Budget-busting Haval H2 is compelling despite a few shortcomings
It’s not perfect, but this Chinese SUV’s popularity is perfectly understandable
There’s something a bit exciting about SUV ownership these days, isn’t there? The trappings of a higher seating position, the commanding presence that towers above sedans and hatchbacks, plentiful space, the list goes on.
So what’s exciting about the new Haval H2 on test? Well, a couple of things, actually. First, it’s a sizeable SUV, so it’s practical. However the big drawcard here is the price. In terms of segmentation it’s a crossover but its size and price overlaps with slightly smaller offerings and way more expensive alternatives.
As reference, at 4,365mm length the H2 is slightly larger than Ford’s EcoSport with 4,325mm. Yet it costs R40k less than the compact Ford. So what do you get for such a huge discount?
The H2 is one of five SUVs in Haval’s line-up, sitting between the smaller and cheaper H1 crossover and the larger but lower H6 SUV.
This H2 1.5T City grade on test certainly didn’t lack much in trendy features. LED daytime driving lights, a rear parking camera, keyless entry, a command touchscreen — it’s stocked up decently in a cabin made from materials that are fairly good to look at and touch.
There’s also the option to spec up the range and also get an automatic version with a panoramic roof instead of this derivative that’s oddly badged "City" but uses a six-speed manual transmission to stoke a turbocharged four-cylinder motor. Outputs are 105kW and 202Nm and the engine is up to the task.
There’s enough torque low down to keep it lively and it never feels underpowered even when galloping up an incline.
If you’re accustomed to asthmatic Chinese-built engines, the urge in these new Haval motors is a positive sign of improvement. This engine/gearbox combo makes a compelling case for keeping things affordable and the 1.5T has good power and is rated to tow up to 1,225kg braked trailers, but it really could do with more refinement and economy.
Haval claims it will do an already high for the segment 8.2l/100km but I couldn’t keep it under 10l/100km.
Another fly in the ointment is the manual transmission with a lever that’s not properly aligned to natural gear-changing hand movements. It’s perched too far forward, thus requiring seat adjustments to compensate and messing up what could have been ideal ergonomics.
Ride quality isn’t a strength of the H2. It’s a numb feeling suspension and steering response but with pliant enough damping over broken surfaces at both low and high speeds without any telltale wallowing through bends.
Haval is a brand in its infancy and still building a reputation in quality and safety but in isolation, the Haval H2 gets on with its everyday living thing well enough. It’s good without being remarkable and its looks conform to today’s lines.
The recently facelifted H2 has sharpened lines in the headlight and grille area, reshaped rear tail lamps, bigger tailpipes poking out the rear valance and smarter alloy wheel shapes.
All in, Haval is reconfiguring perceptions about Chinese vehicles being cheap and nasty, and when its practical virtues are so prominent it’s hard to argue against the H2 in these budget-conscious times as proven by its being among the top three sellers in the segment.
Type: Four-cylinder turbo petrol
Type: Six-speed manual
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: 190km/h
Fuel Consumption: 8.2l/100km (as claimed); 10.5l/100km (as tested)
ABS, stability control, six airbags, park distance control rear, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, keyless central locking, multi function steering wheel controls, daytime driving running lights, cloth upholstery, air conditioning, trip computer.
COST OF OWNERSHIP
Warranty: Five years/100,000km
Service Plan: Five years/60,000km
Lease*: R5,829 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Haval H2 1.5T City
Looks, price, performance
Gearbox, fuel consumption
It’s a lot of crossover for little cash
*****Value For Money
Kia Seltos EX, 115kW/196Nm — R 353,995
Hyundai Creta 1.6 Executive, 90kW/150Nm — R364,900
Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL, 86kW/151Nm — R332,900
Mazda CX-3 2.0 Active, 115kW/206Nm — R315,400
Ford EcoSport 1.0 Trend, 92kW/170Nm — R310,700