Haval is proving many sceptics wrong
Stigmas are a difficult thing to shake off, especially in the South African car market. Take for instance French cars. People still feel that the likes of Renault battle to source parts and owners will wait for months for a headlight. This however, is not the case. In fact, the turnaround times for these parts are on par with most major brands in SA. Which brings me to my next point, Haval – GWM’s luxury SUV arm. Generally speaking, GWM doesn’t have the most impressive appeal in our country. People automatically associate Chinese cars with low-quality products and as much as this may have been the case in the past with other Chinese brands, Haval has proved many sceptics wrong. Honestly, I was one of those sceptics. Locally, cars are more than mere objects of transportation – they’re symbols of who we are, what we represent etc. As a result, many South African’s have grown up believing that if you want reliability, you buy a Toyota. If you want agility, you buy a BMW and if you want class, you guessed it – Mercedes-Benz is your best bet. Things change. Once upon a time, KIA and Hyundai were foreign brands in SA, with sceptics weary of these Korean brands. Look at them know. Rio’s, Tucson’s, and Picanto’s are usual sights on our roads.
The Haval brand is only 16 years old, making it quite new as the brands it competes with have been around for much longer. In China, the brand has done exceedingly well, to the point of being called China’s no.1 SUV brand. The model we were given to drive was the H2, a mid-sized SUV powered by a 1.5-litre turbo engine – giving you the option of a manual and double clutch gearbox. Our car had the latter gearbox, one that worked very well. First impressions? Before even starting the vehicle, opening and closing the doors gives you a solid thud, a sound akin to a well-built vehicle. Sitting inside is the car feels somewhat familiar. It’s the familiarity you get from other quality vehicles in this segment. Space wise, you and your family will be sorted, as the interior is spacious and the luggage space is decent too. There are no jarring plastics that make you cringe and most of all, no cheap plastic smell that is apparent in other popular cars in this segment. This vehicle even had leather seats. So far so good.
Looking at the H2 is a pleasant thing to do. The vehicle possesses American style SUV attributes, especially with its GMC styled front end. Passers-by were just as intrigued by the vehicle, as it doesn’t look like many of the SUV’s you see on local roads.
Infotainment and technology is a big thing in almost every vehicle segment, so you’d expect that a vehicle marketed as a premium product would come with a few creature comforts. Again, the H2 impressed with keyless entry, reverse camera, a touch screen radio, folding mirrors and “Push-To-Start” functionality. The touchscreen system works well and is responsive enough to not frustrate you. Bright blue may not be everyone’s favourite hue, but it’s definitely liveable. Thankfully, pairing the Bluetooth system does not require a degree – something that puts me off certain systems.
105kW/220N.m is a conservative output considering the size of the car. That being said, the 1.5-litre performed well under various loads. Turbo is apparent, but after the torque kicks in, it maintains the surge well enough to get you through the city comfortably. Speaking of comfort, the ride quality in the Haval is another winning attribute this vehicle possesses. Damping is soft, cushioning well known bumpy roads in Johannesburg. Dynamically, the vehicle doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart when driven briskly – even though it’s not a car meant to be driven hard. The reality is, one day when you’re in a rush, it’s good to know that your car can handle a fast corner or two. During a week’s test, I managed to not use all the fuel provided in the vehicle (full tank on delivery). The vehicle can be driven in an “Economic” mode but I preferred driving it in “Standard” mode, which felt less sluggish.
After a week spent in the Haval H2, I can say I’m part of the converted. We all love a good underdog story and the Haval is one that has the potential to have a very good outcome. It’s up against much public scrutiny in this country, but it proves itself and even outshines other vehicles it competes with. Change is good and by the looks of it, it’s coming. It may not be overnight, but if the brand markets itself correctly and focuses on specific target audiences, they have the chance of being the next Kia and Hyundai. If a Chinese automotive renaissance its coming in SA, Haval will be leading it.
Haval H2 Pricing in South Africa
Haval H2 City Manual: R249,900
Havel H2 Luxury Manual: R274,900
Haval H2 City Auto: R284,900
Haval H2 Luxury Auto: R309,900
Is Haval the next Chinese automotive renaissance?