Australia’s medium SUV category is bursting at the seams with competitors, and with continued sales growth in the class it makes sense that any new competitor would aim here first - which is exactly what Haval intends to do.
While it is only a small player in the Australian market so far, Chinese brand Haval (part of the better known-Great Wall Motors group) claims best-seller status in its home market, but realises it will take time and effort to do the same in international markets.
The mid-sized H6 shows just how far along the brand is. A low price and high level of features make the H6 stand out on paper but we're going to dig a little deeper to see what the H6 is like to live with.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $29,990 driveaway
Engine/trans: 145kW/315Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 9.8 l/100km | Tested: 11.4 l/100km
The H6 range is simple as there’s just two models, the entry level H6 Premium tested here and a more lavish H6 LUX. Both come with a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, six-speed dual clutch automatic and front wheel drive.
Pricing is sharp, and a long-running $29,990 driveaway offer really sweetens the deal. Equipment levels are high, and key safety spec is mostly catered for, although an ANCAP rating is still to be confirmed.
- Standard Equipment: Cloth seat trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual zone climate control with rear outlets, keyless entry and start, LED ambient lighting, halogen headlamps, LED tail lights and running lights, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control, rear privacy glass, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen, CD player AM/FM radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, seven-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: Not supplied
While the design may not suit all tastes, the level of standard equipment is impressive, and on the example tested here the H6 was free of squeaks and rattles, which is somewhat satisfying.
Interior style feels a little last-decade as there’s lots of buttons scattered around the dash and the console, and the big blank grained plastic panel ahead of the front passenger seems dull. But there’s soft-touch surfaces on the dash and doors and softly padded armrests that impart an upmarket feel.
As the entry-level model, the H6 Premium gets by with manually adjustable cloth seats but there’s also dual-zone climate control, a big 8.0-inch touchscreen with a console-mounted rotary controller, multi-coloured LED ambient lighting, and keyless entry and start to really drive home the value for money message against mainstream competitors.
Space is the H6’s real claim to fame though. Owing to the Haval’s Chinese origins, and that market’s preference for extra rear legroom, the H6 packs in a decent amount of space within a wheelbase that stretches 50mm longer than a Hyundai Tucson and 60mm longer than a Toyota RAV4.
The seats offer decent comfort too. Front seats are wide and tall enough for most Aussie frames, the rear seats can be reclined for extra comfort, and the padding is firm enough to be supportive without feeling disagreeable over time.
So what’s missing? Well satellite navigation isn’t included, nor is the latest smartphone connectivity, and there’s no digital speedo for speed-limit obsessed Australia, but there are rear seat air vents which some competitors still lack.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder, 145kW @4200rpm, 315Nm @2000rpm
- Transmission: Six-speed Getrag dual-clutch (wet clutch) automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone independent rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes
- Steering: Electric power steering
- Towing Capacity: 2000kg braked, 750kg unbraked
The H6 range comes in just one powertrain combo comprising a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and front wheel drive - perfectly matched to the buying patterns of Aussie consumers.
The engine itself produces 145kW and 315Nm, giving it an on-paper advantage against most of its similarly-priced entry-level competitors. The transmission design comes from German transmission company Getrag, the world's largest transmission maker, giving the H6 some added credibility.
The driving experience offers little in the way of surprises - and that’s a good thing. From startup there’s just a little vibration at idle, but nothing too severe or uncivilised, with noise levels a little higher than petrol competitors, but about on par with some diesels.
Select drive and move into traffic and after a very brief moment of dual-clutch hesitation, the H6 moves smoothly away. Acceleration from a standstill isn’t stellar, but once the turbocharged engine hits its midrange it feels much stronger.
In most situations the engine and transmission work together smartly, with some impressively smooth gear changes. Step hard on the throttle and there’s plenty of induction noise from the engine, and refinement suffers as revs build - though not so badly to be an absolute turn-off.
It’s the H6’s dynamics that prove to be the biggest let down - again not in any massively disappointing way, but a series of dull responses can’t match the pert driving feel of something like a Kia Sportage or Mazda CX-5.
Starting with the H6’s Cooper tyres that chirp all too easily from a standstill, early onset understeer even at quite low speeds, and a slow steering rack that requires a flurry of wheel-turning for something as simple as a three-point-turn, the H6 feels bigger, heavier, and more more ponderous than it really is.
Ride quality on 17-inch wheels is fairly decent for rough Aussie roads, but high amplitude bumps can catch the suspension out, and a stiff-jointed feel over bigger hits feels a bit coarse at times. There’s roll in corners and a long-travel brake pedal too, but nothing out of place in the SUV segment.
Some of the more puzzling bits concern the H6’s electrical systems, and the way they impact the drive. Brake hard and the hazard lights will flash, long before the point of an emergency stop, the blind spot monitoring doesn’t stay on and it needs to be activated each time the car is started, rear seatbelt reminders (a shining beacon in the rear view mirror) stay constantly lit instead of timing out after a given period, and should you select reverse too quickly after starting the engine the camera view won’t show on the centre display.
They’re odd little niggles that Haval needs to address to better meet the expectations of Western buyers, but something the brand is keen to take care of, with the H6 already showing considerable improvement over the brand’s H2, H8, and H9 models.
Update: Haval Australia tells us that going forward, the hard-brake hazard lights and setbelt reminder light problems have been remedied as of March 2017 production. The car TMR drove was an earlier build date.
ANCAP Rating: The Haval H6 has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety Features: All H6 models come with six airbags, ABS brakes, electronic stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front seatbelt pretensioners, rear ISOFIX child seat mounts, front and rear park sensors, blind spot monitoring reversing camera, and tyre pressure monitoring.
Features like autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, and pedestrian detection are yet to be made available on the H6 range.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/100,000km
Servicing: Haval offers a fixed price servicing program for five years with the first service occuring at 6 months/5000km (priced at $285) and each successive service occurring at 12 month/10,000km intervals after that, priced at $420, $680, $420, $760, and $420 respectively finishing at 66 months or 55,000km (whichever occurs first).
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Mazda has addressed some of the previous CX-5’s bugbears with the new model, concentrating on improved refinement and finally adding face-level rear seat air vents. Excellent on-road feel and a choice of petrol and diesel engines see the CX-5 fit a broad spread of buyers.
Volkswagen has given the Tiguan some proper family car credentials with a thoughtful and flexible interior, plus some impressive high-end tech, not to mention smooth and quiet running but prices climb quickly away from the base models or via the options list, nibble into its value a little.
Toyota’s RAV4 is still a popular option, but its age works against it slightly, with a downmarket look and feel to the interior, and some refinement issues from its petrol engine. Despite recent additions to the spec sheet, it can be a little bare, particularly compared to the well stocked H6.
With a big solid look and feel the renault Koleos has real presence, and a nicely trimmed interior. Mechanicals are shared with the Nissan X-Trail, which is quite a solid package, but the drive itself isn’t as inspiring as some competitors, particularly those from Hyundai and Kia with their locally tuned suspension.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
For the same price as an entry-level model the Haval H6 provides the features and equipment usually found in mid-range versions of competitor products, at the same time presenting an interior that appears to be well built and right-sized.
Driving dynamics won’t win the H6 any awards but while it may not be as accomplished as some better-established rivals, there’s no alarming behaviours to report - it’s simply conservative and a step behind the rest of the pack.
Five years warranty and fixed-price servicing help answer concerns over long term peace of mind, but future resale values and long-term reliability are still unanswered questions in the harsh Aussie climate (both financial and meteorological) which represent the biggest ownership hurdle.
On face value though, the Haval H6 is far more likeable than buzz surrounding Chinese cars suggest it should be, and if the brand can stretch those good impressions out over the long term that stands to help its reputation in this country.
While this assessment ends in a three-star ranking, if Haval could prove itself with a solid ANCAP rating that number would improve. What doesn’t change is the Haval H6’s high level of equipment for a relatively low price - something savvy shoppers are sure to embrace as the brand’s reputation grows.