Haval is a brand looking to make inroads into the Australian new vehicle market. They already have significant market share back in China, however, attempting to carve out a place in the very competitive new car market in Australia is a very brave undertaking. But, as the saying goes, fortune does favour the brave.
Haval is the SUV arm of Chinese manufacturer, Great Wall. They are fortunate enough to have a complete SUV range from the compact H2 to the family sized H9 with new models on the horizon.
Our first experience with Haval comes in the form of the H6, a model competing for oxygen in the booming and overcrowded mid-size SUV category. A section of the market currently dominated by the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Tucson.
Back in its native China, the H6 is a serious player, it’s Haval’s volume seller. The size of Haval’s home ground advantage meant the H6 was the world’s fifth-best selling SUV in 2016.
The H6 is the model most likely to carry the weight of Haval’s attempt to crack the Australian market and gain some credibility. On the surface, it’s well featured and sharply priced. Our test car, the H6 LUX can be driven out of the showroom for $33,990.
The H6 was designed by Pierre Leclerq, a man with an impressive CV that includes the BMW X5. Leclerq has done a pleasing job with the exterior of the H6. It’s well-proportioned and certainly looks the part. Even with the floating roof, there is nothing about the design that demands attention, yet its strong lines give it a genuine sense of purpose. When walking around the car, its robust looks give the impression that the car is well made.
It’s not just the strong design of the exterior that gives you the reason to look twice, features like Xenon headlamps and nice looking alloys kick it up a notch.
This is a brand and model looking to build some name recognition, but there can be too much of a good thing. The H6 has Haval written three times on the tailgate, one of these is integrated into the top break light. On top of this, the brand name features on the illuminated sill plates and puddle lights. One on the front and back are really all that is needed.
Entry to the car is via a keyless system, when seated it’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel prior to pushing the start button.
Inside the cabin, there is a distinct European influence. It’s a clean design with a focus on ergonomics and comfort. Build quality throughout mirrors the exterior and remains impressive, everything feels well screwed together.
The driver enjoys an 8-way power adjustable seat, the front passenger is also looked after with 4-way power adjustment.
In the LUX specification, the seats in the H6 are trimmed in artificial leather, Haval calls this material Comfort-Tek. It feels very soft and significantly better than many other versions of faux leather. In a blind test, it would be impossible for most to pick it wasn’t genuine animal skin. To compliment the great choice of trim, both front and rear seats are heated.
Other classy touches adorn the interior, there are soft-touch plastics on the dash and door cards, dual-zone automatic climate control with pollen filter and rear air vents. There is also a smart looking gear selector that looks remarkably similar to one previously used by Audi.
All the buttons, switches and dials represent high quality in both feel and operation.
Families will be immediately taken with the amount of interior space. In China, there is an emphasis on rear seat comfort, in the H6, rear leg room is class leading. It has one of the largest wheelbase measurements in the class at 2720mm. It is also possible to adjust the angle of the back seat to ensure all passengers can enjoy maximum comfort.
Headroom is another area where the Haval design team have done well. Despite the massive panoramic sunroof in the LUX spec, all occupants enjoy ample headroom.
Infotainment is an area where only the essentials are covered. The large 8-inch LCD screen, backed by the 8-speaker sound system offers an FM/AM radio tuner with CD and MP5 capability. Sound quality is good, but when rocking out on the highway, it felt like a few more decibels were needed.
Bluetooth phone connectivity is also available, as is USB, AUX and SD ports.
For a screen of this size and image quality, it’s disappointing there is no satellite navigation or smartphone mirroring options.
Driving the H6 is an interesting experience, simply because it shows how far the Chinese have come. The performance of the drivetrain sets a new standard for Chinese car manufacturing.
Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder engine with 145kW of power and 315Nm of torque available. It’s more than enough engine for this type of car, there is plenty of power available and torque delivery is instant.
The engine is a flexible unit, it’s zippy when negotiating city traffic and can provide the necessary power for overtaking moves during highway stints.
The transmission is a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic from German specialist, Getrag. It’s a quality inclusion that provides smooth and decisive gear changes. It also incorporates a sports mode with paddle shifters. The H6 was thoroughly tested, the dual-clutch didn’t exhibit any of the dreaded juddering that has afflicted transmissions of this type at low speeds.
Power is sent to the front wheels only, there is no all-wheel drive option for Australia at this point, which makes the blacktop the natural habitat of the H6.
The suspension calibration is excellent, even when riding on the 19-inch two-tone alloy wheels. Bumps are absorbed and the ride is plush over a variety of poor road surfaces.
One thing we weren’t prepared for was the level of refinement the H6 delivered. Cars that are aiming for a strong metal for money equation often fall well short when it comes to noise, vibration and harshness levels. It’s pleasing to report, the H6 offers excellent levels of refinement that make for a relaxed drive. Tyre and wind noise is minimal meaning the H6 is one of the standouts in the category.
There are a few issues that detract slightly from the overall package. When behind the wheel, extra attention needs to be paid to how the throttle is hit. There were some occasions during our testing week where the front wheels slipped as a result of giving it a little too much oomph. The H6 requires the delicate use of the right foot at traffic lights and intersections to overcome this issue.
The steering is heavy for a vehicle of this type. It requires far more effort than many motorists would be prepared to put in and falls well short of what rivals are offering. This is one area that needs to be addressed for Haval to achieve meaningful volume with the H6.
The H6 has three selectable driving modes, normal, sport and eco. It’s annoying the car resets the selected driving mode every time the car starts.
The performance of the H6 is felt at the bowser, it’s thirsty. Over our week of testing the fuel consumption was higher than expected, the final figure sat at 10.6 litres for every 100km of travel. In city traffic, the trip computer would display consumption of over 14 litres.
Another point of consideration, the H6 requires 95 RON, premium unleaded. This could be the Achilles heel of the H6, fuel costs and higher than average fuel consumption does take some of the gloss off the sharp drive away pricing.
Safety is an area where Chinese cars of the past have come in for heavy criticism. The H6 does miss out on some of the latest safety technology found in its big selling rivals, however, it does offer a competitive safety package which includes six airbags, active front head restraints, blind spot monitoring, electronic stability program, ISOFIX points, and tyre pressure monitoring.
There is a very good reversing camera and very precise front and rear parking sensors.
In a great move, every Haval H6 comes standard with a five-year/100,000km warranty. At some point, the Japanese brands will surely need to concede this is what the minimum warranty coverage should be. In addition, a five-year roadside assistance program is included.
Haval does not publish service costs on their website but does offer customers transparency with their Service Price Menu. The H6 requires servicing every 12-months or 10,000km. This is after an initial 6-month/5,000km service. The first four visits back to the dealer average $448 a service.
So where does all this leave us? At its very core, the Haval H6 is a reminder, a reminder of just how close the Chinese are to providing mainstream competition to the established automakers from Japan and Korea. Haval can provide competition to keep the recognised brands honest.
Haval is well aware that success here will be an exercise in patience and resilience. The brand is under no illusions and is working hard to build brand recognition and its dealer network. New brands, especially those which are unrecognised by buyers need to play a waiting game. Credibility needs to be earned over time.
For now, the H6 is a pleasant surprise, it is a much better car than many would give it credit for. It offers performance, refinement and excellent interior packaging but still needs to apply the final polish in the form of improved steering, consumption and infotainment.
We will be testing other models in Haval’s range in the coming months.
2017 Haval H6 LUX Specifications
Price from $33,990 drive away Engine 2.0L 4 cylinder inline turbocharged petrol Power 145kW @ 5200 Torque 315Nm @ 2000 Transmission 6 Speed dual-clutch automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 9.8L/100km Tank Capacity 70L Length 4549mm Width 1835mm Height 1700mm Wheelbase 2720mm Ground Clearance 170mm Service Intervals 12-months or 10,000km – after initial 6-month 5000km service Warranty five year/100,000 kilometre
Let’s start a Car Conversation, what do you think of the H6 package and pricing? Do you think the brand offers a genuine alternative to Korean and Japanese manufacturers?
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