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They're small in stature and big in character, but which of these tough little SUVs is best?

Whether you see them as a genuine lifestyle companion or a marketing contrivance, SUVs and crossovers have become the automotive equivalent of a Swiss Army knife, dealing with everything from round-town duties to the school run, motorways and even, on occasion, straying onto dirt roads in search of adventure. Therefore, it’s understandable that the entrance of a new model into the hotly contested segment for small SUVs/crossovers is met with a ripple of excitement, growing to a veritable groundswell of expectation when said newcomer wears the Toyota badge. Forming the entry point to Toyota’s lifestyle stable, the Rush faces stiff competition from both established players in the field, as well as upstarts from Chinese firms such as Haval.

The crew

In essence, the gathered cars can be split into two categories: those based on MPVs from their respective stables; and those with car-based underpinnings. Falling into the former bracket are the Rush and BR-V. The Rush can trace much of its mechanical lineage to Toyota’s basic but venerable Avanza MPV, while Honda’s BR-V is essentially a rebodied and mildly reworked version of the now-departed Mobilio and has become the sole seven-seater in the firm’s local line-up.

Spun off the platform underpinning the robust Logan budget sedan, the Duster (which has, of course, since been replaced) treads closer to the small-SUV line than the others, especially when you bear in mind the 4x4 model is a particularly capable off-roader.

As for the H2, its roots are a little harder to trace but it’s one of a host of models based off Haval’s family of unibody chassis and can therefore be linked to any number of sedan and crossover models from the firm’s extensive global line-up.

Why is this relevant? Well, each family counters the others’ particular strengths and weaknesses – from packaging to driveability and everything in between – meaning buyers’ decisions won’t be based on looks alone. Even so, we’d be kidding ourselves if we were to exclude the aesthetic element.

Style vs. space

On paper, the Rush, with its bold nose, bulging bonnet and cross-over cladding, ticks the requisite styling boxes and looks reasonably rugged. Meet it in the metal, though, and there’s no escaping the fact that these elements have been applied to a decidedly Avanza-shaped frame. However, while its bluff sides and tall profile with a strong downward curve to its nose may not scream pseudo-SUV, it does play host to a particularly spacious interior.

In other markets, the Rush – also badged as a Daihatsu Terios – is fitted with a third row of seats but South Africa gets only a five-seat arrangement with a sliding second-row bench, likely in an attempt to keep the newcomer from treading on the seven-seater Avanza’s toes. Losing the rear bench does, however, create a load space which comfortably eclipses those of its rivals, albeit without the added security of a tonneau cover.

The BR-V contains its spacious innards in a frame that, with its two-box profile and roof rails, has a touch more crossover flavour than the Rush but still doesn’t quite manage to hide its dowdy MPV roots. The third row can be rolled away to free up a similar amount of luggage capacity to the Rush, although the boot becomes little more than a sliver of airspace with seven aboard.

Thumbing its nose at the others’ genteel curves and creases, the Duster is unapologetically chunky and utilitarian in its styling, and possessed of a handily proportioned boot.

Looking very much the sophisticate in this company, the H2 is evidence the Chinese have finally realised the correlation between chrome and class isn’t 1:1. Block out the badge and you could just as well be looking at any number of upmarket European small crossovers and, while its boot is the smallest here at 232 litres, it’s still decently proportioned.

Behind the wheel

Climbing into the Rush, you’re immediately aware of the commanding view of the road the seating provides, but that’s about where the benefits of the lofty perch end. With limited rake adjustment for the steering column and the lowest seat-height setting still rather high, taller drivers will find the wheel uncomfortably close to their lap. The chunky propshaft tunnel of this car’s RWD configuration eats into the footwell, leaving little space to rest your clutch foot.

Although hewn from hard plastics and finished with faux stitching, the Rush’s cabin feels well screwed together and the two-tone trim lends some liveliness to the atmosphere. The neat touchscreen infotainment/sat-nav (standard fitment) system sports a crisp interface and sits usefully high on the facia.

The Duster’s infotainment system, although function-rich and with an interface as chunky as the exterior, sits way down by the driver’s knee and forms part of a cabin that’s well enough constructed but marred slightly by the scatter-gun layout of some ancillaries. Thankfully, the driving position is a touch more natural than the Rush’s, if not quite as commanding.

With their closely set gearing and snappy (albeit in the Duster’s case, slightly rubbery) gearshifts, these two prove suitably brisk and wieldy round town but things begin to go awry when motorways beckon. That close gearing sees the Rush’s rev-happy 1,5-litre engine climb to about 4 000 r/min when travelling at the national limit, with intrusive differential whine accompanying the thrashy soundtrack.

It’s better at 3 200 r/min on the motorway in the Duster and, with a mite more torque and better NVH suppression, it doesn’t feel as strained as the Toyota’s frenetic-but-seemingly unburstable 2NR-VE engine. The consensus among the team is both of these cars would benefit from a tall sixth gear to make motorway driving less of a droning affair.

Although it’s only 11 kW up on the Rush and Duster, the BR-V’s 1,5-litre unit manages to be both free revving and acceptably refined. It’s also coupled with a pleasingly snappy gearbox and easily modulated clutch, making it a breeze to pilot.

Another Honda-ism is the interior, which is awash with hard plastics but ergonomically well considered and solidly put together. While it does feel durable, though, the BR-V has a certain light, slightly hollow overall feel to it, sitting at odds with its otherwise bulletproof build.

The H2’s turbocharged 1,5-litre inline-four is comfortably more powerful than its rivals’ naturally aspirated units and even bests them when it comes to refinement. This is especially apt, as the Chinese car’s cabin leaves the others’ interiors in the shade. Slush-moulded trim panels, quality switchgear and a design that’s both ergonomically sound and solidly constructed make the H2 feel a cut above the rest in its segment.

Unfortunately, the H2’s drivetrain is a chink in its otherwise polished suit of armour. The engine behaves a bit like an old-school turbo unit, wading through palpable lag before delivering the goods at higher revs. Lifting off the throttle sees it quickly drop out of the power band. Factor in a notchy gearshift that cannot be hurried and the result is sometimes laborious progress to the meat of the performance on offer, often necessitating extra revs to keep momentum going. The heavy 1,52-tonne H2’s 13,50-second 0-100 km/h sprint is the slowest in this company, while it (literally) lags anything from four to six seconds behind the others when overtaking from 60-80 km/h in top gear. With the turbo finally turning, the H2’s top-gear 100-120 km/h time sees it claw back some respectability, being the second-quickest.

The Rush’s ride, although sometimes choppy, doesn’t succumb to ungainly rebound and manages to iron out most obstructions in its path. It’s in the driving experience where echoes of the related Avanza begin to emerge. With its narrow track, long wheelbase and a profile that presents a good deal of sheetmetal, the Rush has a top-heavy feel to its demeanour. Brisk cornering unearths significant body lean, while a profile that presents a good deal of metal to crosswinds can make it feel a bit unstable when caught in a gust.

In fact, with its 220 mm of ground clearance, stability control (the only car here so equipped) and mechanical robustness, the Rush seems better suited to a leisurely pace on dirt roads. It’s only when the Duster makes an appearance that the Rush has to concede some rough ground. Although marginally down on ground clearance, the Duster’s impressive axle articulation and suspension is adept at taming rutted surfaces and tarmac, and make it a versatile go-almost-anywhere vehicle. Although its steering feels slower geared than the Rush’s, it’s nonetheless pointier and the additional weight lends the Duster a more substantial feel.

Although its 210 mm of ground clearance matches the Renault’s, the BR-V doesn’t have quite its dirt road-taming ability. That’s not to say it’s averse to straying off the tarmac but its real talents lie with its well-balanced on-road persona. The steering is typically Honda, being accurate and pleasantly weighted, if not feelsome, and the ride and body control are resolved to the extent of being more hatch-like-wieldy than its rivals here.
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...
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.

Latest Resutls for Haval H2

Full Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Cloth upholstery: Standard
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Cruise control: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • CD player: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: Standard
  • Central locking: keyless
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Xenon headlights: LED
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: rear
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 611 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 6
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Electromechanical parking brake: Standard
  • Front tyres: 235/55 R18
  • Reartyres: 235/55 R18
  • Spare wheel size full: Standard
  • Length: 4365 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1814 mm
  • Height: 1710 mm
  • Wheel base: 2560 mm
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1520 kg
  • Gross weight (GVM): 2025 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 750
  • Towing capacity - braked: 1225
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 55l
  • Fuel consumption average: 9.0 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 214g/km
  • Emission control phase Euro EU level: 6
  • Power maximum: 105 kW
  • Power maximum total: 105 kW
  • Power peak revs: 5600 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 69.1 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 202 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 2200-4500 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 202 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 133 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: n/as
  • Maximum top speed: 180 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1497 cc
  • Engine size: 1.5l
  • enginedetailshort: 1.5T
  • Engine + detail: 1.5 turbo
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 16
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 5
  • Warranty distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 5
  • Service plan time (distance): 60000 km
  • Roadside assistance time: 5
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Brand: Haval
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 24625160
  • MMVariant: H2 1.5T CITY A/T
  • MMintrodat: 2017-05-01
  • Introdate: 2020-01-27
  • DuoportarecordID: HavaH2_1Fe2

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