SO all your friends go four wheel driving, all the time, and every other day, they’re hassling you to get into the off road action, but you just can’t warrant the price tag that comes with a big 4WD.
Well what if we told you that you could jump in a big, luxury, 4WD for under $50K. You’d laugh right, but then wonder if we were serious. We are. The 2018 Haval H9 Ultra is just that type of vehicle, with just that type of price.
We can already hear you saying, “I don’t know, made in China?”, but let us remind you of this – 60 years ago, when the first Japanese car went on sale in Australia, everyone said “no way am I buying Japanese”.
As a country, Japan is now the third largest car manufacture in the world and its sales in Australia are number one, yes number one – do we need to say Toyota Hilux here, just to ram that point home.
Looks wise the H9 is kind of a mash up between generic Japanese and American 4WDs, with plenty of Asian influence in the lines and design, and all out American grilles and trims – and a gazillion Haval badges – nine on the outside alone, in fact.
It is defiantly indecisive with its final look, part smooth and natural, part aggressive and sharp. It is however finished with LED daytime running lights, and automatic xenon headlamps with an adaptive front light system.
The base model in the range is known as the Lux (we’re testing the Ultra here), but in case you’re interested, it only gets adjustable height headlights, and both models get front and rear fog lamps, and Haval logo puddle lamps.
The red logo based puddle lamps aren’t really that effective, because well, they’re red. On the Ultra though, there’s also entry lamps when you open the doors so that helps. You also get side steps as standard, which are built into the body.
Step inside, and the design is uniform, instead of being confused like the exterior, and features wood veneer, grey, black, brown, plastic stuff and leather on the seats, and it actually feels quite well finished.
It does have a little bling about it with aluminium pedals and stainless steal scuff plates, which are illuminated with the Haval logo in the top of the range Ultra. The premium model also gets a luggage blind, and a rear 240v power outlet.
The front seats are powered, heated and ventilated, and come complete with a massage function, handy as a distraction from the uncomfortable seat pan. It’s split into two sections and you really can feel it.
It also has heated second row seats and electric folding third row seats, as well as LED mood lighting that you can change the colour of. Be warned though, it is ridiculous bright when not in built up areas.
The other downside to the mood lighting is that none of the other instrumentation or the eight inch central touch screen change with it and we found it all clashed very oddly, so we just left it on the default blue or switched it off.
It’s good news on the safety front though, including a full compliment of front and side air bags, driver condition monitoring, speed sensing door locks, collision sensing unlocking, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
It all work fine most of the time, but we did have a couple of occasions where it was glitching a bit and telling us we were leaving the lane when we were not even close to doing so.
But here’s where it gets even more bizarre, the last three safety systems (LDW, RCTA, BSM) have to be turned on when you start the car, like every time you start the car, as they turn off each time you turn the car off.
These odd settings and the mish-mash of features that don’t really come together smoothly give you a feeling that the H9 is not completed, and built with poor quality workmanship, and that’s pretty much not okay.
The confusion doesn’t stop there either. The only power plant option for the H9 is a 4-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, stuck in a 4WD that is pushing 2-tonne. It’s a mystery on the capability front for sure.
Surprisingly though, the turbo helps deliver 180kW of power and 350Nm of torque which is enough grunt to satisfy your needs for motion, but it comes at a price. Let’s call it a petrol pump kind of price.
The best we could get was 10.5-litres/100km and when we really drove it to put it through its paces, it was more like 15.0-litres/100km, and quite frankly the engine noise is terrible.
A word of warning is required here too, especially when wrangling the H9 at anything like decent speeds, as the brake pedal travels a long way before you get any real action, it’s almost like the brake booster isn’t there. As you can imagine, there was panic.
Anyway, back to the good stuff, and there’s a fair bit of it. As a 4WD it is actually very capable, thanks to its ability to automatically call on more or less torque to the front wheels as required, which should help with fuel economy over the long term.
It also has sand, mud, snow and 4L modes, providing drive and suspension adjustments to best suit the Haval’s use at the time, and you’ve also got hill decent assist and hill start assist on hand for when things get rugged.
It has sport mode too, and it’s probably the best way to drive the H9 Ultra, it was certainly the most fun, as it lets you torture the little engine that could even more. The transmission is really good though and works a treat on and off road.
The suspension is fairly soft and offers a comfortable ride on most surfaces, but does make some weird noises when cornering. Overall, is it what you’d call a great 4WD. No it’s not, but it is a capable one, and it’s got loads and loads of inclusions.
It’s nice on the inside, and pretty good on the outside, if not a little confused, the brakes are okay but hard to get used to, there’s software glitches and the suspension makes weird noises.
But, and this is important, it won’t cost you $100,000 like a Toyota LandCruiser Sahara will. Instead, it will cost you $45,990 drive away for the Ultra and $41,990 for the Lux. For that fact alone, it’s worth considering.
The price even includes roadside assist to go with its 5-year 100,000km warranty; along with fixed price servicing. It comes in Alaskan White, Sleek Silver (our test car), Ebony, Kakadu and Bronze.
Our test vehicle was provided by Haval Australia. To find out more about the 2018 Haval H9 Ultra, contact your local Haval dealer.