The H2 is the littlest vehicle made by the biggest Chinese SUV company, Haval, and it competes against the likes of Honda’s HR-V, the Hyundai Kona, and Mazda's CX-3. Being Chinese, the H2 is more affordable than its rivals, but is it more than just a good price?
In 15 years time, the concept of me explaining to you how to pronounce Haval and what it is may seem as cute and ridiculous as me doing the same for Hyundai now.
That's how big the brand could become in Australia. The company is owned by Great Wall Motors, which is China’s largest maker of SUVs, and anything that's big in Chinese terms is truly massive (have you seen their Wall?).
If you’ve done a bit of research you’ll have noticed that the H2 is more affordable than those rivals, but is it more than just a good price? Do you get what you pay for, and if so what is it you’re getting, and what are you missing?
I drove the H2 Premium 4x2 to find out.
Oh, and you pronounce 'Haval' the same way you say 'travel'. Now you know.
Haval H2 2018: Premium (4x2)
Premium Unleaded Petrol
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
If you squint, the H2 looks a bit like a BMW SUV and that may be because BMW’s former head of design, Pierre Leclercq, led the H2’s styling team (it's worth pointing out that if you squint hard enough, I look like Robert Downey Jnr).
It may be 'small' but it's bigger than nearly all of its rivals.
He’s now moved on to Kia but has left behind a pretty darn good-looking H2. I would even argue that the H2 is what the BMW X1 should look like, instead of that long-nosed, humpy-looking hatch.
The H2 is small, at 4335mm long, 1814mm wide and 1695mm tall, but it’s bigger than nearly all of its rivals. The Kona is 4165mm long, the HR-V is 4294mm end-to-end and the CX-3 is 4275. Only the C-HR is longer at 4360mm.
Interior refinement could be better and it’s not on the same level as its Japanese competitors. Still, I like the design of the cockpit with its symmetry, the layout of controls is also considered and easy to reach, the hood over the instrument cluster is cool and I even like the opal-like milky finish on the dashboard trim.
The H2’s 300-litre boot capacity is small in comparison to its rivals. The Honda HR-V has a 437-litre boot, the C-HR’s is 377 litres and the Kona’s is 361 litres, but it does have more luggage space than the CX-3, which can only manage 264 litres.
Despite being larger than rivals, boot space is smaller than most at 300 litres.
That said, only the H2 has a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor – so what you lose in luggage capacity you gain in being able to drive wherever you like without fear of a puncture and having to hobble to the next town 400km away on a wheel which can only handle 80km/h.
Inside storage is good, with bottle holders in all the doors and two cupholders in the back and two in the front. The tiny hidey hole in dash is more ash tray-sized, which makes sense because of the cigarette lighter next to it, and the centre console bin under the front centre armrest is a reasonable size.
Up front everything is a reasonable size.
The H2’s cabin is spacious, with good head, shoulder and legroom up front and the same goes for the back row, where I can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm to spare between my knees and the seat back.
There's also plenty of space for rear passengers.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 6/10
At the time of writing the H2 Premium 4x2 petrol could be had for a driveaway price of $24,990, which is a $3500 discount on the RRP, according to Haval.
You could, of course, be reading this in the year 2089, having just survived another nuclear winter in your impenetrable mountain compound, so it's best to check the Haval website to see if the offer is still valid.
Ignore the word 'Premium', because this 4x2 is the most affordable H2 you can buy, and $24,990 drive-away sounds amazing, but a quick look reveals that many small SUV rivals are also offering deals.
This $24,990 4x2 is the most affordable H2 you can buy.
The Honda HR-V VTi 2WD lists for $24,990, but can currently be had for $26,990 driveway; the Toyota C-HR 2WD is $28,990 and $31,990 drive-away, while the Hyundai Kona Active lists for $24,500, or $26,990 drive-away.
So, buy a H2 Premium and you’ll save about $2000 over a Kona or HR-V, which is an attractive prospect for families where every cent counts.
The features list also ticks most of the typical boxes for this end of the segment. There’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen with reversing camera, four-speaker stereo, rear parking sensors, auto halogen headlights, LED DRLs, sunroof, auto wipers, air-conditioning, fabric seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The H2’s display screen, while largish, feels and looks cheap.
So on paper (or on screen) the H2 stacks up well, but in reality I found the quality of the features wasn’t as high as those in the HR-V, Kona or C-HR.
You should know that the H2’s display screen, while largish, feels and looks cheap, and required several finger stabs to select items. The windscreen wipers were overly noisy, the indicators themselves didn’t ‘blink’ in a regular pattern, and the phone system had a delay when a connection was made, which resulted in me saying 'hello' but not being heard at the other end of the line. This caused a few arguments between my wife and I, and no car is worth that. Oh, and the sound of the stereo isn’t great, but there is a cigarette lighter.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 4/10
Were you planning to take this off-road? Well, maybe reconsider that because the Haval H2 is only available now in front-wheel drive and comes exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission, so there's no manual gearbox option.
The only engine available is a 1.5-litre putting out only 110kW/210Nm.
The engine is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol (you can’t get a diesel) which makes 110kW/210Nm.
Turbo lag is my biggest issue with the H2. At revs above 2500rpm you’re fine , but below this if you plant your foot if feels as though you could count to five before the grunt appears.
The H2 needs 95 RON, too, while many of the rivals will happily drink 91 RON.
What's it like to drive? 4/10
There’s a fair bit to say here but if you don’t have long the upshot is this: the H2’s driving experience falls short of what has now become the norm in this segment.
I can look past a seating position that feels too high even on the lowest setting. I can ignore indicators which don’t ‘blink’ in a regular rhythmn or windscreen wipers that clunk loudly. Or even headlights that aren’t as bright as LED or Xenon, but the turbo lag, uncomfortable ride and less than impressive braking response are a deal breaker for me.
First, the turbo lag at low revs is frustrating. A right turn at a T-intersection needed me to move quickly from a standstill, but planting my right foot saw the H2 dawdling out into the middle of the junction and me waiting frantically for the grunt to arrive as traffic approached.
While handling isn’t bad for a small SUV, the ride is overly busy; a jiggly feeling that suggests the spring and damper set-up is less than great. Other car companies tune their vehicle suspension for Australian roads.
And while emergency braking tests show the H2 had automatic activated hazard lights, I feel the brake response to be weaker than its rivals.
Steep hills are not the H2’s friend, either, and it struggled to climb an incline other SUVs in this class have scampered up easily.
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / 100,000 km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 7/10
Haval wants you to know its H2 scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating and while it has disc brakes, traction and stability control and airbags galore, I want you to know that it was tested last year and doesn’t come with advanced safety equipment such as AEB.
A full-sized spare wheel is also safety equipment in my eyes – the H2 has one under the boot floor, something its rivals can’t claim.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10
The H2 is covered by Haval’s five-year/100,000km warranty. There’s also a five-year, 24-hour roadside assistance service, which is covered in the cost of the vehicle.
The first service is recommended at the six-month mark, and then every 12 months thereafter. Prices are capped at $255 for the first, $385 for the next, $415 for the third, $385 for the fourth and $490 for fifth.
“It’s disappointing that a car which looks so damned good can be let down by its interior refinement and driveability issues. In some areas, the H2 is great and goes further than its rivals – tinted windows, a full-sized spare, sunroof and good rear legroom. But the HR-V, Kona, C-HR and CX-3 have set the standard high for build quality and driving experience, and in this regard the H2’s isn’t at the same level.”
The H2 is more affordable that its rivals but is that enough to tempt you out of a CX-3 or HR-V? Tell us what you think in the comments below.