Haval H9 VS Kia Seltos
- Ride and gearbox both great
- Space galore
- Unbeatable value proposition
- Some electrical gremlins
- Huge lag when taking off
- A longer warranty with public capped-price servicing would help
- Great interior space
- Amazingly practical
- The right size for a lot of customers
- Optional safety stuff on base grades
- Hard plastic armrests on lower grades
- Steering not terrific
From almost the moment carmakers began popping up in China, we've talked of the soon-to-arrive boom in Chinese new-car sales in Australia.
They're coming, we said. And no, they're not much chop right now, but they'll get better and better and better, until they're one day giving the best from Japan and Korea a run for their money.
That was years ago now, and the truth is, they never really got good enough to seriously rattle any cages here in Oz. They inched closer, sure, but there was still a heap of daylight between them and the competition.
But we've just spent a week piloting the updated Haval H9 large SUV, and we can report that the gap hasn't just shrunk, it's near-enough vanished, the daylight reduced to a sliver in lots of important areas.
So is this the beginning of the Chinese revolution?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
This the probably the most anticipated new car in Kia Australia’s history. It’s the 2020 Kia Seltos, the brand’s first proper go at making a small SUV, and it goes on sale on October 25.
There have been prior forays into this market space before by Kia - the Soul could have been considered a small SUV, though it was a big old flop. The original Sportage was small, too - but it moved up in size over the years.
For years we’ve been wondering when Kia Australia would be able to fill the gap below the Sportage - one that has probably seen customers settling for a Cerato hatch until a new high-riding model arrived.
Can it deliver on expectations? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Haval H9 Ultra is proof that Chinese cars are at last living up to the hype. The value proposition is unbelievable, and a five-year warranty helps calm any ownership concerns. Is it bang-on against the competition? Not quite. Not yet. But you can be sure that other vehicles in the segment can feel the H9's hot breath on the back of their necks.
Would you consider a Haval, or do you still doubt the Chinese? Tell us in the comments below.
The Kia Seltos 2020 model range is packed full of surprises - the majority of them very nice, a few of them not so much.
The pick for me is the Sport+ 2WD model, which offers the stuff you want, the safety you should get, and all the drivetrain that most people will need.
We can’t wait to see how the Seltos compares to some of its main rivals in a comparison test later this year. Stay tuned for that.
It's a big and slab-sided beast, the H9, and it's unlikely to win too many beauty contests. But then, few in this category do, or attempt to, and it looks tough and purposeful, which is probably more important.
Front on, it looks positively massive, with its giant and silver-slatted grille, huge headlights and a jumbo foglight perched like alien eyes in the furthest corners of the front end.
From the side, lashings of silver (a touch too blingy for our tastes) break up an otherwise fairly bland profile, with the rubber-gripped sidesteps a nice touch. From the back, a large and largely unremarkable rear end is home to a massive, side-hinged boot opening, with the pull handle mounted to the far left.
It's not perfect in places, though, with some panels that don't quite match up, and more gaps between others than we'd like, but you have to look closely to notice.
Inside, the fit and finish is pretty good, with a giant faux-wood centre console home to a one-touch gear lever, an electric handbrake (a luxury still missing in some Japanese models) and most of the four-wheel-drive functions. The "eco" leather on the seats and the soft-touch dash are both nice under the touch, as is the steering wheel, and the second and third rows are pleasantly furnished, too.
The beauty of the Seltos isn’t its aggressive but stylish front end, it’s sleek and not too boxy profile, or its “Oh my gosh, that looks a lot like a shrunken Holden Acadia - but heaps better!” rear-end design.
It’s the way the designers have pieced this car together to work so well with the dimensions on offer that is the beautiful bit. It’s a compact SUV, but not as compact as many of the other cars in this part of the market.
At 4370mm long (on a 2630mm wheelbase), 1800mm wide and 1615mm tall, the Seltos is among the biggest small SUVs in the mix. It’s not that much shorter than a Sportage (4485mm), and is markedly larger than its brother-from-another-mother, the Hyundai Kona (4165mm), with which it shares a platform.
The big thing will be if it fits in with your lifestyle - an extra couple of centimetres of nose-to-tail length can be the difference between fitting in that tiny parking spot, or having to search the back streets for another 10 minutes.
But there are big practicality benefits of being just a smidge longer than your rivals. And if you want to get to the big-name competitors, the Mitsubishi ASX is 4365mm, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is 4405mm, and the Nissan Qashqai is 4394mm. So the Seltos isn’t too big, and indeed could be the right size for the vast majority of people looking a compact high-rider.
Now, as for the rest of the design, I think it’s really good. It’s masculine but not macho. Stylish but not blingy. Funky, but not too funky.
Though it’s not all roses. While I can deal with the steel wheels on the base car - there’s a good chance a lot of those versions will be snapped up by fleets, and that’s not such a big issue - my design concern comes down to illumination.
This may matter to you, or it may not. But for me, the biggest letdown of the design is that Kia Australia has specced three of the four variants with halogen headlights and halogen daytime running lights. Yellow. Yuck.
It really cheapens the look of this brand new car, and makes it look old before its time.
As for the interior design? Take a look at the interior pictures below to make up your mind
Very practical, thanks for asking. It's a behemoth (4856m long, 1926mm wide and 1900mm high), so space is really no problem in the cabin.
Up front, there are the prerequisite brace of cupholders, mounted in a centre console so wide you could play football on it, and the seats are big and comfortable (and they'll give you a massage to boot). There is room in the front doors for bottles, and the infotainment, while a little slow and clunky, is easy to understand and operate.
Climb into the second row and there's heaps of space (both leg and headroom) for passengers, and you can, without doubt, fit three kids across the back. There is a storage net on the rear of each of the front seats, room for bottles in the doors and two more cupholders in the pulldown divider.
There's no shortage of niceties for backseat riders, too, with air vents and temperature controls and heated rear seats. And there are two ISOFIX points, one in each window seat.
Things aren't so luxurious for third-row passengers, with thin-and-hard seats mounted in cramped surrounds. But there are third-row vents and a cupholder for seats six and seven.
The side-hinged boot opens to reveal a laughably small storage space with the third row in place, but things improve considerably when you flatten (electronically, no less) the rear seats, with a gigantic storage area that will have your phone ringing hot every time one of your friends is moving house.
This is a small SUV that’s going to be the right size for a lot of people because it isn’t so small. Weird, right? But the interior practicality of the Seltos is one of its biggest selling points - it’s among the best, if not the best, in the class for cabin space.
Let’s start at the back - the boot capacity is claimed at 433 litres for models with a full size spare wheel, where the entry-level version has an even bigger boot - 498 litres! - because the floor sits lower due to its space-saver spare. That’s phenomenal room, considering the size of the car - though what’s not so good is that the two lower grade models don’t get a cargo cover/parcel shelf (also known as a tonneau/cargo blind).
That aside, the space is flexible - the rear seat can fold down in a 60:40 fashion to allow 1393L of space. It’s a big, big boot, and will fit the needs of a lot of customers.
The back seat is spacious, too. The room in the second row is beyond what many of its rivals offer, with easily enough knee room, head room and shoulder room for someone my size (182cm, or six foot in the old money) to slot in behind a similarly sized driver. It’s exceptionally good.
There are some issues with the back seat, though. The top spec model is the only one that gets rear air-vents, and the only one with a back seat USB port, too. And lower grade versions don’t get a fold-down armrest, and therefore no cup holders. And there’s only a map pocket on top grade models, too.
Then there are the plastics: hard plastic backs to the front seats (good as it’ll stop your kids from kicking the fabric to threads), but a similar hard plastic is all over the doors in lower grade models, meaning you miss out on padded elbow rests front and rear unless you spend up on the dearer models. It may seem like nitpicking, but rest your elbow on a hard bit of plastic for a while and see if you come away thinking, “Yeah, that was nice!”.
Up front it’s the same - top models get padded elbow rests, the others don’t. The plastic on the dash is mostly hard, too, which is less of an issue unless you have a thing for touching the dashboard a lot.
There are cup holders between the seats, bottle holders in the doors, a decent storage area in front of the shifter for your phone and wallet, and the presentation is nice even if the materials could be nicer.
The big tick (for all but the base model) is that there’s a nice, big 10.25-inch touchscreen media system on top of the dash. It looks great and works really well, and even the base car (with the smaller 8.0-inch screen) gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB connectivity (1x USB in the base car, 2xUSB in the others, plus wireless phone charging in the top grade).
All models get a digital driver information screen with trip computer and digital speedometer, and the instrumentation and ergonomics of the cabin are all spot on.
Price and features
Let's be honest, Haval hasn't been around anywhere near long enough in Australia to sell on anything even resembling badge loyalty. So if it is any hope of increasing its 50-odd sales a month (March 2018), it knows it has to sweeten the pot on price.
And it doesn't get much sweeter than the $44,990 sticker glued to the H9 Ultra. That's about $10k cheaper than the cheapest Prado (and a staggering $40k cheaper than the most-expensive version), and the Ultra is absolutely swimming with kit for the money.
Outside, the alloy wheels are 18 inches, there are LED daytime running lights, front and rear fog lamps, dusk-sensing headlights with a follow-me-home function and standard roof rails.
Inside, the faux-leather seats are heated in the first two rows (and ventilated in the front), and there's even a massage function for the driver and passenger. The windows are powered, as is the fold-flat function for the third row, and there's a sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and aluminium pedals, too.
On the tech front, an 8.0-inch touchscreen (but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto) is paired with a 10-speaker stereo, and there is standard navigation, keyless entry and push-button start.
Finally, there's a heap of safety and off-roading kit, but we'll come back to that under our other sub-headings.
The Kia Seltos model line-up consists of four variants: the entry-level S grade (priced at $25,990 drive-away), the Sport variant ($29,490 drive-away), the Sport+ (from $32,990 drive-away) and the range-topping GT Line ($41,990 drive-away).
That's right - all models on the Seltos price list are drive-away deals. That means the national RRP or MSRP is the same, and you can be assured that you won't be stung by additional delivery and on-road costs.
Let’s run through them model by model.
The $25,990 S variant has an 8.0-inch touchscreen media unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, a six-speaker sound system, auto headlights, halogen headlights and daytime running lights, cruise control, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors. It rides on 16-inch steel wheels with covers, and has a space-saver spare and roof rails.
The $29,490 Sport adds a number of desirable features, including 17-inch alloy wheels, a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat nav (including SUNA live traffic and 10 years of map updates), a second USB port, single-zone climate control, folding side mirrors, halogen front fog-lights, a full-size spare, and auto up/down driver’s window, auto window defogging, and ‘solar windows’.
The Sport+ is available with front-wheel drive ($32,990) or with an up-rated engine and all-wheel drive ($36,490). This variant takes what’s in the Sport model and adds smart key entry and push-button start, heated side mirrors, cloth and faux-leather seating, LED interior lighting, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front parking sensors, a cargo cover. It also adds safety spec - read the section below for more info.
The top-end model is the $41,990 GT Line, which can be had with two-tone paint or a sunroof (but not both!), 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, LED front fog lights, LED tail-lights, LED daytime running lights, interior mood lighting, an eight-speaker Bose stereo, wireless phone charging, a 7.0-inch driver info display, head-up display, fake-leather seats, power adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, a heated steering wheel, auto wipers - and again, there’s additional safety spec.
There are some likeable elements to the pricing and spec equation of the Seltos, but there are some rudimentary shortfalls, such as a cargo blind and LED daytime running lights on lower models.
Engine & trans
It's like a diesel in disguise, this 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, making 180kW at 5500rpm and 350Nm at 1800rpm. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and drives all four wheels. That means a sprint to 100km/h of "just over 10 seconds” - about two seconds faster than the car it replaces.
Haval's All-Terrain Control System is also standard, meaning you can choose between six drive settings, including Sport, Mud or 4WD Low.
There are two engines available in the Seltos - both are petrol, and both are teamed to automatic transmissions. That’s right - there is no manual gearbox option, and there is no hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric or diesel Seltos available. Not yet, anyway.
The entry level engine in the 2020 Seltos range is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘Atkinson cycle’ petrol engine producing 110kW of power (at 6200rpm) and 180Nm of torque (at 4500rpm).
This engine is paired to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic, and is exclusively offered in front-wheel drive.
The top engine is fitted to the all-wheel drive versions of the Seltos. It’s a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 130kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 265Nm of torque (from 1500-4500rpm), and is paired exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Towing capacity for the Seltos is 600 kilograms for an unbraked trailer for both 2WD and AWD models, while braked trailer capacity is 1100kg for the 2WD and 1250kg for the AWD.
Haval reckons you'll get 10.9 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, with emissions a claimed 254g/km. The H9's 80-litre tank will only accept premium 95RON fuel, which is a shame.
The combined cycle fuel consumption claim for the 2.0-litre CVT FWD Seltos model is 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres, which is okay for the segment. For what it’s worth, on test at the launch in Noosa over a mix of driving, we saw an indicated 7.3L/100km for this powertrain.
The 1.6-litre DCT AWD model claims 7.6L/100km, which is - again - okay, but not class-leading. On test, we saw 8.4L/100km indicated on the dash.
Fuel tank capacity is 50 litres, and the Seltos can run on 91RON regular unleaded petrol.
We did a lot of kilometres in the Haval (perhaps subconsciously we were waiting for it to fall over), and over all sorts of road conditions, and it never skipped a beat.
The obvious standout is the ride, which is now very good, and disposes of CBD bumps and corrugations without fuss. At no stage does it feel dynamic or overly connected to the road, but it creates a comfortable disconnect that makes you feel you're floating above the ground. Not good for a performance car, sure, but it suits the character of the big Haval just fine.
The steering has a wafty vagueness, though, and it doesn't inspire confidence on anything twisty, with plenty of corrections when you're tackling something challenging.
The rolling delivery of power is surprisingly strong and smooth when you plant your foot. But there are downsides to a small turbocharged engine shoving the size of a block of flats around. For one, the engine has this staggering delay when you first plant your foot from a standstill - as though you're playing chess with the engine and it is figuring out its next move - before finally surging into life. It makes overtaking moves a heart-stopping challenge at times.
The petrol engine (which does a remarkable job of masquerading as a diesel) can feel a little rough and rugged when you really plant your foot, too, and you'll find all the useable power lurking at the low-end of the rev range. It is bloody comfortable, though. The vision is very good out of all windows, including the rear windscreen. And the gearbox is terrific, seamlessly and smoothly swapping cogs.
But... there were some electrical gremlins. For one, the proximity unlocking is the weirdest we've encountered - sometimes it works, other times its more complicated, and you need a textbook to figure out how it talks to the boot. The alarm went off twice despite me unlocking the doors, too. It might be some user error that I don't understand, but worth mentioning either way.
The Seltos is one of the better compact SUVs to drive, all things considered. But let’s go through it in a bit of detail.
First off, let’s talk about the 2WD models, which have that 2.0-litre engine and CVT auto. Now, those three letters - CVT, which stands for continuously variable transmission - is often enough for some buyers to turn and run, but trust me, these transmissions are so much better than they used to be.
The engine is powerful enough for the vast majority of people’s needs - it revs nicely and gets moving from a standstill without fuss. The CVT is partly to thank for that, as it helps keep the engine in its sweet spot. And thankfully, it’s not too noisy or buzzy as it works.
Being front-wheel drive, it’s not going to be for everyone - but as Kia Australia predicts 80 per cent of sales to be this 2.0-litre FWD model, it’s going to be fine for almost everyone.
I found the steering to be sweetest in the 2WD model - lighter, more agile feeling than the AWD model, but still not quite perfect. It’s a touch heavy, especially when parking or negotiating roundabouts. The steering is a new system that includes a form of feedback and resistance when you return the steering wheel to the centre position, but it still doesn’t feel as natural or easy as some rivals.
The ride is mostly good, though still a bit firmer than some people might like at higher speeds on relatively smooth surfaces (smaller ripples on an otherwise smooth freeway upset the suspension more than they should have).
The 2WD model is definitely the more comfort-focused on the road, and that comes down the fact it is available either with the 16-inch steel wheels with 205/60 rubber or the 17-inch alloys, which have 215/55 low profile tyres, but not as low-pro as the 18s (235/45) on the top-spec GT Line.
Speaking of, that model suffers more road noise as a result of the more aggressive tyres, and the ride is adversely affected. It can feel a little too hard at times, and Kia Australia admits it “maxed out the hard points” of the chassis to achieve the character the company wanted for the Seltos.
Don’t get me wrong - it’s not harsh or firm to the point of being uncomfortable, but it could be softened off, I reckon. To me, it seems Kia Australia’s chassis and steering tuning team is placing too much emphasis on making cars to please reviewers and rev heads - a lighter touch wouldn’t have gone astray here.
The 1.6-litre turbo engine is certainly peppier than the non-turbo engine, especially in the mid-range. And while the transmission shifts smoothly and quickly at higher speeds, and will apparently learn your driving style - but I think it might take some human learning too, as it can be sluggish from a standstill.
The safety story starts with dual front and front-side airbags, as well as curtain bags that stretch across all three rows. You'll also find a revising camera, as well as front and rear parking sensors.
Happily, Haval has also embraced the newer technologies, so you'll get lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring. Off-road, hill descent control is standard, and Haval claims a safe fording depth of 700mm.
The H9 received a four-star ANCAP crash rating when the outgoing model was tested in 2015.
The Kia Seltos 2020 model range hasn’t yet been crash test rated by ANCAP - but based on the current stipulations around safety tech, you can expect a four-star rating on S and Sport models, and a five-star score for the Sport+ and GT Line variants.
It’s a similar thing to what happened with the Cerato. The entry level models come with a form of camera-based low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) with car and pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and driver attention warning.
Kia has once again chosen to offer optional safety equipment on the entry S and Sport grades, priced at $1000. It consists of upgraded AEB (high speed with car, pedestrian and cyclist detection), as well as adaptive cruise control, Driver Attention Alert+, an electronic parking brake, electric folding mirrors, auto up and down driver’s window and 15-inch rear disc brakes (to accommodate the electronic park brake).
The Sport+ variant also includes blind-spot monitoring with intervention to stop you from merging into someone if you don’t heed the warning, as well as rear cross-traffic alert with auto braking.
And the top-end GT Line further adds “Safe Exit Alert” (warns occupants if they’re about to open their door onto a hazard) and “Lane Following Assist” (which centres the car in the lane more actively than the standard lane-keep system).
All models have dual ISOFIX child seat anchors and three top-tether points for baby seats. It comes with six airbags - dual front, front side, and full length curtain.
Where is the Kia Seltos built? For Australia, it’s made in Korea. China has its own domestic market version, and so does India.
As with all Kia models, the ownership program is hard to beat.
There’s a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which remains the best in the business. That plan is bolstered by a seven-year capped-price service plan with service intervals every 12 months (10,000km for the turbo, 15,000km for the non-turbo).
At the time of writing, Kia Australia hasn’t locked down its servicing costs yet. However, estimate about $380 per year on average for the 2.0-litre model, and $470 per year for the 1.6 turbo. That’s pretty high compared to other brands out there.
But you do get seven years of roadside assist included in the ownership plan, plus for models with sat nav there is 10 years of map updates, too.