We attended the local launch of the updated Haval H2 a while ago, but due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we've only recently had a chance to spend quality time with the Chinese compact family car. The H2 has always been a high-value offering and a credible alternative to mainstream models, but has it kept up with the times?
We like: Excellent value for money, good build quality, generous spec.
We don’t like: Quirky throttle and transmission mapping, thirstier than some of its rivals.
- Model Tested: 1.5T Luxury Auto
- Price: R349 900 (October 2020)
- Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol
- Power/Torque: 105 kW/202 Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Fuel consumption: 9.0 L/100 km (claimed)
- Load capacity: N/A
What is it?
South Africa is Haval's largest market outside of China.
Haval is well-positioned in Mzansi. Its products have been well-received globally, but South Africa is the Chinese brand's biggest market beyond its homeland! Haval, with its diverse range of SUVs to suit most needs and budgets, is a brand to keep an eye on. Since its launch in 2017, the H2's been Haval's best-selling model; more than 7 000 units have found homes in South Africa. In January 2020, Haval released an updated version.
The changes are extensive, both inside and out. Mechanically, the powertrain has been carried over, but the exterior benefits from some visual updates, while the standard-features list has grown even longer. Given the sheer number of choices in this ultra-competitive segment of the new-vehicle market, the refreshed Haval H2 has got its work cut out. Is it good enough to steal more sales away from the established offerings?
How it performs in terms of...
Features and interior execution
The Haval's level of specification is unbelievable. What car in this segment has tyre pressure sensors?
The test unit that was supplied for this review had the Luxury trim line, which adds premium features such as auto lights and -wipers, panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, climate control, plus a faux leather interior to the already comprehensive City spec. Making its debut in the updated Haval H2 is an Apple CarPlay-compatible touchscreen infotainment system. Android Auto, however, is absent due to Google's lack of presence in China.
Given this extensive list of standard equipment, we had to double-check the 1.5T Luxury Auto's keen list price again (R349 900, in October 2020). There's no skimping on safety features either: the Haval H2 comes with 6 airbags as standard, plus ABS with EBD, brake assist and electronic stability control. Every derivative is equipped with rear park distance control, a reverse-view camera, as well as a tyre-pressure monitoring system.
The rear legroom in the H2 is more than adequate for adults.
In terms of interior execution, it's hard to fault the perceived build quality and attention to detail in the H2's cabin. Who could justifiably accuse this Haval product of being cheap and nasty? The levels of fit and finish are excellent at this price point. When it comes to practicality, the rear seats can be folded down in a 60/40 split, while the load bay is on par with rivals in the segment. We suspect Haval sacrificed a smidgeon of the H2's luggage space to the benefit of rear legroom, which is positively generous compared with that offered by most (notably smaller) compact family cars.
The 6-speed automatic can hesitate, but you'll learn to work with its quirks.
All the derivatives in the Haval H2 range are powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine that produces 105 kW and 202 Nm. Those outputs sound quite sufficient to translate into satisfactory performance. However, if there's one glaring weakness in the Chinese model's overall package, it's the calibration of the engine's characteristics and the 6-speed transmission, or, more to the point, the lack thereof. The gearbox is not the most responsive, so if you want to execute a swift overtaking procedure, you'll need to start earlier to give the gearbox time to kick down.
You can switch the transmission into a manual mode and shift cogs yourself (if you're in a hurry), but the Haval's throttle mapping (or, to put it another way, the manner in which the H2 responds to inputs to its accelerator pedal) requires familiarisation. The long pedal can feel too sensitive or difficult to modulate. We found that by toggling the drive modes, things became smoother and progressive. It's a niggle, not a terminal fault.
Meanwhile, we have to point out that Haval claims a fuel economy figure of 9 L/100 km, but we could only muster 9.5 L/100 km. With other offerings in the segment said to return average fuel consumption of well under 9 L/100 km, the efficiency of the 1.5T Luxury Auto is a trifle underwhelming.
Ride and handling
The Haval H2 rides on 18-inch alloy wheels.
Our initial thoughts from the launch suggested the H2's ride quality was good, but the road quality of the launch test route was near-perfect. With a longer test period and a wide spectrum of road surfaces at our disposal, we embarked on multiple trips in attempts to find a weak spot in the ride quality. But no, the H2 rides on 18-inch alloys wrapped in thick 235/55 rubber and they do a great job of soaking up the tarmac's imperfections.
Better yet, thanks to the H2's 180-mm ground clearance, we felt confident to head off the tar and onto a variety of gravel surfaces. While the 1.5T Luxury Auto isn't all-wheel driven, it does have hill-descent control; it feels reasonably planted on gravel with sufficient road-holding to instil driver confidence on less-than-ideal routes. There's a generally good steering feel and, from the driver's seat, it feels like you're piloting a bigger SUV.
Price and after-sales service
The updated Haval H2 range starts at R289 900 for the entry-level derivative, with this flagship offering coming in at R349 900. The vehicle is sold with a 5-year/100 000km warranty, a 5-year/60 000 km service plan, and with 5-year/unlimited km roadside assistance.
It may have some powertrain quirks, but at this price point, it's very difficult to ignore this value-for-money offering.
Haval's stellar rise outside of its domestic market cannot be ignored. The updated H2 offers commendable build quality, spaciousness and standard specification, which its rivals struggle to match at the price. Haval's rapid growth and progress over the past few years have been remarkable and we expect future product offerings to be even more polished. Bear in mind that Haval's parent company, GWM, has recruited top engineers and designers from around the globe to create a host of global products. Former JLR design boss Phil Simmons, for example, is Haval's design director.
Given how competitive the small crossover/compact family car segment has become, the 1.5T Luxury auto is a reminder of how keen pricing is a major drawcard, especially in a struggling new-vehicle market. Granted, we're not enthralled with the H2 powertrain's relative lack of refinement, but the resolved overall package more than makes up for it. So before you plump for established brands, take a moment to check out Haval's offering.