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CAPE TOWN – First impressions are important. Whether you're going for a job interview or meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time, you want to leave a lasting – and, hopefully, positive – impression. The same goes for new cars.

At the local launch of the facelifted Haval H2, the Chinese marque’s small crossover (in top-spec Luxury AT guise) impressed, with its fresh front facia, plush cabin featuring myriad convenience items and absorbent ride quality. But how will the H2 fare a second time around?

Haval South Africa handed us the keys to a H2 1,5T Luxury to again sample the top-of-the-range automatic variant but over a longer period. Does the H2 continue to put its best foot forward? Over the course of a week, we put it to the test to find out.

Fuelled to first click, the H2 was ready to leave its urban surroundings and embark on a road trip to Barrydale for a spot of camping. The boot was ample for two people's luggage, plus a small tent and some groceries. However, a family of four might find the 232-litre compartment insufficient for a weekend getaway’s necessities. Valuables are handily hidden by a retractable boot cover.

The cabin is finished in synthetic leather in a red-and-black hue. It's a comfortable place to be, thanks to various soft-touch materials and convenience items. Some interior trim is, however, not on par with the rest of the inside. The front pews are well bolstered and supportive, with six-way electric adjustability offered on the driver’s seat.

The touchscreen infotainment system from the pre-facelifted model remains but now features Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is, unfortunately, not included in the package). A welcome addition, the iOS-enabled screen-mirroring software works seamlessly, which makes listening to your favourite tunes and using Google Maps a cinch. A USB port and 12 V socket, the latter especially handy when camping, are also found inside.

The multifunction steering wheel can be used to adjust volume, skip a track and navigate the trip computer. Sited between easily legible analogue dials, a screen relays information such as average fuel consumption, range and tyre pressures. A digital speedo window on the aforementioned screen would, however, have been appreciated.

Once on the open road, the H2’s 1,5-litre turbocharged four-pot’s fuel consumption dropped from the high 10s to just below Haval’s claimed 9,0 L/100 km, with an indicated figure of 8,9 L/100 km. The six-speed automatic transmission (a six-cog manual ‘box is also on offer) did a commendable job, transferring the engine's peak outputs of 105 kW and 202 N.m of torque to the front axle. However, when tackling inclines, the self-shifter was indecisive in its workings, holding on to a higher gear for too long before downshifting. And, at times, the H2 struggled to keep pace on the highway. Compared with its European rivals’ turbocharged powerplants of smaller displacements, the Haval’s 1,5-litre unit lacks a little in overall refinement and efficiency.  

Soon we reached the turn-off to the farm where the campsite was located and swapped the black top for a long stretch of gravel. Although we encountered a couple of hatchbacks, here the crossover’s increased ground clearance was appreciated. And, even riding on 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235/55 size rubber, the Haval’s ride quality was more than acceptable on the rough stuff.

Resembling the new (but yet to arrive on local shores) Haval H6’s front apron, the H2’s revised item’s squared-off design lends it a purposeful look. The rear bumper has been updated too, while the taillights have been redesigned. The H2 cuts a dashing figure, and garnered a fair amount of attention from fellow campers. The car you see here is wrapped in Chinese Red paintwork with a black contrast roof. Other hues on offer include black, white, silver, blue and brown.

The H2 managed to make the trip there and back on one (55-litre) fuel tank, with range to spare. In-town driving is a cinch, with the Haval’s reversing camera and park distance control setup making it easy to manoeuvre in tight spots.

Haval’s H2 line-up comprises four derivatives, priced from R269 900 for the entry-level, manual variant in City trim level to R329 900 for the range-topping Luxury model driven here.

The H2 1,5T Luxury AT doesn’t want for much. It’s well equipped, with six airbags, EBD and hill-start assist amongst the standard safety items, and various entertainment features. Slightly gruff engine aside, if you’re in the market for a new crossover offering great value for money, it’s worth taking the H2 for a test drive. Once again, the Chinese crossover impressed.

HERMANUS – Haval and its mother company, Great Wall Motors, report only aggregate sales figures to Naamsa each month. On the recent launch of the facelifted H2, however, local representatives lifted the veil to reveal Haval’s small crossover has been finding between 400 and 500 buyers a month. That, if my calculations are correct, means it’s South Africa’s third bestselling vehicle of its type after the Volkswagen T-Cross and Ford EcoSport (we’re curious to see how the newly launched Hyundai Venue and Kia Seltos – both tested in this issue – will fare over an extended period once the initial market excitement levels out). 

It’s an astonishing achievement considering the Chinese passenger-car arm of GWM entered the local market as recently as May 2017. Further interesting nuggets gleaned from the press conference is that the H2 has consistently been selling more than 10 000 units in its home market each month; is Haval second bestselling model globally (the new-generation H6, which is not the model we get here, rakes in the most sales); and that the highest number of H2s found homes in SA in December 2019 during the model’s run-out phase: 464 units.

Now, six years after its Chinese launch and finding itself in a segment that’s quite suddenly bursting at the seams, the current-generation H2 has undergone a facelift to align its design with Haval’s newest products and boost its standard-features tally. 

Visually, the main identifiers are arrow-shaped headlamps equipped with LED lighting units on this flagship Luxury derivative, new five-spoke 18-inch alloys, reprofiled bumpers front and rear, and box-fresh rear lights which ditch the previous units’ dated individual LED elements for more contemporary strip sections. 

The tweaks inside are subtle, but arguably sweeping changes weren’t needed. Aside from a dated-looking infotainment system which now features Apple CarPlay but not Android Auto, plus gimmicky instrumentation, the H2 has one of the best finished cabins in its segment. There are slush-moulded surfaces aplenty on the facia and doors, cloth-covered pillars, plastics that don’t give when prodded and an absence of rattles or squeaks on the model we drove in the Overberg region. 

It’s an impressive cockpit that’s well equipped. Luxury models boast a panoramic sunroof (a new addition), faux-leather trim with a power-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry and start, a reverse camera, six airbags (standard on the City derivative, too) and climate control, which is no longer dual-zone. 

Seating comfort for the driver is tops thanks to a widely adjustable seat – which has a revised profile – and steering column, but my 1,85-metre frame found the non-height-adjustable passenger seat too lofty, with my hair rubbing the padded roof lining. Aft, there’s generous legroom but only average headroom, while the boot might be a touch tight for family duties (when we tested an H2 in September 2017, we measured just 232 litres).

Another weak point in the H2’s otherwise impressive armoury is the 1,5-litre turbopetrol engine. On paper, compared with its 1,0-/1,2-litre rivals, the unit’s outputs of 105 kW and 202 N.m look generous but the powertrain simply isn’t on par with the best European offerings in terms of efficiency and performance. In day-to-day driving, it’s impressive enough, staying hushed and rowing the little Haval along at a decent lick. Up the pace, however, and there’s a spike in noise without much gain in forward momentum. The ruckus is especially notable because the vehicle’s overall noise suppression is better than average. 

The 1,5T is also rather heavy on fuel. My co-driver and I averaged 8,9 L/100 km in mixed-use driving. On our fuel route, that 2017 test unit posted 8,1 L/100 km, which stands in stark contrast to the Citroën C3 Aircross’ 7,1 L/100 km and the T-Cross 1,0 TSI’s incredible 5,2 L/100 km in similar conditions. 

The rest of the feedback is more positive. The H2 offers an absorbent ride without much body lean, while Haval has clearly worked on the steering system as the rate of response feels more natural than in earlier iterations. The six-speed automatic transmission transmission does a good job of keeping the engine on the boil but I did notice quite a bit of hunting between fifth and sixth gears while cruising at the national limit. 

Two and a half years after we first drove an H2, its sheen hasn’t waned much. Despite my reservations about the interior’s suitability for family use and the powertrain’s shortcomings, Haval’s small crossover remains a formidable player in its segment and this facelifted version should only broaden its appeal. Considering the vehicle’s general competence, therefore, just imagine how good the next-generation H2 will be...


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