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Driven: Aus feedback shapes new Haval H9

Nine lives: Haval’s new H9 large SUV is expected to sell in greater numbers this year thanks to significant changes made to its equipment list, performance and pricing.

Haval updates H9 seven-seat SUV with more equipment, power and lower price

26 Jan 2018

HAVAL’S updated H9 large SUV range has launched with a number of revisions aimed to specifically address criticism directed at the outgoing version from Australian consumers and media, a strategy that will spread to updates of the Chinese brand’s other SUV models.

The refreshed H9 seven-seater features increased power and torque from the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, better fuel economy, increased specification and a reduced price that now kicks off at $40,990 before on-road costs.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the H9 this week in Melbourne, Haval Motors Australia public relations and product specialist Andrew Ellis said feedback from Australian consumers was important to company executives in China.

“We’re the first mature market that Haval entered into so we hold a unique spot,” he said.

“They said to me ‘we want to know what they think, we need to know what the customers think, we need to know what the media think’ – they value that very, very highly.

“Every review I send back, I’ll get questioned on probably 15 to 20 per cent of them because they just want to understand what the journalists are saying.

“They take it very seriously and hopefully you can see the things you commented on the old H9 they’ve worked on in the new H9.”

Mr Ellis indicated that the interest in the Australian market will play into Haval parent company Great Wall Motors’ ambitions to breach other western markets including the United States in the near future.

Haval has been on a recruitment drive to bolster its new dynamics engineering team, nabbing former Mercedes-Benz transmission expert Gerhard Henning, ex-Ford noise, vibration and harshness specialist Alan Cureton, as well as Alexandre Tiberio whose credits include the dynamic performance of the Volkswagen Scirocco.

Mr Ellis revealed some of the team would be making its way Down Under soon to test Haval vehicles on Australian roads and that local suspension tuning was “definitely something we’d like to do”.

“I think it’s one of those things that helps elevate the car in the eyes of the customer,” he said. “I think other brands have done a terrific job with it and definitely the potential is there.

“We did that work with Ironman last year on a very small basis and I think the improvements were enormous.”

Last year Haval made a number of suspension tweaks to its H9 large SUV in collaboration with Australian off-road specialists Ironman 4x4 for improved on-road manners, but the program is still in its prototype stages.

While suspension changes have not been implemented in the new 2230kg H9, performance has been boosted from the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine from 160kW/324Nm to 180kW/350Nm – representing a 12.5 per cent increase in power and an eight per cent increase in torque.

To achieve the increased outputs, the H9’s compression ratio has been raised from 9.6:1 to 10:1 and translates to a quicker zero to 100km/h of 10.8s.

The outgoing version’s six-speed automatic transmission has also been replaced by a new eight-speed ZF unit resulting in a 10 per cent improvement in fuel economy from 12.1 litres per 100km to 10.9L/100km.

Haval has tuned the new transmission with shorter lower gears for low-speed off-road crawling, mid-gears for “strong acceleration and top gears helping provide outstanding fuel economy”.

Towing capacity remains at 2500kg braked and 750kg unbraked.

Haval’s All-Terrain Control System (ATCS) is also now standard across the H9 range, allowing drivers to select between Sand, Snow, Mud, 4L (low range), Sport and Auto driving modes.

Exterior changes are limited to a new five-bar grille replacing the previous three-slot design, a tweaked lower air intake that improves airflow into the engine and circular foglights, as well as 18-inch wheels across both model grades.

Opting for the range-opening $40,990 Lux grade (down from the previous base $46,490 Premium) will net buyers a sunroof, all-terrain control system, electronic differential lock and fabric seats.

Stepping up to the top-spec $44,990 Ultra variant (which drops in price from the $50,990 Lux) adds a panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, heated front and second-row seats, cooled and massaging front pews, uprated sound system, adaptive front lighting, electronically folding third row, and Comfort-Tek faux-leather interior.

From the driver’s seat, the H9 sports a new instrument display with a large central colour TFT screen – a first for any Haval model and a change from consumer feedback – in addition to a reworked centre console design with T-bar shifter.

Flanking the digital display is an analogue tachometer on the left and temperature and petrol gauges on the right.

Both versions use a tri-zone climate control system, tyre pressure monitoring system and 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation and Bluetooth smartphone connectivity.

Safety features now fitted to the H9 include blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert, in addition to six airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, hill decent control, hill-hold assist and driver status monitoring system (DSM).

While autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning is not yet available on any grade of the H9, Haval is planning to bring these active safety technologies to market in another update due in the third quarter.

With the incoming boost in safety technology, Haval will resubmit its H9 for crash testing after addressing concerns to the driver’s footwell that saw its large SUV receive a four-star ANCAP result in 2016.

2018 Haval H9 pricing*
LUX (a)$40,990
Ultra (a)$44,990
*Excludes on-road costs

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