– Good build quality
– Cabin space and features
– Quiet comfortable ride
– Engine could use more power
– Fuel consumption
– Limited offroad ability
When you think of SUV-specific brands, the names that come to mind are Jeep and Land Rover. Now a Chinese carmaker named Haval has just thrown their hat into the ring, dubbing themselves as an SUV-only carmaker. And this here is one of their four offerings, a midsize crossover named H8. We got one for several days, with mixed expectations.
The H8 is largely an original design, although there are several small trim bits that look to be “inspired” by Mercedes-Benz, such as hood vents, tail lamps and side-steps, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s decently proportioned and comes with 19-inch wheels, but still errs on the overly conservative side.
Inside, it is remarkably well-trimmed and gives off that Germanic vibe again, with a mixture of elements from Mercedes and Volkswagen. There are faux-wood trim and soft-touch surfaces on the dash and upper door panels, with leather inserts that match the nice seat upholstery. There’s even padding in the knee area of the centre-console. Again, it’s all very conservative, but it’s still a nice place to be in, with good build quality and no odd rattles. The doors even close with a solid thud.
The 5-seater unibody H8 is a spacious car, with well-bolstered seats and great kneeroom and headroom front and back. The boot space is decent, but slightly smaller-than-average as priority went to rear legroom. There’s no shortage of cubbies, cup-holders, door pockets and seatback nets though.
The features list is extensive, with items such as a sunroof, an 8-inch multimedia touchscreen with rudimentary graphics but big visible icons, decent CD/MP3/USB-friendly stereo with 10 speakers, Bluetooth, a full-colour LCD info screen within the gauge cluster, a power tailgate, a slightly-temperamental smart key that sometimes isn’t detected, push-button start, a very good a/c with rear temperature controls and vents, lights under the side-mirrors that show illuminated Haval logos on the ground, electric seats with lumbar support, fabric upholstery, 6 airbags, ambient lighting, cruise control, HID headlights with LED running lamps and tail lamps, front and rear fog lamps, parking sensors and a rear camera that annoyingly gives vocal instructions on how to park every time it’s activated.
Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder making 215 hp at 5500 rpm and 324 Nm of torque at 2000-4000 rpm, mated to a 6-speed automatic and hauling over 2 tons, the H8 was never going to be quick. Still, we managed to eke out a decent 9.1 seconds out of the little engine. There is a fair bit of turbo lag and conservative gearing to contend with, but we found it much more pleasurable to drive using the paddle-shifters to keep the revs above 3000 rpm all the time. Fuel consumption took a blow though, at 16.5 litres/100 km, which is something we’d expect from a big V6.
Engine aside, the chassis is clearly designed for a comfortable long-distance cruiser. Going around corners in haste, the wide 255/50 tyres run out of grip early with squealing understeer, but it reaches those limits cleanly with the help of stability control, without feeling like you’ll suddenly head towards a ditch. The body’s motions are kept well in check, and body roll is fairly limited in moderate-speed driving.
The steering is well-weighted, but offers mild feedback and feels a bit rubbery in its action. The brake-pedal is also weighted nicely, and the ABS-assisted four-wheel-discs offer decent stopping power.
The ride quality is good, soaking up road imperfections with the smoothness of a Toyota Camry, while also being just as quiet.
The H8 comes with real metal skidplates on its front and rear bumpers, while being equipped with optional all-wheel-drive and hill-descent control. But with average ground clearance and no low-range gearing, we’d stick to gravel tracks and packed-sand areas. A decent offroad driver can still have some basic desert fun though, once the wide tyres are deflated and the big dunes are avoided.
The Haval name will take time to forge itself as a purveyor of quality SUVs, considering Jeep and Land Rover have been around pretty much since World War II. However, even while they take their time to find their footing in terms of styling and performance, the vehicles themselves are comfortable and built well. It’s only a matter of time before they catch up in all aspects, but for now, optimistic pricing is going to make the H8 a rarity on the roads.
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