapses of taste but the overall fit and finish seems quite ok.
We couldn’t find any misaligned panels, there’s plenty of soft-touch finishes and foil-stamped highlights - and, really, the only thing out of place is the naff plasticky-looking wood trims.
The touchscreen looks like a Volkswagen one (but doesn’t operate like one), the steering wheel button-cluster and headlight switch are scarily similar to those you might find in a GM product.
Robust? Well we couldn’t see any premature signs of wear in a test car that’s only 5000km old. What we’d really like to see is how the H8 stands up to a couple of harsh Aussie summers, but only time will tell in that regard.
Comfort: There’s certainly more than enough room inside - in fact it feels like something of a behemoth with front seat occupants placed quite a distance apart. The seats are big and broad, padding is a little firm, but, overall, after numerous hours at the wheel, the H8 maintained its comfort.
Things are also pretty good in the rear. In typical Chinese fashion there’s an emphasis on rear legroom; it isn’t quite limo-like, but it comes close.
A wide rear seat ensures there won’t be any grumbles from the back seat, and, although it’s a little firmer, the centre position isn’t such a bad place to be, helped out by a near-flat floor.
Equipment: To justify its price tag (...maybe), the H8 Premium offers standard fittings such as leather trim - which looks ok, electrically adjustable front seats, multi-hued LED ambient lighting, 220V power socket, auto lights and wipers (with low-output Xenon headlights), three-zone climate control and keyless entry and start.
Entertainment duties are taken care of by a nine-speaker audio system, subwoofer, 8.0-inch touchscreen, CD player, Aux in and USB inputs, plus standard satellite navigation.
Storage: Swing the tailgate up (its a manual operation on the H8 Premium, but powered on the H8 LUX) and there’s a sizeable 448 litres of boot space, growing to 949 litres with the rear seat folded.
In the cabin, both the centre console and chilled glovebox provide plenty of storage, there’s a door pocket in each door, a pair of open cup-holders and a small lidded compartment up front, and a small cubby and pair of cup holders tucked into the rear armrest.
Tow rating, braked, is a reasonable 2.5 tonne, which betters the Kluger (2.0 tonne) but is slightly adrift of the Pathfinder (2.7 tonne).
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Tasked with shifting a rather portly 2175kg kerb weight, the 2.0 litre turbo petrol engine in the H8 isn’t actually too bad. With 160kW at 5500rpm and 324Nm between 2000 and 4000rpm, it does a respectable job, even if working hard to keep things 'on the boil'.
But there’s a throttle map that just doesn’t want to play ball. The H8 will only move from standstill at a leisurely pace, no matter how firmly you prod the accelerator. Ostensibly this is a deliberate move to prevent accidental acceleration in bumper-to-bumper Beijing traffic - certainly something that’s less of a problem in Australia.
Haval Australia’s team assures us that discussions with the Chinese head office are underway to see this feature corrected.
Once rolling though, the Haval H8 is a much better thing than you might expect. With a bit of speed on board, the H8 will tap into its reserves more freely. Considering its size it does a respectable job.
The six-speed automatic also does a decent job of keeping pace with demands. You can pick the gear changes thanks to their lengthy interruption to power flow, but shifts are smooth enough.
Kickdown response is slower than expected too, and yanking on the steering-wheel-mounted paddles won’t do anything unless you select manual mode with the gear-lever first.
Official fuel consumption is rated at 12.2 l/100km, but our test with a strong highway bias returned 11.9 l/100km. In town the trip computer indicated mid-to-high 15 l/100km result.
Is that thirsty? It is a little, yet it isn’t too far off what you might expect from over big petrol SUVs; of course, most of those feature more punchy V6 engines as justification for their thirst.
Refinement: The H8 delivers decent levels of road and wind noise, there’s no more intrusion from outside than you’d find in a Japanese competitor.
While the Giti tyres fitted might not be a household name (they come from the same company that makes better known GT Radials) they provide a quiet ride.
There’s a bit of rock and throb from the engine, particularly higher in the rev range, but even if you wring it out the noise levels are reasonably low. Although it isn’t an A-grade performer, refinement seems to have been a key target for Haval’s engineers
Ride and Handling: Riding on double wishbone front, with a multi-link rear axle, the H8 offers good 'on-paper specs'. With a softer ride than most competitors, there are likely to be few complaints from passengers.
Around town, the H8 wafts over speed humps and glides across potholes with barely a shudder. The downside is a very floaty ride - hit either of the aforementioned obstacles and the H8 will bob up and down like a boat until it recovers.
Likewise there’s a huge amount of body roll through corners, with the sizeable Haval listing from side-to-side on even gradual corners. The front end, predictably, gives up grip early, but the resulting understeer is easily controlled and not too excessive (by SUV standards).
Steering is almost completely numb, with odd weighting as speed rises and falls. Again, for a family SUV, that isn’t such a massive deterent.
Braking: The award for softest brakes in a modern vehicle has to go to the H8, no matter how hard you plunge the long-travel pedal, the H8 only ever comes to a relaxed stop. Once stopped, anything less than a heavy foot on the brakes will see the H8 trying to creep forward ever so slightly - there’s a serious lack of pressure in the brake system.
Frankly, in and around town the H8 stops fine, but doesn’t feel as confidence inspiring as you might like. Neither Pathfinder nor Kluger will stop on a dime, but do feel like they have more in reserve when required.
ANCAP rating: The Haval H8 has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Six airbags (dual front, front side, curtain), front pretensioning seatbelts, fatigue detection, electronic stability control, traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, rear park sensors and reversing camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/100,000km, including five year's roadside assistance.
Service costs: Haval offers a Service Price Guarantee program, with the first service occurring at 6 months/5000km, switching to a 12 months/10,000km interval after that. Navigation map upgrades are free of charge for the life of the vehicle.
Service pricing starts ranges between $260 up to $460 depending on the service interval, but does not include wear items or brake, differential, or transmission fluids. Consult your Haval dealer for full terms and conditions.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo AWD ($48,500) - You pay more to get into a base model Jeep with all-wheel-drive, but you also pick up a 210kW V6 engine and eight-speed auto.
Equipment levels are comparable to the H8 apart from the Jeep’s cloth trim, and, with only five seats the Jeep’s carrying capacity, both for passengers and cargo, is similar. (see Grand Cherokee reviews)
Kia Sorento Sli V6 ($45,990) - Kia doesn’t match it’s V6 with all-wheel-drive (you need a diesel for that), but it packs in an extra pair of seats, plus an interior with a world-class finish.
You do get leather seats in the SLi, but have to do without Xenon headlights or a powered passenger seat (both of which are standard in the H8). The Sorento’s V6 however offers plenty more thrust with a little less thirst. (see Sorento reviews)
Ford Territory TS RWD ($42,240) - Ford also only offers the petrol territory with rear-wheel-drive, that might limit off road adventures, but the Territory more than makes up for it with one of the best dynamics packages of any SUV.
Unfortunately, age is the enemy of the Territory, and the interior is starting to look out of place amongst more contemporary rivals; it also lacks interior space compared to the larger H8 as well. (see Territory reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Truly, the Haval H8 is ok - it’s just designed for a very different driving demographic.
Haval’s Australian arm is providing feedback to its Chinese HQ about what needs to change. There are now various software updates in development to rid it of annoying quirks like the spoken request to select which type of guidance lines you’d like on the rear-view camera every time you select reverse.
As the brand grows, and Australia becomes more important, you can bet that the ride and handling will get attention. Better engines with a more immediate throttle response are also on the cards.
For now, though, the H8 is what it is. Certainly the interior sets a reasonable standard, and many aspects of the car feel familiar.
However, we think that 2.0 litre turbo is not the best match for a heavy-ish SUV, and, until reliability and resale are better established here there’s no knowing how you’ll fare when it comes time to trade your Haval in.
And yes, while there are some premium features and finishes, establishing the credibility of a premium brand takes time. Price is a big issue here, the Haval H8 simply should be priced less.
Haval may not be lacking for ambition, but it is not exactly dripping with brand cachet... yet. Right now it simply lacks the on-road dynamics and performance to run with more established players.
MORE: Haval News and Reviews
VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Haval H8 Showroom - all models, prices, and features