There is nothing too far these days and the world is becoming smaller as the day passes. We are experimenting with more freedom and in automobiles especially, the boundaries have been erased. ICML is planning to bring the Haval H5 SUV in India which is based on the Japanese Isuzu Axiom. The Haval 5 has already been spotted during testing in Chandigarh and we can expect it to be launched later this year or early in 2013. The SUV which has a body on frame configuration will be available in both five and seven seats configurations and will come in 2WD and 4WD variants. The Haval H5 will be available with features packed to the brim and at a competitive price of between 7 to 9lahks which would put it in direct competition with the Tata Safari and the Force One.

Design

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The exterior design is smart and the sharp headlights remind us of the Mazda XC7. The radiator grille gels well with the lower air dam and on the lower part of the bumper are round fog lamps. From the side the SUV looks great with a high waist line and the oversized wheel arches which cover the big 17inch rims. The hood flows seamlessly into the waiseline while the prominent contour line under the door handle extends from the front wheel arches to the rear of the vehicle. Everything looks well put together and the SUV’s strong proportions disguise its Chinese origins. The good design work however is let down by the poor build quality which is comparable to the Tata Safari.

Interior

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If the exterior design had European flavour, inside the cabin there is no escaping the H5’s Chinese origins. The cabin has loads of cheap plastic and the design of the dashboard already looks dated. Slam the door and you instantly feel the poor build quality which can also be seen in the big panel gaps around the dashboard. Ergonomics are also disappointing and an example being the small storage box located at the bottom of the centre console which is almost impossible to use because the gear knob stays in its way.

We however did like that the standard equipment list which includes leather seats, climate control and USB inputs for the MP3 sound system. The front seats are also available with standard electric adjustment which is a feature that can’t even be found in SUVs in this segment. The driving position is also good but more lateral support would’ve been welcomed. Despite the cabin space being limited due to the ladder-on-frame configuration, the second row of seats offers decent leg and headroom while the cargo space is at par with the competitors. The second row can also be folded to offer more luggage space but the backrests don’t fold perfectly flat so you won’t find this feature very practical.

Engines and performance

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The Haval H5 is equipped with a Mitsubishi sourced 2.4-litre petrol engine which develops 135PS and 213 Nm of torque. Response from the motor is sluggish and the engine feels underpowered. Internationally the SUV is available with a five speed manual transmission which feels notchy and unsettled. There is also a low range gearbox which proves useful for off road use. Another engine is the 2-litre turbo diesel engine producing 107PS@4000rpm and 310Nm of torque between 1800 and 2800rpm.

Ride and handling

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The ladder on frame chassis and the four wheel drive system gives the Haval H5 serious off road abilities. The long travel dampers allow good wheel travel and the SUV absorbs most of the potholes with ease. On the other hand, the handling is compromised and there is a generous body roll around corners. The steering also has a vague feel to it.

Verdict

The ICML Haval H5 has a strong design which lends it road presence. The interiors are spacious and the equipment list is another of its strengths. The build quality however, of both the interiors and exteriors is poor and now with the Indian customer demanding good quality from their vehicles, poor fit and finish is sure not to go down well. The cabin is poorly designed as well and the engines feel underpowered and unrefined and the transmission is also jerky. The handling isn’t something to rave about either and there is a significant amount of body roll. Thanks to its ladder on frame chassis the SUV has good off road abilities but there are too many areas where the Haval H5 seems to be making a compromise for it to be considered as a threat by other manufacturers.

Quotes from other reviews

Drive: “Unlike the modern, city-friendly breed of soft-roaders, the GWM is a more serious off-roader with traditional thinking to its construction. That means compromises but also translates to respectable off-road muscle.”

Its ute-based underpinnings allow generous wheel travel, while the set of low-range gears (selected via a knob) assists with slower speed work and obstacles such as sand.

On road, though, the X240 is less than exemplary. The steering is vague and our car had a mild knock.

Over bumps the GWM can get fussy, albeit disposing of speed humps ably.

Thankfully the Goodyear tyres partly make up for the average road manners, delivering decent cornering grip.”