The Chinese car model that may convert us
Dongfend. Fudi. Youngman. Polar Sun. No, they’re not the members of some crazy Asian boy band. In fact they’re all automobile manufacturers – and they’re all from China. The rising giant Asian nation has almost 50 separate car makers, with dozens more sub-brands as well. And they rejoice in names as imaginative as any in the automotive world – like Huaten (Brilliance), and Tianma (Heavenly Horse) – not to mention the slightly more mundane First Automobile Works (yes, it was the country’s first, founded in 1953).
“it may be the first model to make us take Chinese-built cars seriously.”
So far, only a handful of these Chinese marques have made it into showrooms in Australia. Let’s be honest – with a market of more than a billion people they’re probably not short of buyers.
But as China continues its march towards full-blown capitalism and further expands its trade horizons, no doubt we’ll see more of these nameplates on our roads. Already we’re becoming familiar with brands like Chery, Great Wall and Geely (which happens to own the Volvo brand).
When it comes to the acceptance of Chinese vehicles, this might just be the car that changes our thinking: The Haval H6 – the latest model release from China’s biggest and most ambitious carmaker.
The H6 is not a ground-breaking machine in itself – nor is it particularly outstanding when stacked up against market rivals. But it’s significant because it may be the first model to make us take Chinese-built cars seriously.
Previously, they’ve been cheap, and not much else. Some pretty ordinary styling, and even more ordinary build quality. But this one is different. It’s quite stylish. And it’s very nicely put together.
It would come as no surprise if it wore a badge from one of the better Japanese or Korean manufacturers. And it marks a giant step up on what we’ve previously seen from land of the Great Wall (the fence, not the brand). The Haval arrives at a tasty price, as you’d expect, but it marries that with the features and finish we’d expect from higher-priced rivals.
The H6 is the biggest-selling SUV in its native China – where it sold more than 80,000 units in December alone. That dwarfs the 89 Havals (all four models) sold in Australia during the same month – but you get the idea.
The design is penned by Haval Design Director Pierre Leclerq – not a typically Chinese name – who says he set out to make the vehicle “simple but strong”.
It looks modern and acceptably stylish with crisp, economical lines and nice proportions. The design of the rear hatch and roofline, in particularly, is eye-catching.
Inside it’s similarly inoffensive – logical, modern layout with decent ergonomics, impressive finishes and plenty of kit.
Even the entry-level model with a $29,990 driveaway price tag delivers 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, rear view camera and blind spot monitoring.
“impressive finishes and plenty of kit”
An additional spend of $4000 for the Lux model adds panoramic sunroof, bigger wheels, adaptive Xenon headlights and heated seats.
Six airbags are standard across the range, as is a 7-inch colour touch-screen, bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio streaming and tyre pressure monitoring.
Mechanically, it’s pretty sound. Its 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers zippy performance with 145kW and 315Nm of output, which is more than adequate. Perhaps not quite “sporty” as suggested by its importers – and the wheel-mounted gearshift paddles are probably a bit of over-reach – but it’s a pleasant thing to drive.
There’s a six-speed, European-built Getrag dual-clutch automatic that is also unobtrusive and efficient.
The H6 is also no slouch in terms of ride and handling – it steers quite accurately with the only blemish being a tendency to get a bit noisy over rough surfaces.
Interior space is impressive, as is the level of standard equipment provided.
Cargo space is a bit of a letdown – it’s a little narrow and not particularly deep, meaning larger items (such as golf clubs) require part of the split-fold rear seat to be laid flat.
The shallow, Range Rover Evoque-like rear window gives the Haval a slinky rear profile, but does compromise rear vision through the internal mirror. But on the positive side, reverse parking is aided not only by the rear-view camera but also the little quarter-glass windows at the rear corners which offer some improved visibility.
Interior finishes are, once again, hard to fault. Instruments are clear and classy, complemented by a vivid colour information panel that informs the driver about everything from average fuel economy and cruising range to tyre pressures and temperatures. It’s pretty impressive stuff.
Its best feature?
Well, that would be the pricetag – which at $29,990 drive away compares handsomely to similarly-performed, similarly-equipped vehicles from countries like Japan and Korea.
So remember the name – and don’t be surprised if you see a lot more Havals on the road in the months ahead.
“it’s a pleasant thing to drive”
HAVAL H6 PREMIUM
HOW BIG? It sits in the medium SUV category which pits it against Mazda’s mighty CX-5, Nissan’s X-Trail and the Mitsubishi Outlander. It offers good interior space although cargo capacity is a little disappointing.
HOW FAST? With 145kW it offers as much acceleration as any family might need.
HOW THIRSTY? Its official combined consumption of 9.8L/100km is on the high side.
HOW MUCH? With a $29,990 driveaway price it makes a compelling value case with high levels of equipment and impressive finishes.
Article excerpt from MSN Motoring.
HAVAL is a specialist manufacturer of premium SUVs and is the No.1 SUV brand in the world’s largest automotive market and has been for the past 15 years. In 2017 Brand Finance valued HAVAL as the "world's most powerful SUV brand" ahead of Jeep and Land Rover. With over 5 million customers, last year HAVAL was the world’s 10th largest SUV manufacturer outselling Mercedes, BMW and Mitsubishi SUVs. Our success is due to a combination of commitment, passion and listening to our customers. We utilise the best features, safety and technologies from around the globe to produce world class SUVs.
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