Our first experience of Great Wall Motors (GWM) premium Haval brand last year was a bit of a mixed bag in the two models that arrived for testing not long after each other.
While the upscale H6 C proved to be an impressive package even in its base City spec, the smaller H2, competing in one of the most important segments and also in City form was a bit more disappointing despite it featuring a good helping of standard equipment and a substantial warranty as well as a service plan.
The elephant in the room
The main issue centred around its drivetrain which married a laggy 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a hesitant six-speed automatic gearbox, that would change its mind at the wrong moment, or hold on to the selected gear for far too long.
Admittedly, the H2 spent the majority of its time doing the daily commute while also running errands and spending the weekend travelling between Johannesburg and Centurion, which contributed in the fuel consumption, despite the engine/gearbox combo, bettering Haval’s claim by 0.4-litres/100km to 8.6-litres/100km.
A redeeming challenge?
With the recent arrival of the top spec Luxury model though, a road trip deep in the South African heartland of the Free State was in order to establish whether the flagship H2 could make up for the base model’s obvious flaws.
It still looks good
Viewed at first glance, distinguishing the Luxury from the City is near impossible with the sole detail being a sunroof. That aside, the H2, despite the white paint finish of the media vehicle does not border on the generic or indeed copycat side of things and comes across as a neat, attractive vehicle albeit less attractive than offerings from Renault, Mazda and the facelifted Nissan Qashqai.
Interior still a mixed bag
Where the Luxury starts to grid its talents is inside. Gone is the dot matrix radio display and its rather gaudy black plastic surrounds, in place of a touchscreen setup surrounded by a piano key black finish. While this ups the H2’s intended plush feel, what continues to let the side down are cheap feeling plastics, especially the silver inserts in front of the passenger, around the doors and on the door grips.
On the flip side of the coin, the cabin is still a comfortable place to be with impressive levels of headroom both front and rear despite the fitment of the aforementioned roof, and good amounts of rear legroom further enhanced by the fitment of a central armrest. As with the City, boot space in the Luxury is capacious with a further boon being the fitment of a full-size 18-inch alloy spare.
Feature rich list of equipment
The H2 Luxury’s biggest trump card though, as with most Chinese vehicles, is the feature-rich list of standard equipment on offer. Already building on that of the City, the Luxury comes equipped with leather seats of which the driver’s chair is electric, six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth and USB, folding electric mirrors, dual-zone climate control, reverse camera with rear parking sensors, six airbags and auto on/off headlights and wipers.
That drivetrain again
Out on the open road, it was again a case of business as usual with the gearbox continuing to be the biggest culprit. Granted, while going about its business when cruising smoothly, a sudden prod of the throttle would see it dropping up to two gears and sending the revs high, making the engine sound strained.
While tipping the gear lever into Sport mode had a dramatic effect on alleviating the constant hunting, it would still be interesting to see how the combination of the six-speed manual gearbox and the 105kW/202Nm petrol mill, which continued to be saddled with low-end turbo lag, fare.
Like the City, the odd nature of the drivetrain had a surprising effect on fuel consumption, which came to a best of 7.6-litres/100km despite spells with both the air-conditioning and cruise control on, as well as town and of course highway driving.
Iffy trim shows
The sometimes poorly surfaced Free State roads also failed to upset the Haval much whose soft suspension took the lumps and bumps with ease, although towards the end of its tenure, a rattle did emerge from the left-hand side rear door which turned out to be trim around the door handle.
With a sticker price of R309 900, the Luxury arguably offers even better value for money than the City and comes with a five-year / 100 000km warranty and five year / 60 000km service plan as standard, but as before, be wary of the drivetrain combo and so-so levels of fit-and-finish.
Article written by Charl Bosch