HAVAL H6 REVIEW – THE COUNTRY DRIVER
By Darryl Starr
ONE thing is certain, the next Haval H6 is going to be a really good thing.
Look past the Haval badge and the current H6 is a half-decent SUV crying out for an extra dose of engineering, tech and design refinement, plus more attention to detail.
Look back at the chrome-on-red badge then commit it to memory as you are going to see a lot of it in the future as it belongs to China’s biggest producer of SUVs and is here to compete with the big players in the Medium SUV market.
“A big tick for build quality.”
You can bet Haval has taken criticism levelled at its H6 (and other models) and is working hard to alleviate all of them in either a facelift to the present model, or with the third-generation.
Although a stand-alone company, Haval is owned by the giant Great Wall Motors, known for the inroads it is making into the local light-commercial market, with its utes finding plenty of favour with the likes of tradies and primary producers.
The subject of this report, the second-generation Haval H6 which was launched last year, has found homes in just 94 Aussie garages this year, down from 158 year-to-date in 2017.
It has 20 classmates in the Medium SUV under-$60,000 segment and really is the cellar-dweller, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing going for it – far from it.
Apart from its handsome styling, plenty of standard kit and acceptable on-road manners, the H6 was recently announced as being the lowest cost to own mid-sized SUV by Australia’s leading motoring clubs, at $174.71 per week.
And according to UK-based Brand Finance’s Auto 100 study, Haval is the most valuable Chinese auto brand and is ranked 16th as the most valuable auto brand in the world, up from 29th position last year.
Not forgetting that the H6 was the world’s sixth largest selling SUV in 2017.
So although a Johnny-come-lately to Australia, it is a major player on the world stage.
Two variants are available, the H6 Premium, which is priced at $28,990 drive away, and the subject of this report, the H6 Lux ($32,990 drive away).
Our white test H6 already had 25,000-odd kilometres of hard media driving on its odometer when we collected it from Haval Australia’s headquarters in the south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Mulgrave, meaning if it had any squeaks, rattles, moans or groans that would be around the time they would be starting to be heard.
And when we returned it a week later, still nothing. Solid as a rock.
A big tick for build quality.
Our route back to home base of Albury-Wodonga was not along the Hume Freeway, but via Melbourne’s outer north-eastern suburbs, the Maroondah, Melba, Goulburn Valley and Midland Highways, meaning plenty of variations in terms of road congestion, speed, and terrain.
Once clear of snarling traffic, which the H6 was happy to compete with, it was a more leisurely pace through the picturesque Yarra Valley and on to the bustling town of Yea, the centre of a rich pastoral and dairying district centred on the Goulburn River.
The town’s commercial centre straddles each side of a wide boulevard, with attractive parkland located in the street’s central strip and, being a lovely sunny day, we enjoyed some yummy pastries and a coffee from the Yea Bakery, sitting on a park bench surveying the scenery.
That scenery included manicured lawns, rose gardens, a large fountain, a monument to explorers Hume and Hovell who passed through the district in 1824 – and the parked H6 which we had time to reflect on so far.
The H6 is a smart, if not conservative, looker, the rear having more than a hint of Range Rover Evoque about it.
It was penned by ex-BMW, Haval, now Hyundai/Kia designer, Belgian Pierre Leclerq.
The two styling complaints we had was that the A-pillars were too thick and the exterior rear-view mirror bodies too bulky.
Being the H6 flagship and loaded to the gunwales with kit, the Lux is a stand-out thanks to its stylish 19-inch, Cooper tyre-shod alloy wheels, auto-levelling low-beam xenon headlights, and electric panoramic sunroof which the Premium base-spec does not get.
We liked the way it drove on good surfaces, how its powertrain dealt with the climb out of Dixon Creek to the Kinglake/Toolangi cross-roads, its relative quietness, and its seating comfort.
What we didn’t like was the turbo lag/transmission take-up from traffic lights.
Oh, and the engine’s thirst – at this stage 10.6 litres per 100 kilometres of 95RON.
Once clear of the Midland Highway and onto the Hume Freeway at Benalla, this dropped to 9.6L/100km, which was still above the norm for a modern-day, 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Our overall result after a week’s driving was 9.8L/100km.
And then for the surprise of the drive.
The xenon headlights gave us a wide, deep spread of white light, but when we switched to high-beam the white went yellow.
It was like driving with a set of yellow-lens fog lamps. Strange indeed and not conducive to rural driving.
We also struggled to dim the lighting of the central touchscreen display, plus there was annoying mood lighting surrounding the roof console (map lights, sunroof buttons and sunglasses holder) which we couldn’t turn off but could change its colour scheme – red, blue, orange, purple, yellow or green!
Other things we struggled with was the above-average noise everything made, like the blinkers, the auto door locks, the way the doors and rear gate crashed closed, and the loud click every time we pushed a button.
The 8-inch touch-screen was more a push-button screen as every mode button needed a hard jab to make something happen.
Making our four-hour trip from Melbourne a little more pleasant was an excellent audio system (which gains a sub-woofer), a fully-adjustable steering column, power-adjustable and heated front seats (plus heated rears), a self-dimming interior rear-view mirror, dual-zone climate control, and faux leather upholstery.
Other standard goodies included sat-nav, front fog lights, roof rails, auto headlights and wipers, cruise control, an electric park brake, heated and auto-folding side mirrors, keyless entry and push-button start, illuminated front scuff plates, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and the 8-inch multimedia unit with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and USB input.
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto phone mirroring was missing.
A night’s rest for car and drivers and it was time to put the H6 over our usual 163-kilometre test route, chosen for its varying terrain and driving conditions.
Our H6 was powered by a strong and relatively smooth 145kW/315Nm 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a dual-clutch Getrag automatic transmission driving the front wheels.
There is no all-wheel-drive option.
Like we said earlier, we encountered turbo lag and some slurring of the gearbox when the accelerator was given a decent jab, but driven away from a standstill at the same pace as the surrounding traffic and the drivetrain was happy enough.
Using the gearbox in manual mode and shifting with the standard steering wheel paddles had little impact, so the majority of our driving was done with the shift lever in D.
We did have three drive modes at our disposal however – Eco, Standard and Sport, the latter improving acceleration and holding onto gears longer on the steeper sections of our test loop.
The engine was strong enough to deal with such climbs as The Rising Sun, a ‘straight-up’ section of road that climbs out of the farming community of Wooragee, up to a granite plateau atop which sits the historic gold-mining town of Beechworth.
It also performed admirably on the freeway and surprised around town with its ability to quickly get into stride once the hesitation was overcome.
Same with the six-speed autobox which boasted well-chosen ratios that were slipped between very crisply and cleanly.
Some drivetrain refinement is sorely needed.
The H6 dealt easily enough with the twisty bits and hills, and the compliant MacPherson strut front/double wishbone rear suspension absorbed most of the bumps and thumps and kept all four wheels firmly planted.
The H6’s suspension engineers have done an excellent job in this area, however it was at odds with the vehicle’s steering and brakes which were definitely off the pace.
The electric power steering was hard to judge and loaded up as soon as you turned the wheel, while the four-wheel-disc brakes lacked feel and didn’t pull the vehicle up as strongly as we had hoped.
This, and a large turning circle, didn’t make for an easy drive around town, either.
Thankfully, the vehicle’s compact dimensions, crystal-clear reversing camera, and the parking sensors, made parking easy.
The H6 is still waiting for an ANCAP safety rating, but its safety kit includes ABS, ESP, six airbags, blind-spot monitoring, Brake Assist, ISOFIX child seat mountings, and daytime running lights.
Forward-collision warning and auto emergency braking is on its way.
It also came with a tyre pressure monitoring system, hill-start assist, and hill-descent control.
The H6 cabin was both roomy and airy but offered nothing out of the ordinary in terms of comfort or layout.
The swoopy roofline didn’t restrict rear headroom or have any impact on rearward vision.
The fake wood trim materials – and the instruments – were old-hat, but at least the large, circular dials (no digital speedometer) were easy to read and all dash-mounted switchgear and incidental controls were in easy sight and reach.
Not so the large audio volume control between the seats, or the array of buttons that resided on the wide console, as we had to glance down to find the one we wanted.
The cabin used a mixture of soft and hard plastics and there was decent storage, including a large glove box, a lidded centre console bin, four door pockets with bottle holders, a pair of cup holders up front, and a pair in the fold-down rear armrest.
Rear seat passengers, apart from getting their own air vents, sat on comfortable, heated and reclinable seats, and gave a thumbs up for both leg and headroom.
The boot was a decent size and easily consumed our farmers’ market goodies – and other odds and ends – and if we did need more space we could fold the 60:40 split rear seat backs down to almost double cargo volume.
The cargo hold boasted a privacy blind, four tie-down hooks, a pair of netted oddments bins, and a 12-volt power outlet.
Disappointingly, only a space-saver spare resided under the floor.
And there was no denying we were driving a Haval as the brand name, including a set of personalised HAVAL-6 number plates, was displayed 19 times – six inside, 13 outside!
Braked towing capacity is rated at 1700kg.
Haval offers a five-year/100,000km warranty, with the same five-year duration of 24/7 roadside assist cover.
Despite its negatives, we quite enjoyed our time with the H6 and it proved it was just as capable a cross-country runner as most of its class-mates.
We liked the Lux’s style, its long list of standard features, its drive away pricing, and its exemplary cabin space.
We didn’t like its heavy off-centre steering, its lifeless brakes, or its thirst but, as stated earlier, if its engineering, tech and attention to those finer details was brought up to scratch, then there would be no shame in having one parked under the carport, in the garage, or even in the country club car park.
It isn’t a Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4, or Honda CR-V but, as the saying goes ‘watch this space’.
Price: Haval H6 Lux $32,990 drive away
Engine: 2-litre, DOHC, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Power: 145kW at 5200rpm
Torque: 315Nm at 2000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic. Front-wheel-drive
Fuel use: 9.8L/100km 95RON
Fuel tank capacity: 70 litres
Warranty: 5 years/100,000 kilometres
Article excerpt from The Country Driver
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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