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Haval aims high with H8

Straight 8: Haval’s H8 large SUV has made its debut in Australia after a traumatic launch in China where it was withdrawn to rectify suspension and drivetrain gremlins.

China’s Haval tries to reset perceptions with Haval H8 after Chinese launch whoopsie


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8 Oct 2015

CHINA’S Haval says its H8 large SUV – the middle offering in a three-model launch range that made its debut in Australia this week – was benchmarked against the Mercedes-Benz ML350 when it was being developed in China.

That seems like putting an unnecessarily large target on the five-door, five-seat wagon’s back, especially for a Chinese brand that few in Australia have heard of.

Those who have heard of the H8 might be aware it was withdrawn from the Chinese market for more than a year to fix gremlins in the suspension, drivetrain and body structure – faults that point to a distinctly underdone package originally launched is 2013.

It was an inauspicious start for a would-be premium SUV, but at least showed Haval’s commitment to get it right, despite the embarrassment.

Now in Australia, the reworked, relaunched H8 has a longitudinal powertrain, just like that of German SUVs.

Offered in rear-wheel drive and all-wheel-drive formats, the H8 is roughly the same size as its illustrious German rivals, and also sits on an all-independent suspension – double wishbone at the front and multi-link at the back – bolted to a car-like monocoque platform.

Despite its premium pretensions, the Haval H8 is unlikely to be seriously compared with anything Teutonic any time soon, rather more likely being shopped against offerings from South Korea, Japan and – until next year at least when Ford’s Territory dies – Australia.

Priced from $41,990 (plus on-road costs), the base H8, called Premium, is roughly half the price of the cheapest X5, but universally more expensive than rival large SUV entry variants such as the six-cylinder Ford Territory TX, Hyundai Santa Fe Active, Kia Sorrento Si, Nissan Pathfinder ST and Toyota Kluger GX.

Haval Motors Australia points to H8’s high levels of equipment and mechanical specification to justify the price, but any Chinese vehicle faces a long and dusty road to earn its stripes against the likes of Toyota. Especially one from Great Wall Motors, which is Haval’s parent company.

Apart from Premium, the H8 comes in a higher level Lux version, priced from $48,990. The Lux is fitted with all-wheel drive as standard equipment, with the front wheels being powered via single-speed Borg Warner transfer case that splits the torque 50:50 between the axles if sensors detect slip at the rear wheels.

The AWD system can also be added to the base H8 Premium for a $2500 mark up.

For now, all H8 variants are powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-charged petrol engine producing 160kW of power and 324Nm of torque. On paper, this falls short of the grunt offered by mainly six-cylinder rivals that typically offer 30-40kW more power.

Several rivals also offer a diesel alternative, and while Haval has such a unit in the pipeline, the H8 gets only petrol propulsion for the foreseeable future.

A six-speed ZF automatic transmission is standard across the range. No fuel consumption figures have yet been published.

Standard equipment includes leather-faced seats with electric adjustment, (including lumbar), leather steering wheel, sunroof, keyless entry and start, 18-inch alloy wheels, sat-nav on eight-inch touch screen, roof rails, automatic wipers, Bluetooth, side steps, cargo blind, paddle gear shifters, reversing camera, parking sensors all round, front and rear fog-lights, alarm and three-zone climate control air-conditioning.

Safety equipment includes hill descent control and forward collision warning in a package that Haval hopes will win a five-star safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

Stepping up to the Lux variant adds an electric tailgate, heated and ventilated front seats with a massage function, driver’s seat with memory settings, a high-grade Infinity audio system, mirrors that dip when reversing, more powerful, adaptive headlamps with washers and bigger, and 19-inch alloy wheels with fatter tyres.

To keep the kids quiet on trips, a DVD player with twin rear-seat screens is optional.

The Haval H8 will find appeal among typical families who ply the urban jungle.

If they are looking for seven seats, however, they will out of luck with the five-seat-only H8, and should look to the one-size bigger, all-terrain Haval H9 for a third row of seats.

All Haval models come with a five-year, 100,000km warranty and five years roadside assistance.

2015 Haval pricing*
H2 Premium 2WD$26,490
H2 Premium 2WD (a)$28,490
H2 Premium AWD$28,990
H2 LUX 2WD$28,490
H2 LUX 2WD (a)$30,490
H2 LUX AWD$30,990
H8 Premium 2WD (a)$41,990
H8 Premium AWD (a)$44,490
H8 LUX AWD (a)$48,990
H9 Premium AWD (a)$46,490
H9 LUX AWD (a)$50,990
*Excludes on-road costs

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