First drive: 2020 Haval H2 in the UAE
We have been following the rise of Chinese cars in the Middle East with a lot of interest now. The barrage of new brands and models has been ongoing for the past decade now, but all the offerings have been lacklustre in one way or the other. They are getting better with every iteration though. So when we got the new Haval H2 for a test-drive, we were hoping China’s carmakers have finally caught up to the competition.
The Haval H2 is comparable with the likes of the Nissan Kicks and the Honda HR-V in terms of length, but it actually sports a taller SUV body, has far more features, and undercuts the popular brands in price.
Haval’s main problem is that their exterior design is stuck in the 90s, even with a facelift for 2020. Despite flashes of playfulness in its styling elements, the H2 isn’t going to get people talking. But its generic design isn’t ugly by any means, and should appeal to more conservative buyers.
Step inside though, and Haval blows your mind by punching well above its weight. For the price of a basic plastickly Honda, you get a fully loaded H2 with soft-touch padding on the dash and doors, stunning tan leather upholstery, thickly bolstered seats, good-sized touchscreen, pretty good stereo, cruise control, panoramic glass roof, smart key and all sorts of features found only on top-spec crossovers. The single-zone auto a/c does a decent job in a Dubai summer afternoon, but there are no rear vents.
There is no shortage of passenger space either, as there’s as much headroom and legroom as crossovers a class above. There are enough cup-holders, cubbies and pockets, more so than others in this class. The boot space appears to be more than its direct rivals as well, although the under-floor space around the spare wheel is left unfinished.
The H2 is powered by a 1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder, good for 148 hp and 210 Nm of torque. Mated to a 6-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive, the powertrain tuning remains a weak point, as with every other Chinese car we’ve driven. The engine suffers from heavy turbo lag, and the gearbox likes to sit in high gears no matter how hard you floor the throttle pedal, making you think you’re in limp mode. Acceleration is far better when you slip the shifter into manual mode and select your own gears, keeping the engine revs up to avoid the lag.
Fuel consumption clocks in at about 10 litres/100 km, no doubt helped by the transmission tuning. It is clearly designed for casual comfortable cruising, so the ride and quietness are decent enough, on par with the competition. It handles like a car, with controlled body roll and acceptable grip from the 235/55 tyres on 18-inch wheels, but it isn’t an entertainer. The brakes are fine, but the steering lacks feedback.
The Haval H2 is still a work in progress, but certain elements such as the interior trim and amenities show that the company is constantly upping the game. While the performance is still in the you-get-what-you-pay-for category, you get so much already for the price that it’s hard to argue against it.
For UAE prices and specs, visit the Haval buyer guide.
Photos by Mazin Hussain Chowdhury.