Haval H9 VS Kia Sorento
- 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
- Comfortable ride
- Great value
- Smaller boot compared to rivals
- Seating position is high in GT-Line
- Grey, blue or white - pick a colour
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|
How do you make something that was already great even better?
I'm only asking because the last Kia Sorento had very few faults, and this new one arriving must have set Kia’s engineers a bit of a challenge. Could they improve the little bits that needed fixing while leaving everything that was good about the Sorento alone? Or would tinkering with the winning formula take some of the shine off Kia’s large SUV?
We headed to the launch of the new Sorento to find out.
|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 Sorento was always great, and Kia could have easily just released an updated car with a new bumper and called it a new model. But the brand has instead jumped in and fixed a few issues that needed addressing, like the ride, the smaller display and the (lack of) safety features.
Now you have an SUV that’s just as practical and good value as the last one, but also one that drives better and is safer, too.
The sweet spot in this Sorento range for me is the SLi petrol. For just $4000 more than the base price this grade comes loaded with features and includes proximity unlocking, auto tailgate and the Harman Kardon stereo.
Would you pick Kia Sorento over a Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Kluger? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
If you can spot the difference between this new Sorento and the previous one, write in and we’ll give you a hat. That is, if we have any left. Which we probably will because we have a lot of hats, and because the differences aren’t too easy to spot.
Look, I’ll even give you a clue; the grille is glitzier, the headlights have been redesigned and so have the taillights, the rear bumper has been restyled and all grades now have a chrome exhaust. All grades have new wheel designs, too.
That premium feel continues into the cabin, with dark textured materials and an excellent fit and finish.
The cockpit isn’t the most modern (compared to, say, the CX-9), but the new eight-inch screen is on the bigger side by current standards, even if its setting and the controls and dials around it are beginning to date.
You can have your Sorento in any colour as long as it’s grey. Okay, that’s not true, there’s also 'Gravity Blue', 'Snow White Pearl' and 'Clear White', joining a trio of greys; 'Silky Silver', 'Metal Stream' and 'Platinum Graphite'.
The Sorento’s dimensions have changed slightly – this new one is longer by 20mm, now 4800mm end-to-end. The height has stayed the same at 1690mm with roof rails, and its width is still 1890mm.
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.
The answer is very. Both head and legroom in the front is excellent, even in sunroof-equipped models, and at 191cm I can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm of space between my knees and the front seatback.
Headroom in the second row is good, but the same can’t be said for the third row which has limited headspace for me - although legroom can be made better because the second row seats slide forward on rails. That said, I could set the seats - the third row, second row and front row - and sit in them all with a little breathing room.
With all seats up, though, there’s just 142 litres of room left for luggage. That was enough to fit two airline overhead luggage cases, but if you have a big family and you’re heading away on holiday, you’ll need to invest in a roof pod. A genuine 450-litre Kia pod for the Sorento costs $995.42.
With the third row folded flat the luggage capacity increases to 605 litres, which sounds enormous, but the Mazda CX-9’s is 810 litres.
Cabin storage is great with two cupholders in each row. There’s two large storage trays in the back row, too, plus there’s a giant centre console storage bin big enough to hide a small backpack, great under-dash storage in front of the gear shifter and big bottle holders in all doors.
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.
There are four levels in the Sorento line-up. It starts with the petrol Si, which lists for $42,990 ($45,490 for the diesel), then steps up to the Sport for $44,990 (the diesel is $48,490), the SLi for $46,990 ($50,490 for the diesel), and the-top-of-the-range (and diesel-only) GT-Line for $58,990.
Prices have increased over the previous Sorento, with the GT-Line now $500 more expensive, the SLi price is up by $1000, the Sport (which used to be the SLi Limited) is up by a $1000 and the Si petrol is $2000 more.
A $60k list price is a decent chunk of moolah to hand over, but if you have a look at the specification sheet it’ll take you about 1.5 seconds to see that the entry grade Si comes loaded with features and possibly everything you’d want anyway, so there is really no need to bother with options.
The Si has the same eight-inch display that comes standard across the range, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a six-speaker stereo with digital radio. There’s also nav, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate, auto headlights with LED DRLs, roof rails, a rear spoiler and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Si also comes with a barrage of new advanced safety equipment which you can read all about below.
The Sport is the Si but with 18-inch alloys and leather seats. Then stepping up into the SLi adds a 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, proximity unlocking, auto tailgate, powered front seats, tinted rear glass, alloy pedals, LED taillights, alloy treadplates and faux-wood trim on the centre console.
The GT-Line is swamped with even more features. Things like heated front and rear seats, panoramic sun roof, 360 camera, LED ‘bending’ headlights, a heated steering wheel, window sunshades in the second row, dual chrome exhaust and 19-inch alloy wheels. None of it is necessary, but all of it is nice to have.
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.
The petrol Sorentos are front-wheel drive and the diesels are all-wheel drive. There’s no manual gearbox but the six-speed automatic transmission from the old car has been replaced by an eight-speed unit.
The 3.5-litre V6 petrol is a new engine (the previous one was a 3.3-litre unit).
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 petrol engine is thirstier than the diesel, but not by as much as I’d have expected. We drove both on similar roads at the launch of the new Sorento and the V6 was using an average of 9.5L/100km according to the trip computer after crawling through Sydney’s urban streets, then onto highways before climbing the winding roads into the Blue Mountains. That’s lower than the 10.0L/100km that Kia reckons the V6 should use in combined driving conditions.
The diesel engine was using an average of 8.2L/100km on mainly country roads. Remember, though, that the diesel is an all-wheel drive. Kia says 7.2L/100km is the official fuel figure.
Then from Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to Sydney airport, the V6 petrol used an average of 7.8L/100km.
You should also know that even though the V6 is bigger than the previous one it only drinks 0.1L/100km more fuel.
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 previous Sorento had a comfortable ride, which was probably a bit too ‘floaty’ for my liking and the steering felt overly light. Those issues have been rectified in the new Sorento, with suspension adjustments that have reduced body roll in the corners while still keeping the ride super comfy, and new steering which feels a little heavier and more accurate.
I had the chance to spend time in the Si petrol, SLi Petrol and the GT-Line diesel.
I’m a fan of that V6 petrol. The response from the engine is instant, while the power and torque feels abundant. The diesel takes a moment to deliver the grunt and doesn’t run as smoothly as the petrol.
Here’s something a bit unexpected; I found the seating position in the base spec Si better than the top grade GT-Line. The manually adjustable seats in the Si could be set lower, while the power adjustable ones in the GT-Line weren’t quite as flexible.
The Sorento is one of the best seven-seat SUVs in this price range to drive. Easy to pilot, plenty of grunt and with good visibility all around.
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 Sorento scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2015. This new version comes with more advanced safety equipment such as AEB, lane keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control – these are standard across the entire range, too.
The GT-Line comes with more equipment, such as rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, and a 360-degree view camera.
If the Sorento was to keep up with rivals like the CX-9, it really needed this advanced safety gear fitted across its range. It's great to see Kia has responded to this need.
You’ll find three top tether anchor mounts and two ISOFIX points for child seats across the second row only.
The Sorento is covered by Kia’s seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. There’s also seven years of capped-price servicing. Servicing is recommended annually or every 15,000km.
The diesel is capped at $403 for the first service, then $471, $465, $664, $454, $570 and $482 for the seventh. The petrol is cheaper to maintain with prices capped at $349 for the first, then $415, $405, $544, $393, $505, and $417.