GWM has become Haval in SA and with it comes the Haval SUVs starting with the H2.   Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
GWM has become Haval in SA and with it comes the Haval SUVs starting with the H2. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

Great Wall Motors SA, better known as GWM SA, is no more. In its place is Haval Motors SA, the name of GWM’s SUV brand, which takes over the distribution rights from the former company.

It will still import some GWM-branded products including Steed bakkies and the M4 crossover. Haval will also begin its SUV product onslaught in the coming months, starting with the H2, which was launched in Gauteng recently.

Haval as a brand is a strong contender in the domestic China market as it is one of the SUV top-sellers having sold some 900,000 units there in 2016.

We have also seen the brand’s exploits in the Dakar Rally where in 2015 it managed to win a stage.

Following a great number of Chinese automotive conglomerates that have come and gone in recent years, Haval SA says it is no flash in the pan. It is committed to SA and is even planning a semi-knocked down assembly plant in East London.

"Haval China is fully dedicated to supporting the South African market and is expecting to make serious inroads into the local SUV market, selling quality vehicles at extremely reasonable prices," says Tyrone Alberts, national sales manager at Haval SA.

The company has 75,000 employees worldwide, has the capacity to produce more than 1-million vehicles annually and has been the bestselling SUV brand in China for 14 consecutive years.

Parts supply is said to be of no concern, as the company has a first-pick rate of 91% and has taken over the former GWM parts centre in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

The H2.  Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
The H2. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

We attended the launch of the brand in SA and sampled its first model under the banner, the H2 crossover. Priced from an aggressive R244,900 to R309,900 and available across the brand’s 40 dealers, the model is easily the size of the mainstream C-segment players such as the Nissan Qashqai, but priced to rival the likes of the Renault Duster and other B-segment crossover offerings.

Styling wise, it has European design elements seen in most segment players, while the cabin finishes and appointments were surprisingly better than any preceding Chinese offering, even bordering on matching the Koreans and Japanese.

It offers softer materials, a well laid-out console and what appears to be fairly decent build quality.

A test drive around Kyalami racetrack highlighted a few things. The first is the 1.5l turbo petrol engine that makes 105kW and 202Nm allied to either a six-speed manual or automatic, which looks healthy on paper. Alas, the performance felt well below what has been quoted and the automatic variant I drove had a disconcerting, mechanical grinding noise coming through the firewall.

The manual I tried later felt more together and is likely the one to opt for as you can easily keep the engine within the narrow power band.

The interior of the Haval H2.   Picture :QUICKPIC
The interior of the Haval H2. Picture :QUICKPIC

It would have been ideal to drive the vehicle on the road where it will spend most of its time. The H2 comes standard with a competitive five-year/100,000km warranty and five-year/60,000km service plan. One cannot truly assess how the model stacks up against its rivals, but as far as perceived build quality goes, this is easily the best Chinese offering I have encountered. We can only hope it delivers in real-world conditions, too.

We reserve our opinion on where this one fits into the grand scheme of things until we have driven it on the road.

In 2018 the company will consider bringing the H6 coupe and H7 models, which are considerably larger than the H2 and have plusher cabins, but how they will be priced relative to how they drive is uncertain.

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