Haval H9 VS Skoda Kodiaq
- 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 handling (on the track)
- Excellent value for money
- Practical for storage and people
- More grunt please
- Diesel only
- Doesn't get here until 2020
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|
Fastest seven-seater around the Nürburgring Norschileffe. Most powerful diesel engine in the Skoda armory. Umbrellas in the doors. Three rows of seats. Is there anything the new Skoda Kodiaq RS can’t do? Yes: it can’t be here in Australia right now.
That’s right, the Kodiaq RS doesn’t arrive locally until March 2020, but luckily Skoda arranged for an overseas version to be brought into the country for us to drive… at a race track.
So, while we can’t tell you what it’s like to pilot on Australian roads, we can tell you what the Kodiaq RS is like to belt around a track… and whole lot more.
Here’s what we know so far in this special preview drive of the Kodiaq RS.
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 Skoda Kodiaq RS is as practical and clever as a regular Kodaiq only faster, safer and tougher looking. The price also just undercuts the luxury tax threshold making it superb value, too.
If only it could be here sooner so that we can drive it on local roads - which we will. So for now, we'll reserve our judgement and just say the Kodiaq was outstanding for its class on the circuit - which is why it scores so well in the driving section.
Keep an eye out for the Australian launch review in 2020 where we'll be able to score it for its on-road, real-world performance, too.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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.
I’m on the record (in my Kodiaq Sportline review) saying the Kodiaq is the best-looking Skoda, with its stance, blacked-out cheesy smile grille and paper-fold sharp creases .
And the RS toughens up the look further. There’s the same grille as the Sportline, but an RS-specific front bumper, side skirts, 20-inch alloy wheels with red brake calipers at the front, and dual exhaust.
The Kodiaq RS’s interior features leather and Alcantara seats with a quilted pattern and RS badging, an RS steering wheel, and the digital instrument cluster has a carbon effect.
The Kodiaq RS’s dimensions are 4699mm long, 1882mm wide (2087mm with mirrors) and 1664mm tall.
Some people may call it a large SUV but the Kodiaq RS is more than 300mm shorter than a Mazda CX-9 and only 100mm longer than a Toyota RAV4. Really, it’s in the Goldilocks zone between large and medium, which will suit many families perfectly.
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.
Skodas are known for their practical side and the Kodiaq, even in RS guise, is no exception. All Kodiaq RSs come standard with seven seats, but it’s squishy for me at 191cm tall in that third row, so they’re only for children or smaller adults.
Second row seating is excellent – I can sit behind my driving position with about 30mm of space between knees and the front seatback, and headroom, even with the optional sunroof, is good.
Space up front is ample as well, even for me with my two-metre wingspan.
Boot capacity with the third row in place is 270 litres, and with those rear seats folded flat you have 630 litres to fill up to the cargo cover.
With all seats folded (not the front ones obviously) you’ll have 2005 litres (to the roof).
Cabin storage is also excellent with a top- and bottom-opening cooled glove box, a large centre console storage area and another hidey hole in front of the shifter.
There are six cupholders (two in each row) and bottle holders in the doors (1.5-litre in the front and 1.0-litre in the rear).
For power and media connection you’ll find a wireless charger, three 12-volt outlets, and a USB port.
The Skoda Kodiaq RS comes standard with a pop-out torch in the cargo area, umbrellas hiding in the front doors at the ready, sun blinds for the rear windows and on all doors there are edge protectors that leap out when you open them to shield them against walls and other cars.
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 Skoda Kodiaq RS is expected to arrive in Australia in March 2020 and will have a list price of $65,990, before on-road costs, which is $14,500 more than the Sportline grade below it.
At the time this review was published Skoda had yet to finalise the full standard features list but it will include: a 9.2-inch screen, fully digital instrument cluster, paddle shifters, three-zone climate control, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, drive mode selection, adaptive chassis control, auto tailgate (with kick open function), proximity unlocking, leather and Alcantara seats, front and rear heated seats, auto parking, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights and a 360-degree camera.
Without even seeing the rest of the features it’s clear the Kodiaq RS is good value. There are prestige cars with half this amount of equipment at twice the price.
Keep in mind, too, that the Skoda Kodiaq is closely related to its Volkswagen AllSpace cousin – the 162TSI is a petrol variant, but look at it, too.
There are only three options available to the Kodiaq RS: metallic paint ($770), panoramic sunroof ($1900), and side steps ($1300).
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.
Power output is 176kW (at 4000rpm) and torque is 500Nm (1740rpm-2500rpm).
The Kodiaq RS I tested was an overseas model and could only be driven on a race circuit. So, while I’m not able to report on the engine and transmission’s behavior in traffic I can tell you that on the track the diesel unit and dual-clutch performed seamlessly.
That said, I wouldn’t call the Kodiaq RS high performance, not compared to say a Porsche Macan, but more on that in the driving section a bit further down.
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.
Skoda says the Kodiaq RS should only sip diesel at 6.4L/100km during a combination of open and urban roads.
Given our testing took place on a racetrack there’s no way for us to verify that figure until we do our own testing when we drive it on Australian roads.
What we do know is that diesel engines are known for their frugalness and you can expect the 2.0-litre engine and seven-speed dual clutch automatic to form an impressively fuel-efficient team.
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.
If you’ve just skipped straight to this bit I need to let you know that because the Kodiaq RS doesn’t arrive in Australia until about March 2020 the one that we tested was an overseas model (a New Zealand version actually).
The Kiwi Kodiaq RS brought into the country was almost identical to Aussie specification, but it did mean we couldn’t drive it on the road… but we could on a race track.
Which is fitting because the RS the sportiest of the Kodiaqs. But how sporty? Well, in May 2018 it broke the Nürburgring Norschileffe lap record for a seven-seater SUV with a time of nine minutes and 29.84 seconds. That was done in a standard Kodiaq RS, too – the same one that will be in dealerships.
So, it’s pretty darn sporty, but I wouldn’t call it high performance. The 0-100km/h time is officially 7.0sec. Look, that is fast compared to most family seven-seaters, but if Skoda could get that below five seconds we’d be getting into high performance territory.
That would involve a stack more grunt and then upgrades to suspension, tyres, brakes.
To be fair, the rear brakes on the RS have bigger and thicker discs and the adaptive suspension is calibrated to be firmer in the Sport setting. Skoda told me apart from the turbo-diesel engine, these are the only performance upgrades.
That diesel engine sounds a bit ‘diesely’ with its clatter-clatter truck-like tune, but put the Kodiaq RS into Sport using the drive mode control, and you’ll be treated to a beefy, low exhaust note.
The sound comes from an electronic device located at the rear of the car. Skoda calls it 'Dynamic Sound Boost'. I call it fake noise. Either way it sounds delicious and Skoda is honest and up front about it.
I’m selling the Kodiaq RS’s performance capabilities a bit short here, but please don’t get me wrong – it’s outstanding compared to a garden variety family seven-seater.
On the track it handled impressively. I did about 30 laps around Luddenham Raceway (in Sydney's west) in dry, cool weather and this 2.0-tonne seven-seater turns in well with only a sniff of understeer.
It washes off speed damned quick under brakes and stays composed and flat when most regular seven-seaters would be completely out of their depth and probably upside down off the track.
Steering is accurate, but a little light, and pedal feel is superb. Combine that with a very decent amount of torque for powering out of corners and the Kodiaq RS inspires confidence, encouraging you to keep pushing it harder and harder. All I wanted was more mumbo.
It’s unlikely Kodiaq RS owners be pushing it to the limit on a race track, so the grunt and handling will be more than adequate for a fun and engaging drive on Aussie roads.
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 Skoda Kodiaq was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2017. In my review of the Skoda Kodiaq Sportline I mentioned that while nine airbags cover all three rows, there was some advanced safety equipment such as rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assistance, blind spot warning and adaptive cruise control which wasn’t standard.
It’s great to see these advanced safety features are standard on the RS, along with AEB.
For child seats you’ll find three top tethers and two ISOFIX points across the second row. Third row seats don’t have anchor points.
The Kodiaq RS is covered by Skoda’s five-year/unlimited km warranty. While Skoda has not released a guide to the servicing costs (expect this closer to the SUV’s arrival in March 2020) the Sportline grade below the RS needs to be serviced every 15,000km/12 months, with the first visit priced at $331, the second at $421 and the third at $601.