When the Haval H2 hit our market a few short months ago, the motoring public and media went, well, crazy for it.
And now the H2, in 1.5T Luxury Auto guise, has just been nominated as a semi-finalist in the highly prestigious Cars.co.za Consumer Awards - powered by WesBank - and also just known as #CarsAwards. So making Haval the first Chinese brand to have the honour of cracking the nod as a semi-finalist.
Indeed, this staggeringly successful SUV is a hot contestant in its category, Compact Family (R250k to R350k). This sees it going head-to-head with the likes of established favourites, namely the Renault Captur 66kW Dynamique, the Honda HR-V 1.5 Comfort, the Hyundai Creta 1.6 Exec Auto - and the reigning champion from last year, the Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GLX Auto.
The criteria, by the way, for the Compact Family category is listed as: "With household budgets stretched to breaking point, the reasonably affordable modern-day family car has to wear many hats - from compact traffic dodger, to spacious school-run specialist and even weekend getaway machine. Practicality and spaciousness are important considerations, but so are safety, technology, fuel efficiency and a modicum of lifestyle flexibility."
Now the next round of #CarsAwards will take place next month. After that, once three finalists are selected in each of the 13 categories, the various vehicles will undergo rigorous back-to-back testing in Gauteng in November.
But needless to say we're rooting for the H2. And we're not being unrealistic either!
As mentioned, the motoring media has been rapturous about this machine.
Just take a look at Cars.co.za's own verdict on the 1.5T Luxury Auto when they tested one in June - and bear in mind that this is a website well-renowned for not holding back any punches:
"Can there be a more effective way to enter the local market than by introducing a model that offers almost unbelievably good value for money compared with its well-established rivals? The arrival of Haval in South Africa had been anticipated for a number of years and even though the H2 arrives in Mzansi half way through its model life, there seems less risk when entering a burgeoning market segment where long-established brand biases count for less. Whereas sister brand GWM's SUV offerings aimed to create an air of prestige on top of a brand whose reputation was based primarily on commercial vehicles, Haval's product pitch is purposely premium and the brand's reputation in the East is anything but insignificant."
Of course, we at Haval can only agree that our "product pitch is purposely premium."
Just as we can only nod our heads in assent when Cars.co.za adds:
"As was the case with many of its fellow Chinese offerings, this newcomer was subjected to a very close examination by our test team. However, we could find no drawbacks to the product that could be considered deal-breakers or (forgive us) red flags, quite the contrary, in fact.
"As we summarise in our video review, the Haval H2 shakes off that kiss of death that `it's the best of the Chinese brands' title that many critics bestowed on its GWM parent company's products.
"The 1.5T Luxury is a compelling compact family car offering - full stop. What consumers do have to bear in mind, however, is that Haval, as a burgeoning brand in the South African context, has a relatively small dealer footprint (and, therefore, low brand visibility), plus it still needs to build a reputation for solid after-sales support in its own right."
Speaking of which, Haval South Africa's dealer network now stands at 11. By the end of the year we expect to have at least 20 dealers nationally.
Plus, of course, all Havals - including our newly unveiled H6 C - ship standard with a five-year/100 000km warranty, a five-year/60 000km service plan, and five-years/unlimited km roadside assistance.
And as Cars.co.za concludes: "Does it require a leap of faith? Perhaps, but not a huge one." Indeed!