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Haval SUVs headed for Australia

Haval stand at the Shanghai motor show.

Chinese brand Haval is poised to enter the Australian car market, starting with three new models in local showrooms in just two months - and possibly a fourth by the end of this year.

The SUV division of Great Wall Motors has an ambitious plan to be the biggest seller in its category, a move that may see it mocked at first but will still likely put price pressure on the established mainstream rivals.

The cheapest Haval model, the H2, about the same size as a Honda HR-V, will start from about the $20,000 bracket while a top-of-the-range seven-seat heavy-duty four-wheel-drive called the H9 – similar in size and style to a Toyota Prado – is set to cost about $45,000.

One of the vehicles due, the H8, was controversially withdrawn from sale by Haval in China – twice – soon after its launch in late 2013. But the company insists the necessary improvements have since been made and the vehicle is now export quality.

All Haval vehicles sold in Australia will initially be available with turbo petrol power but diesel variants are due to follow.

Haval Australia chief marketing officer Tim Smith – formerly of Kia Motors – says the new models will likely earn a five-star safety rating.

About 200 Haval vehicles are already on a ship and on their way to Australia even though they have not been formally approved by the Federal Government for sale locally.

If so, they would be the first Chinese-branded cars to earn top marks for crash tests in Australia. However, the cars are yet to be tested locally; the five-star prediction was based on internal tests, the company said.

About 200 Haval vehicles are already on a ship and on their way to Australia even though they have not been formally approved by the Federal Government for sale locally.

The first two models, the H8 and H9, were inspected two weeks ago, and Haval says the permit to import those cars is "a formality". The third vehicle, the H2, is due to be inspected in a fortnight.

Haval is yet to appoint any dealers but says it expects to have between 10 and 20 showrooms nationally from its start date on June 1. Haval is the SUV division of Great Wall Motors, however the two brands look set to be handled by separately, at least in the meantime.

Independent distributor Ateco introduced Great Wall Motors utes to Australia in 2010 and has since sold about 40,000 vehicles.

However, following an asbestos scare which led to a recall two years ago, and an apparent breakdown in the relationship between both parties in the past year, no Great Wall utes have been imported for seven months and sales have come to a standstill.

Haval is the first Chinese brand to set up a subsidiary in Australia; it has had a presence here since November 2013 while it established its local operations.

Haval: fast facts

  • Haval H2 SUV from China (2015). Photo: Supplied. Haval H2 SUV from China (2015). Photo: Supplied.
  • Haval H2 SUV from China (2015). Photo: Supplied. Haval H2 SUV from China (2015). Photo: Supplied.

Haval H2: Expected to start from the low $20,000 bracket, it's about the same size as a Honda HR-V and will be powered by a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine (120kW and 280Nm) matched to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual clutch auto in front-drive or all-wheel-drive.

Haval H8 SUV from China (2015). Photo: Supplied. Haval H8 SUV from China (2015). Photo: Supplied.

Haval H8: Expected to start from the low $40,000 bracket, it's about the same size as a Toyota Kluger and will be powered by a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine (160kW and 324Nm) matched to a six-speed automatic. A turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol (248kW and 485Nm) and 2.0-litre turbo diesel (140kW and 410Nm) are due at the end of the year.

  • Haval H9 SUV from China (2015). Photo: Supplied. Haval H9 SUV from China (2015). Photo: Supplied.
  • Haval H9 SUV from China (2015). Photo: Supplied. Haval H9 SUV from China (2015). Photo: Supplied.

Haval H9: Expected to start from $45,000, it's about the same size as a Toyota Prado and will be powered by a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine (160kW and 324Nm) matched to a six-speed automatic. A 3.0-litre V6 petrol (248kW and 485Nm) and 2.0-litre turbo diesel (140kW and 410Nm) are due at the end of the year.

Does Haval have what it takes to make your shopping list? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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