Today I am at Haval Edenvale. I am met with a warm welcome from the Sales Manager Izak Van de Merwe. We walk through the showroom floor and I immediately spot the bright blue Haval H2.

GWM (Great Wall Motor) has developed itself by offering bakkies that have built a reputation for being tough and reliable, though a bit simplistic but offering exceptional value for money. Now, they’ve launched the first of a series of SUVs carrying their own upmarket Haval brand name under a new banner in SA.

The test vehicle fitted with a6-speed automatic transmission was, in Fashion Blue, the top of the range Luxury model. Specification rates across the entire range are high with products such as climate control, electronic parking brake, hill descent control (on automatic versions), ABS EBD braking, keyless go and many more.

The luxury model adds items such as full leather trim, sunroof, electric folding mirrors when locking, a touchscreen infotainment system with reverse camera, electric adjustment on the driver’s seat and additional curtain airbags.

Climb inside, pull the door shut and you immediately notice that the elegance of the outside has filtered through the cabin. Soft-touch materials are present throughout, and the perceived quality is very clearly a step up from the GWM passenger cars that we’ve experienced in the past. The buttons and switches work with comfortable solidity and a multifunction steering wheel provides rational control of both the Bluetooth and audio systems as well as the cruise control system.

The H2 range is powered by a 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine with turbo kicking out a significant 105kW/202Nm. I was pleasantly surprised by the power and acceleration of this engine, feeling like this was a much larger engine. Freeway cruising at 120km/h is a breeze with the engine ticking over at just over 2000rpm.  Overtaking acceleration showed no noticeable turbo lag. Road-holding and handling are comfortable and clearly on par with similar vehicles of this type. The 6-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and efficient and makes for an easy and relaxed driving style. During normal driving, shifts are smooth and go almost totally unnoticed.

There’s no doubt the H2 is a solid offering in terms of interior space, comfort and standard features. It is a car that can easily tackle a gravel road (it has hill-descent control) and functions well as a family vehicle. It is clear that, with Haval, GWM is improving the quality of its vehicles at an astounding rate… faster even than Hyundai and Kia managed to do a decade or two ago. Don’t be surprised if this brand finds similar purchase to the Koreans in our market.

By Noni Nchwe