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    With talk of the all-new second generation Haval H9 being on the cards for the Australian market, we had the opportunity to go for a quick drive in the vehicle in China last week.

    For those looking to buy a seven-seat SUV, Great Wall Motors (GWM) already offers the recently launched Tank 500 – however, there’s definitely a subset of the market after the same seating capacity, comfort, interior fit and finish without the hardcore off-roading credentials of the Tank and its competitors, or their price tags.

    That’s where the Haval H9 will likely sit if or when it reaches our market.

    If the Haval H9 does make it to our market, it would need to sit below the recently launched Tank 500 (between $66,490 and $73,990 drive-away) in terms of pricing and capability.

    Since the first-generation H9 was discontinued, GWM has been looking for a more affordable seven-seat option in its Haval range of SUVs.

    The new Haval H9 is currently offered in China with turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.4-litre diesel engines. It would be unlikely – given the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard (NVES) coming to Australia – the diesel would be under serious consideration, and there is currently no hybrid variant of the H9.

    This leaves us with the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission. That engine delivers 167kW.

    Measuring 4859mm long, 1934mm wide and 1853mm tall, the new H9 will sit at the very top of the Haval range. Unlike its predecessor, the new seven-seater sports a far boxier design that’s sure to get a lot more interest from Australia’s SUV loving buyers.

    The G-Wagen/Defender-like design certainly makes the H9 look far more premium in person, but despite what some may think it’s actually the interior that was the highlight of the car for us.

    Haval and GWM, as its parent company, have clearly invested substantial amounts into upgrading and improving their interior technology and fit and finish.

    It would not be remiss of us to say getting inside the H9 is now akin to jumping in a far more expensive European rival, the only difference being the infotainment and in-car technology of the Haval is seemingly further ahead (not withstanding software bugs).

    Details on the vehicle are currently limited (in English at least), but there are two large super high resolution screens, with the centre one able to support wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the infotainment system, backed up by a 10-speaker stereo system.

    We found the front seats very lush and comfortable, while the second row is wide enough to accommodate three average-sized adults relatively easily. There is ample storage space, charging ports (although some in USB-A instead of C) and heaps of headroom given the boxy shape.

    The third row is – as is the case with most SUVs in this class – made for smaller adults or kids. The two seats can fold flat when not in use, providing a reasonable option for temporary accommodation but not ideal for long distance hauls.

    We drove the new H9 around Haval’s testing facility to experience the vehicle accelerating, turning, and climbing steep inclines.

    Our first impressions are rather positive, though tempered by our lack of time behind the wheel. What we can say is the 2.0-litre engine and transmission proved a gutsy and capable powertrain for the vehicle, even with five adults in the car.

    The Haval H9 may not be the hardcore off-roader the Tank 500 is in terms of differentials and locking systems, but with its 224mm ground clearance (to be confirmed for Australia) and all-wheel drive, it’s definitely more than able to get you and your family to the beach and perform reasonable tasks off the bitumen.

    The real question for GWM will be the price and specifications it can bring to our market. As the brand continues to creep up in its price points with the introduction of newer and more improved models, it remains to be seen what the Australian appetite will be for more expensive (and better equipped) Haval models.

    We look forward to driving the vehicle on Australian roads when or if it shows up in the near future.

    Based on previous cases, once GWM Australia decides to bring the H9 it can be ready in right-hand drive and arrive locally within the next 12 months.

    MORE: Everything Haval H9

    Alborz Fallah

    Alborz is the founder of CarAdvice (sold to Nine and now Drive) and co-founder of CarExpert. He is an honourary adjunct professor & entrepreneur in residence at the University of QLD. He loves naturally-aspirated V8s, V10s and V12s and is in denial about the impending death of the internal combustion engine.

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