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Haval H9


Kia Seltos

Summary

Haval H9

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?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency12.1L/100km
Seating7 seats

Kia Seltos

Sometimes a new model arrives with one particular grade that seems to exceed the sum of its pricing as well as parts. Just such a model is the entry-level Kia Seltos, the S.

Launched in late 2019 as the company’s small SUV answer to the successful Mitsubishi ASX, the SP2-series Seltos is a lot like a Kia Cerato, but with a big and boxy body plonked on top for more space, extra utility, higher seating and greater ground clearance (at 177mm) – courtesy of the related Hyundai Kona DNA infused within.

Result? The cheapest version makes for an ideal value urban runabout. And here’s why.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Haval H97.1/10

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.


Kia Seltos9/10

On paper, the cheapest Seltos might seem the least appealing of the range. Base model, tiny wheels, unremarkable 2.0-litre engine and a CVT auto are hardly the stuff of champions.

Yet, with its boxy good looks, utilitarian proportions, hardy presentation, agreeable performance, absorbent ride, ample road clearance, thoughtful equipment levels, accessible pricing, low running costs and superlative after-sales care, the S starts to shape up as a handsome and likeable overachiever of the small SUV set.

Budget for the Safety Pack and do insist on that AWOL parcel shelf, and you’re left with what might be one of the today’s most suitable and formidable real-world urban propositions. The Seltos S rises above its station with an infectious can-do swagger.

Design

Haval H97/10

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.


Kia Seltos

An imposing nose. Chunky styling. A ‘floating roof’ design. Vibrant colour choices. With a hint of old-school Subaru Forester in its boxy utilitarianism, the Seltos literally stands out in a very crowded sector. Little wonder it’s already a big hit.

It’s interesting how Kia and Hyundai went down very different visual avenues with what are essentially the same basic mechanical ingredients. The former is all about space and sensibility while the latter is very much contemporary style orientated.

Maybe that’s why, despite brandishing a handsome set of hubcaps, the S’ 205/60R16-shod steelies look a wee-bit tiny in those huge wheel arches.

That pleasing practicality ethos outside has been transferred inside the Seltos too, with a simple approach to the dashboard design that aims to enhance your interaction with it rather than distract, confuse or even intimidate. That just isn’t Kia’s way.

Practicality

Haval H98/10

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.


Kia Seltos

First thing’s first. It’s difficult to think of a cheaper new car that’s easier to get in and out of than the Seltos. Big doors, wide apertures, a tall ceiling, overhead grab handles, lofty cushions and a sense of airiness make it utterly undemanding. Swinging your hips up and on high flat seats (and down and off again), are further bonuses.

If you’re somewhat creaky in the bones and not so mobile, ensure this is on your list.

Most materials are of the hardy, durable variety, with the plastic (rather than leather-sheathed) wheel probably the next biggest giveaway after the wheels that you’ve chosen bargain-basement.

But at least you can sink yourself into soft and inviting cloth-ish seat fabrics. And there’s still some flair in there anyway, from door grilles which either look like an ode to Melbourne’s Fed Square or punched-in speaker grilles, to dimpled textures and contrasting shades of silvers and greys. Very Teutonic. 

The majority of drivers should count on excellent front and side vision (though wide C-pillars do blot out over-the-shoulder parking sight lines), as well as a tilt/telescopic steering column and a height-adjustable cushion for locating the ideal seating position.

And everybody should admire the outstandingly concise instrumentation markings, plentiful ventilation and copious storage – including the deep front door pockets, shallow fascia shelves (one next to the two 12V and single USB outlets for maximum practicality) and a sizeable centre-console bin-cum-elbow rest.

It’d be near-impossible finding a less painless rental experience after 30 hours flying to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, than the user-friendly Seltos. That also applies to the uncomplicated multimedia connectivity and transparency of all vehicle controls.  

Moving on to the back (possible without having to leave the car thanks to clambering-aiding space between the front seats), that flat and somewhat featureless cushion too is raised, which – like the wide-arc door opening – assists entry and egress as well as the view out for shorter folk.

It’s a light-filled expanse of rear-seat space, in contrast to the oppressive darkness of most small SUVs. We’re looking at you, Toyota C-HR and Mazda CX-30.

There are a few surprising extras and omissions. On the credit side you’ll find two-angle reclinable backrests, a reading light and windows that wind almost all of the way down. Fido will be pleased. None are base-grade guarantees. But could the carpet feel grittier? Optional mats ($163.89 ex-Kia) are a must.

There are no face-level air outlets, map pockets, USB ports or cupholders back there, while the S and Sport grades miss out on that parcel shelf. That’s almost dog-act penny-pinching. If you want one, that’s $346.12 thanks.

Speaking of the luggage area, the boot opening is huge, the floor flat and the load space level. There’s a wagon-like low lip to haul things over, and there’s more cargo capacity at 433L than every one of its popular small SUV foes, including the Qashqai (430L), ASX (393L), Toyota C-HR (377L), Suzuki Vitara (375L) and Kona (361L). The Tardis-like HR-V, meanwhile, pips the Kia by just four litres at 437L. A space-saver spare lives underneath.

All in all, then, the Seltos’ cabin is big and spacious and inviting to interact with, but what it isn’t is innovative. We can’t help thinking that, given all that interior space, Kia missed a trick not engineering a sliding rear seat as per the Skoda Karoq, or under-seat storage drawers.

Price and features

Haval H99/10

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.


Kia Seltos

From $25,990 before on-road costs, the Seltos S represents compelling buying, and not just among similar small SUV autos like the versatile Honda HR-V VTi (–$500) and bestselling but ancient Mitsubishi ASX ES (also a tenner under $26,000), as well as the exxier Toyota C-HR 2WD, Mazda CX-30 G20 Pure (both +$4300 apiece) and Nissan Qashqai ST (+$4600).

Thanks to some deft design and packaging, subjectively the Kia feels just about large enough to play in the medium SUV league, alongside favourites such as the Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2WD (+$7290). And while, stood side-by-side, the latter’s larger proportions are plainly obvious, its cargo capacity is just nine litres more than the Seltos’ 433L.

As with all of the above, the base Seltos is front-wheel drive, in this case employing a 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine and box-fresh continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic combination. No manual is available, sadly.

The S is very well equipped for an opener, boasting an 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia display, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, cruise control, automatic on/off headlights, reverse camera, rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with vehicle and pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, driver attention alert and 16-inch steel wheels with a space-saver spare tyre.

And let’s not forget Kia’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

We advise ticking the $1000 'Safety Pack' option, since it ushers in worthwhile goodies like adaptive cruise control, electric folding exterior mirrors, a driver’s side auto up/down window, cyclist collision avoidance braking as part of a more-sophisticated AEB system, larger rear disc brakes and an electronic park brake with hill-hold. Bargain.

However, there are some spec anomalies. You’ll need the $28,990 Sport for digital radio and alloy wheels (though it does also introduce a nicer full-colour 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat-nav); only the $32,490 Sport+ onwards brings a parcel shelf/cargo area cover (!), blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic avoidance and remote unlocking, while rain-sensing wipers, wireless phone charging and any sort of front LED lighting are the preserve of the GT-Line AWD flagship, from $41,400.

The latter includes a more powerful 1.6-litre turbo with all-wheel drive, though it’s also a $2500 option on the aforementioned Sport+; note that also bags a multi-link independent rear suspension system in place of the more-rudimentary torsion beam arrangement in FWD models. Metallic paint lightens your bank account by another $520.

Do you need all that extra gear? The upper Seltos’ play in serious medium SUV territory… highlighting just how much car the base S actually offers.

Engine & trans

Haval H96/10

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.


Kia Seltos

Kia offers two distinct four-cylinder petrol powertrains in the Seltos.

In the three lower-end models including the S tested here, there’s a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine producing 110kW of power and 180Nm of torque driving the front wheels via a CVT, while a 1591cc 1.6-litre turbo delivers 130kW/265Nm to all four wheels via a seven-speed DCT in the Sport+ AWD and GT-Line AWD.

Make no mistake, even with fewer muscles to flex, the S’ 2.0-litre four provides more than enough performance for its intended function. Just a light press of the throttle will have the Kia leaping into action, and the front wheels scrambling for traction burying the pedal to the metal, and pulling strongly up, right up to the 6500rpm red line.

In doing so it’s neither the quietest nor the smoothest engine in its class – the downsized 1.2-litre turbo in the C-HR shines in this regard – but there is nevertheless more than enough punch in reserve for safe and confident overtaking. Expect a 0-100km/h figure of well-under nine seconds, which is strong for this class of SUV.

Such willing performance would not be possible without the natural and eager responses from the new transmission, which is probably the best CVT we’ve ever experienced in terms of emulating a (decent) torque-converter auto. It shifts smoothly, evenly and without the gearing-related roaring and droning that have blighted these sorts of powertrains for decades.

Fuel consumption

Haval H96/10

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.


Kia Seltos

Better still, given the size and space offered in the Seltos, the 2.0-litre/CVT combo is a comparatively economical one, returning an indicated 8.6L/100km after eight days of restful and spirited driving alike, 0.2 litres per 100km better than the official urban rating. The S’ combined urban/extra-urban average is 6.8L/100km, for a carbon dioxide emissions figure of 157g/km.  

The Kia will gladly run on standard 91 RON unleaded petrol or 94 RON E10 ethanol/unleaded. 

Fitted with a 50L fuel tank, expect up to 735km between top-ups based on that 6.8L/100km official combined average number.

Driving

Haval H97/10

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.


Kia Seltos

Here’s where the Seltos’ core strengths of pace, space, access and ease come to the fore, dovetailing with a few more virtues to highlight how well the small SUV works in an urban environment.

As outlined earlier, the S is hot to trot from the word go, making it a prompt point-to-point performer, with the CVT presenting none of the hesitation or lag on inclines that blight some dual-clutch (DCT) autos. This is a smooth and relaxing machine to scoot around town in.    

The steering, too, feels light and prompt, for effortless cornering and U-turn manoeuvres; and while there’s some lean due the Seltos’ raised centre of gravity, the upshot is sufficient spring travel for soaking up the ragged ruts and bumps peppering many urban streets, backed up by hump-traversing ground clearance.

Kia, like Hyundai, makes much noise about how it tunes most new models specifically for Australian conditions, and that seems to show out on the open road, thanks to solid and surefooted handling.

If you really push through fast corners the Seltos will lean quite a bit and seem a tad ponderous as the vehicle’s weight shifts about through tighter turns, but it never feels top-heavy or unwieldy.

As far as tall SUVs go, the S is pretty planted. Plus, while not especially quiet, the amount of wind, road and tyre noise heard inside is acceptable.

Note, however, that over gravel at even fairly moderate speed, the stability and traction systems seem a little too relaxed in that they allow the Seltos to slide wide before they intervene to straighten things out again, and do too abruptly at times, cutting power and making for some jerky progress.

If this is a concern then you might want to consider either spending the extra $10K on the AWD version or avoiding such roads, because the S behaves best on bitumen. 

Safety

Haval H97/10

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.


Kia Seltos

The S comes with a long list of standard safety kit, including anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake-assist, stability and traction controls, AEB with vehicle and pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, driver attention alert, downhill brake control, hill-start assist, reverse parking sensors, rear-view camera with parking guidelines, six airbags (driver, passenger, and side and curtain airbags), and auto on/off headlights with delay function.

There are also two rear-seat ISOFIX points as well as three top tethers for straps.

Like we said earlier, a more sophisticated AEB system with added cyclist collision avoidance braking, adaptive cruise control with stop/start functionality, electric folding mirrors and larger rear-disc brakes are among the extra features of the $1000-optional Safety Pack on S and Sport grades.

Thus-equipped, the S is at the forefront of safety for the small SUV class. ANCAP says the AEB works between 10km/h and 40km/h.

The Seltos scored a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating during 2019.

Ownership

Haval H97/10

Expect a five-year/100,000km warranty, with service intervals pegged at six months and 10,000km. Service costs are available at Haval dealerships, so be sure to check them out before you sign on the dotted line.


Kia Seltos

For some time now, Kia has led the industry with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty as well as roadside assistance.

Service intervals are every year or 15,000km, while published basic capped-price servicing ranges from $261 to $593 depending on the interval. The total is $2818 over seven year, averaging $402.58 annually over that period.