Remember the days when the Koreans entered our market? Only the bravest bought one, only to be rewarded with non-existent resale value and questionable spare part availability. However, times have changed, and Korean marques are rather popular these days, with proven track record and decent residual values.
With that being said, Chinese marques such as Haval has been in the Malaysian market for a while, though focusing primarily on commercial vehicles.
Their earlier offerings, like the Haval H5 SUV, wasn’t a popular choice amongst Malaysians. Undeterred, they introduced the Haval M4 in 2014, aimed squarely at budget car buyers. But can the Haval M4, in its range-topping Elite trim, challenge the locals? To find out more, we were given the keys to this blue-wrapped Haval M4 Elite for the weekend.
On paper, the Haval M4 Elite certainly impresses. Not in terms of performance, but rather in terms of features. For a compact SUV that costs less than RM80,000, the little Haval M4 Elite certainly packs a lot of value-added features, like Around View Monitor (AVM), cruise control, an integrated driving video recorder (DVR) and a rear view mirror with integrated Smart Tag!
Visually, the recently-launched Haval M4 Elite is quite a looker. Our test car was fitted with an optional striking blue vinyl wrap, which also includes a carbon fibre vinyl for the roof! Elsewhere, the M4 Elite comes with projector headlights with large LED position lights, front fog lights with LED DRLs, 16-inch alloy wheels and brake calipers finished in red. Sporty intentions, perhaps?
Moving to the inside of the Gurun-assembled Haval, you’ll notice that the company has been very generous with the usage of hard plastics, as the entire door trim is made out of hard plastic. Same goes to the dashboard. Despite that, the M4 Elite comes with leather-wrapped seats with contrasting red stitching, as well as a matching centre arm rest. Fit and finish of the Haval is just about average, with visible gaps found on the dashboard. The neon blue backlit meter cluster certainly adds a little touch to the cheap Haval, offering good readability.
Powering the all Haval M4 variants is a Great Wall-developed 1.5-litre VVT four-cylinder petrol engine. On paper, this little engine produces 105 hp at 6,000 rpm and 138 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm. The M4 Elite is available exclusively with a six-speed automated manual transmission (AMT). This engine. despite what some sources have claimed, has no relation to the 1NZ-FE found on the Toyota Vios.
Upon settling myself into the M4 Elite, I did notice that the seating position was a tad bit too high for my liking, and to my dismay, the driver seat lacks height adjustment. Taller drivers may not be able to view the instrument cluster properly, even with the steering height adjusted to the highest mark.
That aside, the leather seats on the Haval is reasonably comfortable, though lacks proper thigh and waist support. Rear leg room is quite limited, as taller passengers may get uncomfortable during longer journeys. Air conditioning works well despite the hot and dry spells.
The drive however, may take some time getting used to. The Haval M4, in automatic guise, comes with a Getrag-derived six-speed automated manual transmission (AMT). Drive the Haval like you would with a conventional automatic, you’ll notice a loss of power every time the car upshifts. To remedy that, the driver would need to anticipate the gear shifts and ease off the throttle when the car upshifts. Reason for that is because the AMT works just like a regular manual transmission. In place of the human foot operated clutch is a computer-controlled clutch.
Alternatively, the driver could also choose to drive the Haval using the manual mode. Similar to driving a manual, the driver would also need to ease off the throttle just before he changes gears. A bit of a chore, but it does certainly keeps the drive smoother. Power delivery, for what its worth, is commendable. The Haval won’t light your pants on fire, but the strong acceleration from the VVT engine should be able to keep drivers with traffic pace. Engine noise, especially above the 3,000 rpm mark, can get rather intrusive and annoying.
Putting the gearbox aside, the little Haval does redeem itself with excellent ride comfort. No, really. The Haval’s suspension and tires does a swell job of soaking up road irregularities. The 205/50R16 Giti rubbers also contributed to the comfortable ride, and remained pleasantly silent on well paved roads. Larger bumps can be felt from inside the car, but that is not a deal breaker. While the Haval offers surprisingly good comfort, this compact SUV is out of its elements when thrown into corners. Body roll is apparent, though not dangerously tilting to its sides.
Surprisingly for a newer car, the Haval M4 Elite comes packaged with a hydraulic power steering, instead of the fuel-saving electric power steering. In theory, the hydraulic power steering is able to provide ample road feedback to the driver, as well as offering better steering weight. But, the Haval’s steering is a tad bit too heavy at low speeds, and offers very vague road feedback. Brakes are strong, thanks to all-round discs.
All in all, the Haval M4 Elite is a welcomed surprise. If Chinese car makers can adapt and improve at the rate the Koreans did, we will definitely see more of these on our roads. Good for car buyers, as they will be presented with a variety of cars with a given budget. Furthermore, it will be interesting to gauge the long term reliability of the Haval. For a price of almost RM75,000, there are better choices out there, especially if practicality and resale value concerns you.
Haval M4 Photo Gallery