Suzuki Vitara VS Haval H2
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
- Good looking
- Spacious cabin
- Full-size spare
- 'Busy' ride
- Turbo lag
- Lack of cabin refinement
Suzuki's much-loved Vitara returned in 2015 and it was a happy day for people over a certain age. Over the years, Suzuki has tweaked and trimmed the range, ditching the diesel (much to the chagrin of towing fans) and leaving us with three Vitaras with the subtly updated 2019 model - the entry-level, the Turbo and the Turbo Allgrip.
The entry-level Vitara is a lot of car for the money but there is a small catch - instead of the excellent 1.4-litre turbo engine of the other two, it ships with a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine that has significantly less power than anything else in the segment.
That doesn't seem to bother the target market, though - the base Vitara is by far the biggest seller in the range.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The H2 is the littlest vehicle made by the biggest Chinese SUV company, Haval, and it competes against the likes of Honda’s HR-V, the Hyundai Kona, and Mazda's CX-3. Being Chinese, the H2 is more affordable than its rivals, but is it more than just a good price?
That's how big the brand could become in Australia. The company is owned by Great Wall Motors, which is China’s largest maker of SUVs, and anything that's big in Chinese terms is truly massive (have you seen their Wall?).
If you’ve done a bit of research you’ll have noticed that the H2 is more affordable than those rivals, but is it more than just a good price? Do you get what you pay for, and if so what is it you’re getting, and what are you missing?
I drove the H2 Premium 4x2 to find out.
Oh, and you pronounce 'Haval' the same way you say 'travel'. Now you know.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
It's frustrating that the Vitara is a good car fitted with such a weak engine. It's got great interior space for less money than a Qashqai, a big boot and some nice touches.
The ledger for the base model Vitara is more balanced than the higher grades. While the turbo-engined machines get along very nicely, the ride and handling are great and all the Vitara's strengths are magnified, the entry-level struggles against similarly-priced competition.
The Vitara Turbo is the one to get if you can stretch to it. The Vitara isn't ruined by this engine, but it is compromised.
Is engine power a big deal for you? Or is the Vitara's lack of pace and refinement secondary to its undeniable charms? Let us know in the comments below.
It’s disappointing that a car which looks so damned good can be let down by its interior refinement and driveability issues. In some areas, the H2 is great and goes further than its rivals – tinted windows, a full-sized spare, sunroof and good rear legroom. But the HR-V, Kona, C-HR and CX-3 have set the standard high for build quality and driving experience, and in this regard the H2’s isn’t at the same level.
The H2 is more affordable that its rivals but is that enough to tempt you out of a CX-3 or HR-V? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Not everyone is a fan of the new Vitara's looks, but I am. Most of the colours are fairly vivid and everyone seems to buy it in metallic green, so it was nice to have it in this grey/silver (optional) colour.
The chrome grille can be a little bit much, but I really like the purposeful, chunky profile. Wasn't sure about the new rear lights at first, but as I said in the Allgrip review, they had already grown on me.
The Vitara's interior isn't going to win any materials quality awards, but it seems like it will last a long time. There's nothing amazing about it apart from the fact it's roomy and everything looks and feels honest.
If you squint, the H2 looks a bit like a BMW SUV and that may be because BMW’s former head of design, Pierre Leclercq, led the H2’s styling team (it's worth pointing out that if you squint hard enough, I look like Robert Downey Jnr).
The H2 is small, at 4335mm long, 1814mm wide and 1695mm tall, but it’s bigger than nearly all of its rivals. The Kona is 4165mm long, the HR-V is 4294mm end-to-end and the CX-3 is 4275. Only the C-HR is longer at 4360mm.
Interior refinement could be better and it’s not on the same level as its Japanese competitors. Still, I like the design of the cockpit with its symmetry, the layout of controls is also considered and easy to reach, the hood over the instrument cluster is cool and I even like the opal-like milky finish on the dashboard trim.
Passenger space in the Vitara is excellent for a compact SUV. Part of the reason back seat occupants do so well is because the roof is high, the doors aren't very thick and the seat is a long way off the floor, meaning the distance between the front and rear seats isn't made smaller by angled legs. It's comfortable, too.
Which is lucky because you won't have anywhere to put your drinks or phones or your inboard elbows, which is a shame.
Front seat passengers have somewhere to put their elbows and there are two cupholders. All four doors have a bottle holder.
The boot has a false floor under which you can hide a decent amount of stuff, including small bags. Its volume starts at a decent 375 litres (beaten only by Honda's HR-V and Nissan's Qashqai). Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1120 litres.
The H2’s 300-litre boot capacity is small in comparison to its rivals. The Honda HR-V has a 437-litre boot, the C-HR’s is 377 litres and the Kona’s is 361 litres, but it does have more luggage space than the CX-3, which can only manage 264 litres.
That said, only the H2 has a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor – so what you lose in luggage capacity you gain in being able to drive wherever you like without fear of a puncture and having to hobble to the next town 400km away on a wheel which can only handle 80km/h.
Inside storage is good, with bottle holders in all the doors and two cupholders in the back and two in the front. The tiny hidey hole in dash is more ash tray-sized, which makes sense because of the cigarette lighter next to it, and the centre console bin under the front centre armrest is a reasonable size.
The H2’s cabin is spacious, with good head, shoulder and legroom up front and the same goes for the back row, where I can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm to spare between my knees and the seat back.
Price and features
Engine aside, there is much to like about the base model Vitara - in fact any Vitara - and this one is a pretty decent $24,990.
That lands you, all the way from (somewhat unexpectedly) Hungary, 17-inch alloys, climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, sat nav, leather steering wheel, cloth trim, power windows, four-speaker stereo and a space-saver spare.
That four-speaker stereo is run from the same touchscreen found in pretty much every Suzuki. The basic software is okay but the hardware itself is a bit iffy. Cleverly (and unlike Toyota), Suzuki knew an easy fix for that is to throw in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sorted.
At the time of writing the H2 Premium 4x2 petrol could be had for a driveaway price of $24,990, which is a $3500 discount on the RRP, according to Haval.
You could, of course, be reading this in the year 2089, having just survived another nuclear winter in your impenetrable mountain compound, so it's best to check the Haval website to see if the offer is still valid.
Ignore the word 'Premium', because this 4x2 is the most affordable H2 you can buy, and $24,990 drive-away sounds amazing, but a quick look reveals that many small SUV rivals are also offering deals.
The Honda HR-V VTi 2WD lists for $24,990, but can currently be had for $26,990 driveway; the Toyota C-HR 2WD is $28,990 and $31,990 drive-away, while the Hyundai Kona Active lists for $24,500, or $26,990 drive-away.
So, buy a H2 Premium and you’ll save about $2000 over a Kona or HR-V, which is an attractive prospect for families where every cent counts.
The features list also ticks most of the typical boxes for this end of the segment. There’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen with reversing camera, four-speaker stereo, rear parking sensors, auto halogen headlights, LED DRLs, sunroof, auto wipers, air-conditioning, fabric seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.
So on paper (or on screen) the H2 stacks up well, but in reality I found the quality of the features wasn’t as high as those in the HR-V, Kona or C-HR.
You should know that the H2’s display screen, while largish, feels and looks cheap, and required several finger stabs to select items. The windscreen wipers were overly noisy, the indicators themselves didn’t ‘blink’ in a regular pattern, and the phone system had a delay when a connection was made, which resulted in me saying 'hello' but not being heard at the other end of the line. This caused a few arguments between my wife and I, and no car is worth that. Oh, and the sound of the stereo isn’t great, but there is a cigarette lighter.
Engine & trans
The 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine in the base Vitara wheezes up just 86kW and 156Nm, easily the least-powerful in its class, and by some margin.
I often joke that it's almost like there is legislation about how much power a compact SUV must have. The Vitara is proof there isn't. The $29,990 Turbo has 102kW/220Nm, for comparison.
As with the turbo cars, the 1.6 has a proper six-speed automatic driving the front wheels. You can also get a five-speed manual for $23,990. Luckily it weighs bugger-all at 1180kg.
The Vitara offers 1200kg towing for braked trailers and 400kg unbraked.
Were you planning to take this off-road? Well, maybe reconsider that because the Haval H2 is only available now in front-wheel drive and comes exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission, so there's no manual gearbox option.
The engine is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol (you can’t get a diesel) which makes 110kW/210Nm.
Turbo lag is my biggest issue with the H2. At revs above 2500rpm you’re fine , but below this if you plant your foot if feels as though you could count to five before the grunt appears.
The non-turbo Vitara clocks up an official combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 6.0L/100km, 0.1L/100km worse than the Turbo.
My week with the car saw an indicated 9.2L/100km which is almost a litre worse than the Turbo Allgrip I last tested, and a whole lot less fun.
As has been the case since the Vitara's re-emergence a few years ago, it's a good car to drive. Light steering, supple ride and good body control mean progress is smooth and, if you're going downhill, fun.
For a modern car, it's a featherweight, but without the bounciness of some other cars of this weight. It's also quite maneuverable and is unexpectedly slim, meaning you can thread it around easily and it's not a bother in car parks or tight city streets.
It's good on urban streets, too, because it soaks up bumps and lumps very well.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - the Vitara is a good car. But in this spec, it's a good car with a deeply ordinary engine.
It's noisy, which wouldn't matter except to get anything like decent movement, you have to rev it. If you use anything more than quarter throttle - and you really have to - the transmission kicks down to try and find the scraps of torque on offer. It might be light, but the torque figure just isn't enough to move the Vitara with any urgency.
The base Vitara is slow and noisy and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition. Compounded by a lack of refinement from both engine and transmission, it highlights what a good engine is the 1.4-litre turbo.
The Vitara is slow and noisy, and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition.
There’s a fair bit to say here but if you don’t have long the upshot is this: the H2’s driving experience falls short of what has now become the norm in this segment.
I can look past a seating position that feels too high even on the lowest setting. I can ignore indicators which don’t ‘blink’ in a regular rhythmn or windscreen wipers that clunk loudly. Or even headlights that aren’t as bright as LED or Xenon, but the turbo lag, uncomfortable ride and less than impressive braking response are a deal breaker for me.
First, the turbo lag at low revs is frustrating. A right turn at a T-intersection needed me to move quickly from a standstill, but planting my right foot saw the H2 dawdling out into the middle of the junction and me waiting frantically for the grunt to arrive as traffic approached.
While handling isn’t bad for a small SUV, the ride is overly busy; a jiggly feeling that suggests the spring and damper set-up is less than great. Other car companies tune their vehicle suspension for Australian roads.
And while emergency braking tests show the H2 had automatic activated hazard lights, I feel the brake response to be weaker than its rivals.
Steep hills are not the H2’s friend, either, and it struggled to climb an incline other SUVs in this class have scampered up easily.
Haval wants you to know its H2 scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating and while it has disc brakes, traction and stability control and airbags galore, I want you to know that it was tested last year and doesn’t come with advanced safety equipment such as AEB.
A full-sized spare wheel is also safety equipment in my eyes – the H2 has one under the boot floor, something its rivals can’t claim.
Suzuki offers a three year/100,000km warranty, but there's a small catch. If you continue to service it at Suzuki dealer every six months/10,000km, you're extended to five years/100,000km. That seems like a decent deal.
Somehow, the 1.6 costs more to service than the more complex 1.4-litre turbo, working out at an average $516 per year over the first 60 months.
The H2 is covered by Haval’s five-year/100,000km warranty. There’s also a five-year, 24-hour roadside assistance service, which is covered in the cost of the vehicle.
The first service is recommended at the six-month mark, and then every 12 months thereafter. Prices are capped at $255 for the first, $385 for the next, $415 for the third, $385 for the fourth and $490 for fifth.