THOUGH HARDLY A HOUSEHOLD NAME IN AUSTRALIA, CHINESE BRAND HAVAL IS LOOKING TO MAKE INROADS INTO THE LOCAL MARKET WITH THIS, THE H6 MEDIUM SUV.
That means it goes into bat against firm segment favourites like the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5, and though Haval understands it won’t topple those established players, it is hoping to make a mark in the segment.
The H6 offers a combination of keen pricing and lavish equipment to tempt buyers into this relatively unknown, but eager-to-please, newcomer.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $29,990 - $33,990 (driveaway)
Engine/trans: 145kW/315Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 9.8 l/100km | Tested: 10.4 l/100km
The Haval H6 is the model Haval expects to become the sales leader for the brand.
Though it’s a little difficult to tell from these photographs, the H6 is a text-book medium SUV, similar in size to the best-selling Mazda CX5 - 9mm longer, but 5mm narrower - and, thanks to its Chinese-market origins, it places a premium on rear legroom.
To make an impact in the fiercely competitive Australian market, Haval has chosen to keep pricing roughly in line with base model competitors, but goes in heavily-loaded on standard equipment.
A powerful turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine powers the range, giving it a decent power and torque boost compared to the naturally aspirated 2.0 engines of most competitors, and a somewhat unique showroom advantage.
But for all the value, the strong standard features list, and the engine power advantage, Haval faces an uphill battle to counter negative connotations of Chinese-made cars. First impressions of the H6 show that this could be just the car to begin changing those perceptions.
- Premium: Fabric trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual zone climate control with rear outlets, keyless entry and start, halogen headlamps, LED tail lights and running lights, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control, rear privacy glass, 17-inch alloy wheels
- LUX: (in addition to Premium) Comfort-Tek artificial leather seat trim, power-adjustable front seats, heated front and rear seats, low-output Xenon headlamps, kerbside parking camera, panoramic sunroof, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, seven-speaker audio (plus subwoofer for LUX)
Haval has opted for a two-variant H6 range, starting with the H6 Premium packing in dual-zone climate control including rear face-level air vents, keyless entry and start, auto lights and wipers and rear privacy glass.
There’s also a large, bright touchscreen multimedia unit up front, but for the time being it doesn’t offer satellite navigation (though that will be made available as an option in the future) or smartphone connectivity - a side effect of the way Chinese owners side-step that technology and use their phones directly, we’re told.
Moving up to the H6 LUX adds power-adjustable front seats, trimmed in artificial leather - chosen because it offers a softer feel than real hide, while still being durable (apparently) - heated front and rear seats, a massive opening panoramic roof with powered sunshade, a kerbside mirror camera for easier parking, and a subwoofer.
The interior design is relatively clean and simple, and a range of trim colour options help liven things up.
But there’s a massive mix of finishes and surfaces: a wood-grained matte plastic panel ahead of the passenger, soft-touch upper dash, hard grained lower dash, silver infotainment surround, aluminium-look trim strip, glossy woodgrain in the doors and centre console - the list goes on (and on).
For all of that though the interior seems to be well built, there’s a few errant panel gaps in places, but nothing majorly misaligned. The design is a little button-heavy, both on the console and steering wheel, but the layout is easy enough to understand.
Space is where the H6 conquers, up front it feels just like any other SUV in its class, roomy enough for adults of most sizes, helped out by a tilt and reach-adjustable seteering wheel for the driver and power adjustable front seats on the LUX.
In the rear the H6 offers more stretching space than many of its competition; certainly as we tried all shapes and sizes in it during the launch six-footers had no trouble sitting one behind the other, and the reclining rear bench adds another adjustment opportunity, enhancing comfort further.
One thing that Haval is less keen to communicate is that the Australian-delivered H6 is actually the H6 Coupe in other markets, meaning that the roofline is a little lower for a sleeker look, and while headroom is still fine, rearward visibility takes a massive hit.
Haval was not able to share the cargo capacity with us (it’s apparently still being determined) but as is the case with so many medium SUVs, one decent sized-stroller will take care of most of the boot space.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 145kW/315Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder
- Transmission: Six-speed Getrag dual-clutch (wet clutch) automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes
Far from the slightly underwhelming performance of its larger stablemates, the H8 and H9, the Haval H6 carries itself with genuine on-road authority.
The engine comes matched to a six-speed dual-clutch Getrag automatic with front wheel drive - there’s no all wheel drive option for that transmission yet. It’s a wet-clutch unit too, meaning it should avoid the reliability issues of dry-clutch DCTs.
There’s just a hint of notchiness at low speeds, but gear changes aren’t set up to be as fast as other modern units.
On the road the H6 has a solid, weighty feel. Of the three transmission modes, Normal and Eco felt similar, providing ample performance but tempering the H6’s potential slightly.
Selecting Sport frees up that last little squirt of performance, though the H6 isn’t really a free-revver in any mode.
The steering is almost completely devoid of feel and feedback, and quite heavy at low speeds, meaning extra effort is required when parking, but it at least enhances the feeling of stability on rough roads at speed.
Though our introductory drive route didn’t present much opportunity to put the brakes to the test, they were at least smooth enough for low-speed work like crawling through stop-start traffic.
One of the unfortunate carry-overs from China is a function whereby the hazards will activate if the brakes are applied at the same time as steering lock in what the car deems an emergency manoeuvre.
The problem is, even light braking on flowing roads was enough to throw the hazards on briefly, and I’m quietly convinced that vehicles in front of, and behind me must’ve thought I was mad.
Though wind noise is low, there’s quite a bit of engine thrum, intake whistle and tyre noise at times - Not worst-in-class performance but if you tend to get about with the radio off you’re sure to notice.
With massive 19-inch rims on the LUX ride quality wasn’t as brittle as it could be, however the suspension tune is sometimes at odds with itself - firm on initial compression, before wallowing on rebound - jiggling over some of the rattier road surfaces rural Victoria had to offer.
ANCAP Rating: The Haval H6 has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety Features: Six airbags, ABS brakes, electronic stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front and rear park sensors, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitoring.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The base model Toyota RAV4 falls into the same pricing ballpark as the Haval H6, though power and torque are down, and the automatic is a CVT. The Hyundai Tucson is a handsome, modern SUV, targeted at active younger buyers, though in its basic iteration it’s a little plain, through the mid-grade ActiveX hits a sweet-spot for added equipment.
The Mazda CX-5 is Australia’s favourite medium SUV, and the balance of dynamics, style, and equipment (particularly in the Maxx Sport) make it easy to see why. Often overlooked, the Mitsubishi Outlander is another strong value proposition, with bold styling and a surprisingly generous amount of interior space.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Haval is still working towards its own unique identity, which we’re told will start to take shape with the next generation of products, and the H6 tends to borrow from other cars here and there with elements like a Range Rover roofline, and an Audi-esque rear end.
But looks are subjective; what’s indisputable is that the H6 delivers a large interior that’s sure to win-over rear seat passengers in particular, with equipment levels that read like like a flagship model - even in the entry-level Premium.
Is that enough of a recommendation to park a Haval H6 in your garage? It is without a doubt the most compelling car from China’s number-one SUV brand, but questions regarding long-term reliability and resale still hang over Haval’s head.
It’s obvious too that some fine-detail work needs to occur, improvements to steering, and ride, not to mention the hazard-light activation issue, all need to take place for the H6 to match the on-road experience of more established rivals.
For those game enough to take a punt, the H6 is a reasonable choice, providing creature comforts that might otherwise be off-limits to budget buyers.
Not only that, but Haval is keen to learn from owners, to develop future vehicles better suited to markets like Australia, meaning early adopters will play a role in shaping the next generation of Haval vehicles.
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