The Haval can hold its own.
Chinese companies trying to break into the mass market anywhere in the world generally have an uphill battle. There’s the preconceived idea that they’re built badly (wherever did they get that idea), have yesterday’s tech, and will appeal only to the most committed penny-pincher out there. And while that stigma’s stayed true for some time, in the last decade or so, they’ve really upped the game.
For starters, Chinese carmakers have realised that while there’s plenty of success to be enjoyed within the Great Wall, there’s far more exciting prospects beyond it. Which is probably why Great Wall Motors dropped its name for its passenger cars and rebranded itself to reflect its premium position as China’s most successful SUV manufacturer. The name’s Haval now, and the H2 is perhaps one of the company’s strongest products yet.
Available with a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol, with all-wheel drive and double-clutch automatic as options, and fantastic drive-away deals, the Haval H2 might be the Honda HR-V, Nissan Qashqai, and Renault Captur contender you didn’t know about.
“It's a pretty little thing, with slightly odd proportions and a clumsy nose that weirdly grows on you. Lots of chrome, 18-inch alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights help.” — CarAdvice
The Haval H2 is certainly one of the more accomplished efforts from the company, with a decidedly resolved design language that doesn’t have the same sort of copy-and-paste appearance of some of its contemporaries. As typical with Chinese are there’s plenty of chrome and plenty of LEDs, though the placement of these elements on the H2 give it a rather upmarket look that can’t be said of some of its rivals. You can see that Haval’s hiring of former BMW designer Peter Leclerq has paid off.
The profile of the Haval is neat, and almost elegant, and we quite like the discreet ‘Haval’ badging on the D-pillar that resolves the chrome window line. The rear looks rather sophisticated too, though it’s ruined somewhat by whomever handles badging at Haval, because the name is spelt out not once, but twice on the rear, along with mention of the model and its drivetrain. There’s so much chrome badging on the back that, if prised off, could result in some significant weight saving. If we had to recommend such invasive action, it’d definitely be directed at the badging on the tailgate.
Engine & Drivetrain
“Drive it in the sweet spot and it feels strong, drift out of the comfort zone and it's either sluggish or buzzy.” — CarsGuide
Standard across the range is the petrol mill up front, a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that puts out a decent 110kW and 210Nm. While those figures won’t set your heart on fire, we’d argue that they’re not supposed to. Instead, it has the sort of power figures that would comfortably service the ninetieth-percentile of drivers, who want a decently-punchy compact SUV to cart the family about.
Power goes to either the front wheels or all wheels, with a choice between a six-speed automatic gearbox and a five-speed manual transmission, with the manual only available on all-wheel drive models.
What’s interesting here is the fuel consumption, as Haval claims the car will do 9L/100km. Usually, manufacturer fuel consumption claims tend to be best-case highly-unlikely numbers, but Haval says that its claimed fuel consumption figures are “honest.” And with a reasonable driving style, you can easily match and even outdo the manufacturer’s claimed fuel consumption, which might end up being a point of pride as you start to grow into your Haval.
“‘You can stuff a vehicle with features, but if the quality isn’t great, and they aren’t enjoyable to use, they can detract from the user experience. Thankfully, everything in the H2 feels pleasing to the touch.” — Leisure Wheels SA
The cabin of the Haval feels decidedly upmarket, with an aesthetically pleasing design that wouldn’t look out of place among its peers. It’s certainly more conservative in its design than the daring cabins of the Toyota C-HR and the Renault Captur, and it reminds you that the Chinese market puts a serious emphasis on luxury rather than individuality. Everything looks pretty nice, and the switchgear all feel fairly well engineered and robust, easily matching the cars that it’s looking to steal marketshare from.
The Honda HR-V might present itself as a no-nonsense family wagon, but the Haval H2 takes a decidedly plush route to win over its buyers. Even in base Premium spec with its fabric seats, you still get niceties like a large infotainment screen and a sunroof, with a bright and airy feel throughout the cabin. Plastics aren’t the softest in the world, but they are robust, and you can’t really fault them giving the sharp price positioning that the H2 assumes.
While this segment might be filled with price leaders and what have you, the Haval H2 proves that you can have your cake and eat it. Maybe this is what ‘cheap and cheerful’ really means.
Behind the Wheel
“We were actually quite impressed by the ride…” — CarAdvice
Do you remember how ‘luxury cars’ used to feel in the late 80s and early 90s? Forget the ungainly composure, and think more of that floaty, comfortable ride, that simply didn’t allow anything to get in the way of serenity. That’s perhaps the best way to describe progress in a Haval H2, because the ride is just excellent. It’s so soft, so pliant, so forgiving… it reminds you of a P38 Range Rover almost, with the way it just effortlessly deals with lumps and bumps as if they aren’t even there.
On the motorway, it’s all pretty alright, up until you hit the speed limit. While wind noise is well suppressed, tyre noise is less so, and it gets quite intrusive at speed. Perhaps the Kumho tyres fitted as standard (observed at the time of testing) were at fault, though it certainly didn’t make for a muted experience.
The H2 fares better in town, with enough twist to be a giggle to drive, and that soft suspension again makes the experience that much more pleasant. This really is an urban runabout that has the legs for motorway cruising, and we advise drivers to stop at that. If you want something involving to drive, this isn’t it. Like the P38 Range Rover of the 90s, the Haval H2 leans quite bit when you push it out of its comfort zone, though it never feels unnerving or unsettled. This is car that wants you to cruise, and not to rush. Do that, and you’re in good company.
Safety & Technology
“The equipment list could be stronger…” — The Motor Report
The Haval H2’s equipment list is considerable, though it doesn’t quite address all concerns. As far as safety’s concerned, standard kit includes things like 6 airbags, vehicle stability management systems, and reverse sensors and a reverse camera. The Haval H2 was tested by ANCAP and given a full five-star rating, though we’d say that that comes with a caveat.
While some of the H2’s rivals offer active safety kit either as standard or as cost options, the Haval does neither. So no matter how much money you throw at it you’re not going to get active cruise control or autonomous emergency braking or even blind spot monitoring, and this is where we feel the Haval really loses ground. Almost all of its competitors offer some degree of driver assistance kit, and their omission here is certainly glaring.
Thankfully, the H2 does claw back some points for convenience tech, with a large infotainment screen, satellite navigation, and climate control offering a tad more comfort and convenience than some similarly-priced rivals.
When Chinese cars first came onto the scene, they often had to be apologised for. Their lacking in various areas would be explained away with their sharp pricing, and that was that. And while that was okay for a while (particularly in developing markets), it became clear that they’d be left behind as tastes matures and audiences got more affluent.
However, Haval isn’t a brand that’s resting on its value proposition alone, and it really doesn’t have to. While early tests have revealed some foibles, it’s actually a pretty decent proposition that doesn’t need to be excused on the grounds that it’s made in China. It’s a really well specced, comfortable, and reliable compact SUV that can easily stand its ground against the competition. Of course, it helps that the Haval is still pretty good value overall, which goes some way to make up for some of the H2’s foibles. But that said, the price difference isn’t all that vast between the Haval H2 and its more accomplished rivals, which is likely why the Haval doesn’t sell quite as steadily here as it does back home in China.
Of the range, we’d definitely go for the Premium 4x2, as it’s the best package for an urban runabout like this. That said, if you find yourself on unsealed surfaces often, perhaps consider the all-wheel drive version for that extra sense of security when you’re off the bitumen.
CarAdvice – 6.5/10 – “What we would say is, if you're an intrigued party, go and kick the tyres and have a look. You may not buy a H2, but you'll come around to Haval's value to the market. There's a future here worth waiting on.”
Motoring – 69/100 – “Make a ‘Chinese make crap cars’ argument all you want using your Chinese-made smartphone. When China wants to make something truly cutting edge, it can. The H2 is finding about 300 buyers here per year, whereas Haval sells as many in a morning in China. But Haval is in it for the long run, it just needs time & determination to change the marketplace as we know it.”
Drive – 4.0/10 – “This Haval is an unimpressive car at any price, but its official sticker of $26,490 plus on-road costs is well more than buyers should pay for an ordinary example of the SUV breed. There are many better options on the market - some available for significantly less than what the Haval costs to buy.”
Leisure Wheels SA – 3.0/5.0 – “The Haval H2 is undoubtedly the best Chinese vehicle we’ve tested. In terms of specification, refinement and all-round performance, it is up there with what you’d get from other manufacturers, from other parts of the world. Is it perfect? No, but it is an excellent offering, especially if you consider the cost.”
The Motor Report – 2.5/5.0 – “The good news for Haval is that the majority of the H2s shortcomings - its lazy throttle response, sub-par transmission calibration and jittery suspension - can be solved, and we would expect they will be in the next model iteration) by some rethinking of the engineering and electronic mapping.”