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Haval H2 2019 review: City

EXPERT RATING
6.6
The small SUV segment continues to explode with new offerings from MG, SsangYong and Haval competing at the budget end of the market. But does an aggressive price-point automatically represent value-for-money?

Brand Finance self-effacingly describes itself as "the world's leading independent branded business valuation and strategy consultancy". And adds that it regularly picks apart the current and future value of more than 3500 brands across multiple market sectors around the world.

These London-based boffins reckon Delta trumps American Airlines, Real Madrid has knocked off Manchester United, and Haval is a more powerful SUV brand than Land Rover or Jeep. So, no surprise Haval promotes the research on its Australian website.

Just to split hairs, Land Rover leaps to the top of the rankings when it comes to overall value, but in terms of an upward trajectory and potential for future growth, Brand Finance says Haval is the one.

The irony is you probably wouldn't know a Haval if it ran into you, which obviously isn't good in any sense, but a factor of the Chinese Great Wall subsidiary's relatively brief time, and so far, limited sales in the Australian market.

One of three models released in late 2015 to launch the Haval brand locally, the H2 is a small, five-seat SUV competing against a hot bed of more than 20 established players including the segment-leading Mitsubishi ASX, ever-popular Mazda CX-3, and recently arrived Hyundai Kona.

So, is Haval's potential reflected in its current product offering? We spent a week living with the sharply priced H2 City to find out.

Haval H2 2019: CITY 2WD
Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$20,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   6/10

Inoffensive but uninspiring is a blunt yet fair summation of the Haval H2 City's exterior design, especially when you think about rivals like the dramatic Toyota C-HR, edgy Hyundai Kona, or funky Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

The nose is dominated by a huge, slatted and chromed grille with bright metal mesh behind it, and vaguely Audi-of-10-years-ago shaped headlights either side.

The lighting treatment is elaborate with projector halogen main beams and reflector halogen high-beam units surrounded by a dotted-line string of LEDs looking uncomfortably like aftermarket inserts available via your online auction site of choice.

Standard fog-lights are recessed into a blacked-out area under the bumper, with another line of LEDs, functioning as DRLs, below that. And just to complicate matters, the upper LEDs only illuminate with the headlights, while the lower units come to life when the headlights are off.

The lighting treatment is elaborate with projector halogen main beams and reflector halogen high-beam units surrounded by a dotted-line string of LEDs looking uncomfortably like aftermarket inserts. (image: James Cleary) The lighting treatment is elaborate with projector halogen main beams and reflector halogen high-beam units surrounded by a dotted-line string of LEDs looking uncomfortably like aftermarket inserts. (image: James Cleary)

A sharp character line runs along the H2's flanks from the trailing edge of the headlights to the tail, with an equally distinct swage line running from front to back, narrowing the car's mid-section and accentuating the bulge of its wheelarches, filled adequately by standard 18-inch multi-spoke alloy rims.

The rear is similarly reserved, the only hint of flash confined to a roof-top spoiler, cool typeface chosen for the prominent Haval badging across the hatch door, and a diffuser with chrome exhaust tips poking through either side.

Inside, the look and feel is early noughties plain, The dashtop is a nice soft-touch material, but there are lots of buttons and old-school analogue instruments combined with a media and ventilation interface that might have been acceptable on a mainstream model 20 years ago.

Don't even think about Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. The tiny LCD screen (sitting below a CD slot) wins the smallest, most basic graphics award. A miniscule scale reflecting the manual air-con's temperature setting is a particular low-light.

  • Inside, the look and feel is early noughties plain. (image: James Cleary) Inside, the look and feel is early noughties plain. (image: James Cleary)
  • The dashtop is a nice soft-touch material, but there are lots of buttons and old-school analogue instruments. (image: James Cleary) The dashtop is a nice soft-touch material, but there are lots of buttons and old-school analogue instruments. (image: James Cleary)
  • Rear seat passengers pick up generous head, leg, and importantly, shoulder room. (image: James Cleary) Rear seat passengers pick up generous head, leg, and importantly, shoulder room. (image: James Cleary)

A small 3.5-inch screen between the tacho and speedometer displays fuel economy and distance information, but frustratingly no digital speed read-out. Standard cloth trim has a distinctly synthetic but tough feel, while the polyurethane plastic steering wheel is another throwback.

Sure, we're at the budget end of the market here, but be prepared for low-tech design combined with cheap and cheerful execution.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

At 4.3m long, 1.8m wide, and just under 1.7m high the Haval H2 is a big small SUV, and there's plenty of room inside.

Up front, storage runs to a bin (with sliding top) between the seats, two large cupholders in the centre console and a lidded oddments tray in front of the gearshift, as well as a sunglass holder, average-sized glove box and door bins with room for bottles. You'll notice the pennies saved with non-illumination of the sunvisor vanity mirrors.

Rear seat passengers pick up generous head, leg, and importantly, shoulder room. Three large adults across the back will be tight but do-able for short trips. Kids and young teenagers, no problem.

A centre fold-down armrest houses neatly integrated dual-cupholders, there are bins with space for bottles in each door and map pockets on the front seat backs. No adjustable air vents for backseaters, though.

  • The Haval's 300-litre capacity is way less than the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR and Hyundai Kona (361 litres). (image: James Cleary) The Haval's 300-litre capacity is way less than the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR and Hyundai Kona (361 litres). (image: James Cleary)
  • But it's enough to swallow the bulky 'CarsGuide' pram. (image: James Cleary) But it's enough to swallow the bulky 'CarsGuide' pram. (image: James Cleary)
  • It also managed to swallow our three-piece hard suitcase set. (image: James Cleary) It also managed to swallow our three-piece hard suitcase set. (image: James Cleary)
  • As with all contenders in the segment, a 60/40 split-fold rear seat increases flexibility and volume. (image: James Cleary) As with all contenders in the segment, a 60/40 split-fold rear seat increases flexibility and volume. (image: James Cleary)

Connectivity and power runs to two 12-volt outlets, a USB-A port and an 'aux-in' jack, all in the front.

Although a strong seller in the small SUV segment, the Mazda3's Achilles heel is its modest 264-litre boot, and while the H2 exceeds that number, it's not by much.

The Haval's 300-litre capacity is way less than the Honda HR-V (437 litres), Toyota C-HR (377 litres) and Hyundai Kona (361 litres). But it's enough to swallow the bulky CarsGuide pram or three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), and (as with all contenders in the segment) a 60/40 split-fold rear seat increases flexibility and volume.

If you're into towing, the H2's limited to 750kg for an un-braked trailer and 1200kg braked, and the spare tyre is a full-size (18-inch) steel rim shod with narrower space-saving (155/85) rubber.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

At the time of publication, the Haval H2 City was carrying a drive-away price tag - $19,990 for the six-speed manual version and $20,990 for the six-speed auto (as tested here).

So, you're getting a lot of metal and interior space for your money, but what about the standard features taken for granted in the H2's main competitors?

The wheelarches are filled adequately by standard 18-inch multi-spoke alloy rims. (image: James Cleary) The wheelarches are filled adequately by standard 18-inch multi-spoke alloy rims. (image: James Cleary)

Included in that drive-away price are the 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and start, reverse parking sensors, (manual) air-conditioning, cruise control, front and rear fog lights, LED daytime running lights, ambient interior lighting, heated front seats, rear privacy glass, and cloth trim.

But the headlights are halogen, the audio is four-speaker (with Bluetooth and single CD player), the safety tech (covered in the Safety section below) is relatively basic, and 'our' car's 'Pewter' (silver metallic) paint is a $495 option.

Equivalent entry-level competitors from Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Toyota will set you back between five and $10k more than this H2. And if you're happy to live without features like a media touchscreen, digital radio, leather accented wheel and gearshift, rear air vents, reversing camera, etc, etc, etc, you're onto a winner.

The media and ventilation interface might have been acceptable on a mainstream model 20 years ago. (image: James Cleary) The media and ventilation interface might have been acceptable on a mainstream model 20 years ago. (image: James Cleary)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The Haval H2 City (as tested) is powered by a 1.5-litre direct-injection, turbo-petrol, four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Peak power (110kW) arrives at 5600rpm, with maximum torque (210Nm) delivered at 2200rpm.

The Haval H2 City (as tested) is powered by a 1.5-litre direct-injection, turbo-petrol, four-cylinder engine. (image: James Cleary) The Haval H2 City (as tested) is powered by a 1.5-litre direct-injection, turbo-petrol, four-cylinder engine. (image: James Cleary)

How much fuel does it consume?   5/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 9.0L/100km, the 1.5-litre turbo four emitting 208g/km of CO2 in the process.

Not exactly outstanding, and over roughly 250km of city, suburban and freeway running we recorded 10.8L/100km (at the bowser).

Another rude surprise is the fact the H2 requires 95 RON premium unleaded fuel, of which you'll need 55 litres to fill the tank.

What's it like to drive?   6/10

Cold weather and internal-combustion engines are usually firm friends. Lower ambient temperature means denser air entering the cylinder (even under the extra pressure of a turbo), and as long as more fuel arrives at the same time, you'll have a bigger bang and more power.

But the H2 City's 1.5-litre four must have missed the memo, because cool morning start-ups result in a distinct reluctance to proceed at normal pace.

Sure, there's forward motion, but pinning the right-hand pedal to the floor won't shift the speedo needle much above a brisk walking pace. Unsettling.

Even after a few minutes, when things settle into a more predictable pattern, this Haval hovers at the sluggish end of the performance spectrum.

Not that any of the compact SUVs it competes with are rocketships, but you can generally expect a turbo-petrol engine to serve up a decent dose of low-down grunt.

A small 3.5-inch screen between the tacho and speedometer displays fuel economy and distance information, but frustratingly no digital speed read-out. (image: James Cleary) A small 3.5-inch screen between the tacho and speedometer displays fuel economy and distance information, but frustratingly no digital speed read-out. (image: James Cleary)

However, with a maximum output of 210Nm delivered at a relatively high 2200rpm the 1.5-tonne H2 won't be threatening the land speed record anytime soon.

Suspension is strut front, multi-link rear, with the H2 City riding on (235/55x18) Kumho Solus KL21 rubber, and on typically pock-marked and bumpy urban roads ride quality could be better.

The steering displays some nervousness on centre, which combines with a lack of road feel and a mildly disconcerting top-heavy sensation in cornering. It's not that the car lurches or suffers from too much body roll; more that something isn't quite right in the front-end geometry.

On the upside, although firm, the front seats are comfortable, the exterior mirrors are nice and big, overall noise levels are moderate, and the brakes (vented disc front / solid disc rear) are reassuringly progressive.

On the downside, the media system (such as it is) is woeful. Plug your mobile device (mine's an iPhone 7) into the car's single USB port and you'll be met by a 'Loading-USB error' message, the heating and ventilation read-outs on the letterbox slot screen are a joke, and to top it all, select reverse and the audio cuts out altogether.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

In terms of active safety the H2 City ticks the 'cost-of-entry' boxes, including ABS, BA, EBD, ESP, rear parking senors, tyre-pressure monitoring and emergency brake hazard lighting.

But forget about more recent systems like AEB, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alerts or adaptive cruise. And you don't get a reversing camera.

The spare tyre is a full-size (18-inch) steel rim shod with narrower space-saving (155/85) rubber. (image: James Cleary) The spare tyre is a full-size (18-inch) steel rim shod with narrower space-saving (155/85) rubber. (image: James Cleary)

If a crash is unavoidable the airbag count runs to six (dual front, dual front side, and dual curtain). And there are three child restraint/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the outer two positions.

The Haval H2 scored a maximum five-star ANCAP rating in late 2017, a rank it would not replicate when assessed against 2019's more challenging criteria.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Haval covers all new cars it sells in Australia with a seven year/unlimited km warranty with 24-hour roadside assistance provided for five years/100,000km.

That's a strong statement from the brand, and well ahead of the major players in the mainstream market.

Service is recommended every 12 months/10,000km, and no capped-price servicing program is currently in place.

Verdict

How you define value will determine whether the Haval H2 City is the right small SUV for you. In terms of metal for money it delivers heaps of space, a reasonable standard features list and adequate safety. But it's let down by mediocre performance, sub-par dynamics and a surprising thirst for (premium) unleaded. Brand Finance may rank Haval high on the power index, but the product needs to climb a few rungs higher before that potential's realised.

Is this Haval H2 City good value or just sharply priced? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Pricing Guides

$23,490
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$19,990
Highest Price
$26,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
CITY 2WD 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $19,990 2019 Haval H2 2019 CITY 2WD Pricing and Specs
LUX (4x2) 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $26,990 2019 Haval H2 2019 LUX (4x2) Pricing and Specs
LUX 2WD 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $26,990 2019 Haval H2 2019 LUX 2WD Pricing and Specs
MT (4x2) 1.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $19,990 2019 Haval H2 2019 MT (4x2) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.6
Design6
Practicality7
Price and features7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption5
Driving6
Safety7
Ownership8
James Cleary
Deputy Editor

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Pricing Guide

$20,990

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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