REVIEW | New 2021 Haval H6 raises the bar for the Chinese brand

The Haval’s keen price is achieved without evident quality shortcuts or specification cost-cutting. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The Haval’s keen price is achieved without evident quality shortcuts or specification cost-cutting. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Classy-looking aluminium speaker grilles get your attention as you climb aboard the new Haval H6. Where have we seen these before? Ah yes, the Burmester speakers one finds in Mercedes-Benzes.

Haval is clearly shooting for the stars with its interior look and feel, and along with those stylish speakers, evidence of this is the swanky soft-touch materials covering the dashboard and doors. There’s a hi-tech infotainment system with a large tablet-like touchscreen, and a digital instrument panel.

It’s a smart and hi-tech setting — not in the Benz category but the intention’s there, and leagues better than the earlier cheap and chintzy efforts of Chinese car manufacturers.

Haval, GWM’s premium brand, has lifted itself by the bootstraps and is no longer a brand that simply wants to undercut the competition on price; it’s clearly on a mission to compete quality-wise with European and Japanese rivals.

The step up comes with an inevitable price increase but the Haval H6, China’s best-selling SUV, is still competitively pitched in its market segment against rivals like the Toyota Rav4 and Mazda CX-5.

The keen price is achieved without evident quality shortcuts or specification cost-cutting. The H6 Luxury is well stocked and, aside from the aforementioned digital fare, comes standard with features such as leather seats (the driver’s one being electrically adjustable), six airbags, and a host of driver-assist tech including adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and lane-change assist.

It’s stuff that was until recently found only in premium brands, though some of the execution can do with some tweaks. An example is the parking feature which projects external views of the car onto the infotainment screen. It’s a handy thing to have when parking, with cameras that show a helicopter view of the car and also how far the wheels are from the kerb; the trouble is that this camera view kicks in every time you stop at an intersection with the indicator on.

Digitised interior is appealingly stylish. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Digitised interior is appealingly stylish. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The screen gets locked into this camera mode and it’s not possible to work the infotainment system while the car’s stationary — for example, when it would be safest to do so. The screen unlocks only if you switch off the indicator or start driving.

The adaptive cruise control is also a little crude, abruptly braking and accelerating to maintain a set distance in traffic instead of having smooth inputs.

Aside from these electronic foibles, the H6 is an impressive effort, and the midsized SUV caters well to families. It’s a roomy vehicle with comfortable space for four and a large boot that’s expandable with flip-down seats. Rear passengers get their own air vents and a pair of USB charging ports, ensuring family contentment on long trips.

The entire H6 is powered by a 2.0l petrol turbo engine that delivers fairly lively pace once it shakes off some initial lag in standing starts. It cruises easily and has strong midrange urge for briskly overtaking trucks, though the all-wheel drive model is quite thirsty with the test car averaging 11l per 100km.

There are several driving modes and mostly we left the test car in the standard setting to try save fuel, even though the downshifts were a little lazy. The seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission fires through its gears with more vigour when in Sport mode.

There are also Snow, Sand and Offroad driving modes in the four-wheel drive H6, which uses a torque-on-demand system allowing the front and rear axles to operate at a 50/50 ratio. Hill-descent control is a part of the dirt-tackling repertoire, though the relatively low 170mm ground clearance limits its ability in really lumpy turf.

The H6 is an impressive vehicle, although the suspension prefers smooth roads. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The H6 is an impressive vehicle, although the suspension prefers smooth roads. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The H6 is a refined car with minimal engine or wind noise, another area where Haval’s made impressive strides. The vehicle trails behind class leaders in terms of ride and handling, however. Ride comfort is generally acceptable but on bumps it’s not as good as we expected from the high-profile tyres. The Haval jolts over speed humps unless it’s brought to a complete crawling pace.

Cornering ability is relatively neat, with the H6 only feeling a little spongy when really pushed hard, but the steering sharpens up at the press of a button to lend a sportier feel.

As evidenced by the fast-growing numbers of Havals on our roads, the brand has crossed the Rubicon in Mzansi, where buyers formerly shunned cheap and badly-built Chinese vehicles.

It would be churlish to say it’s “good for a Chinese car”; the new H6 is a good car, period. It trails the opposition in some areas but it’s a compelling proposition at the price, with the technology, refinement, styling and safety to attract new customers to the brand.


Tech Specs

ENGINE

Type: Petrol turbo

Capacity: 2.0l

Power: 150kW

Torque: 320Nm

TRANSMISSION

Type: Seven-speed automated dual clutch

DRIVETRAIN

Type: All-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

Top speed: n/a

0-100km/h: n/a

Fuel Consumption: 11l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: n/a

STANDARD FEATURES

ABS brakes, stability control, six airbags, 360º parking camera, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, tyre-pressure monitor, adaptive cruise control, traffic-sign recognition, electric windows, remote central locking, infotainment system with Bluetooth and voice control, front and rear dual USB ports, digital instrument panel, multifunction steering wheel, Driving & Terrain Modes (Standard, Eco, Sports, Snow, Sand, Offroad), panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, leather seats, dual zone climate control, electrically adjustable driver seat

COST OF OWNERSHIP

Warranty: Five years/100,000km

Maintenance plan: Five years/60,000km

Price: R479,900

Lease: R10,291 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Haval H6 2.0T 7DCT 4WD Luxury

WE LIKE: Technology, price, power, build quality

WE DISLIKE: Ride quality

VERDICT: Excellent value by a brand that’s made great strides

Motor News star rating

Design * * * *

Performance * * * *

Economy * * *

Ride * * *

Handling * * * *

Safety * * * * *

Value For Money * * * * *

Overall * * * *

Competition

Toyota RAV4 2.5 AWD VX, 152kW/243Nm — R669,400

Mazda CX-5 2.5 AWD Individual, 143kW/258Nm — R654,000

Honda CR-V 1.5T Executive AWD, 140kW/40Nm — R721,400

Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 GLX, 123kW/222Nm — R539,995

Nissan X-Trail 1.5 4x4 Tekna, 126kW/233Nm — R611,900

Peugeot 5008 1.6T GT Line, 121kW/240Nm — R658,900

Subaru Forester 2.5i-Sport ES, 136kW/239Nm — R599,000


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