Haval’s H9 three-row SUV copped its fair share of bad press when it first launched here, so the Chinese carmaker went back to the drawing board resulting in a series of improvements, new active safety kit and a significant price cut.
It’s hoped the changes, and a $5500 drop in entry-level pricing, will be enough to make more people seriously consider the Chinese alternative to the Japanese and Korean seven-seaters.
The key changes include a powertrain boost; with the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four now producing 180kW/350Nm, up from 160kW/324, coupled to a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which replaces the old six-speed shifter.
Despite the extra performance it’s 10 percent more economical, with fuel consumption now 10.9L/100km, which is still a little in the greedy side, but a considerable improvement over the original H9’s 12.1L/100km.
Advanced driver assist functions such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning have also been added, though it still lacks automatic emergency braking.
The Haval H9 has also received styling changes including a new centre console and instrument panel which now includes a digital speedo.
The H9 comes with two newly-named variants, with the Premium and Luxury making way for the Lux and Ultra. The entry-level Lux starts at $40,990, down $5500 from 2017 model despite upgrades including a sunroof, centre armrest with power-outlet, 18-inch wheels and auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Standard equipment across the H9 range includes 8.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, paddle shifters, front and rear parking sensors, front and rear fog lamps, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, cruise control, tri-zone climate control and third row air vents.
It’s surprisingly good off-road credentials have also been enhanced with an electric differential lock and an All-Terrain Control System which allows the driver to select different modes to suit different road and track conditions including Sand, Snow, Mud and Sport plus 4L (low-range four-wheel-drive for rough off-roading) and an Auto mode which adapts to any on- or off-road situation.
The range-topping H9 Ultra replaces the Luxury and is $5000 cheaper. Priced at $44,900, the Ultra gains some decent kit for the sub-$45k price including panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, Comfort-Tek eco-leather seats with first and second-row heating, massage and ventilation function and premium sound system.
As a further incentive, driveway pricing for the H9 Lux and Ultra will be just $1000 more than retail, coming in at $41,990 and $45,990 respectively.
Haval sold just 59 H9’s in Australia last year, but its Australian chief marketing officer Tim Smith believes the changes will attract more buyers seeking an affordable but well-equipped family SUV.
“We’re very confident we have made a compelling argument for Australian families to test drive the new HAVAL H9,” Smith said.
“We’ve worked very hard to deliver a seven-seat SUV that delivers for Australian families at the best possible price.”