The go­ing will be tough

China’s H6 lays claim to be the world’s fifth best-sell­ing SUV — but it has to face the long­stand­ing lo­cal favourites

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - CHRIS RI­LEY chris.ri­ley@news.com.au

CHI­NESE SUV spe­cial­ist Haval has added a fourth model to its lo­cal line-up.

The H6, a mid-size soft­roader, will take on the coun­try’s top-sell­ing SUVs — Mazda’s CX-5, Toy­ota’s RAV4 and Hyundai’s Tuc­son.

It is likely to find the go­ing tough, though, with a start­ing drive-away price that matches the Tuc­son at $29,990 but comes with­out sat­nav, Ap­ple CarPlay or An­droid Auto.

It’s been al­most 12 months since the brand, an off­shoot of Great Wall Mo­tors, made its lo­cal de­but.

In that time it has strug­gled to make an im­pact, sell­ing less than 200 cars.

But chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer Tim Smith be­lieves the H6 has what it takes to put the com­pany on the map.

It’s the most pop­u­lar SUV in China and the fifth-largest sell­ing SUV in the world year to date, Smith says.

“We now have a com­peti­tor that of­fers a fan­tas­tic propo­si­tion for Aus­tralian cus­tomers in the medium SUV seg­ment,” he said.

The ve­hi­cle de­buts a new sixspeed twin-clutch au­to­matic for the brand, de­vel­oped by trans­mis­sion spe­cial­ist Ge­trag and fit­ted with pad­dle-shifters.

It’s hooked up to a 2.0-litre four-cylin­der turbo that pro­duces a bet­ter than av­er­age 145kW of power and 315Nm of torque, with drive to the front wheels. All-wheel-drive is avail­able over­seas matched to a man­ual trans­mis­sion but the brand doesn’t think that com­bi­na­tion would work here.

The power out­put shades most ri­vals but it comes at a cost — the H6 uses a claimed 9.8L/100km, com­pared with 6.4L/100km for the CX-5.

H6 will come in two guises, base Pre­mium and range­top­ping Lux, the lat­ter with faux leather, 19-inch wheels, adap­tive xenon head­lights, panoramic sun­roof and heated seats front and back.

Sat­nav is ex­pected to be a $1000 op­tion by the time the car goes on sale in Oc­to­ber (we’re told the fea­ture fit­ted to cars in China will not work here).

Safety equip­ment in­cludes six airbags, re­vers­ing cam­era, blind spot warn­ing and front and rear park sen­sors but au­to­mated emer­gency brak­ing isn’t avail­able on any model.

The H6 is yet to be sub­mit­ted for test­ing by ANCAP. The H6’s larger sib­ling, the range top­ping H9, scored four out of five stars in May but the brand has no im­me­di­ate plans to present an ex­am­ple for test­ing.

The H6 is the work of French­man Pierre Le­clercq, who penned BMW’s X6.

The de­sign is mus­cu­lar and con­tem­po­rary, fit and fin­ish are good and there is im­pres­sive rear legroom with a deep boot that stores a space-saver spare.

The car can be or­dered with metal­lic or two-tone paint, with com­bi­na­tions of coloured in­te­rior trim for no ex­tra cost.

ON THE ROAD

The more we drove the H6, the more we warmed to it. It’s pretty quick off the mark, with punchy mid-range per­for­mance and plenty in re­serve for over­tak­ing. You can let the trans­mis­sion do the work, or use the pad­dles to flick through gears in rapid suc­ces­sion.

There are three drive modes, in­clud­ing sport. In re­al­ity, how­ever, their ef­fect is re­stricted to the throt­tle and they seem to have lit­tle im­pact.

On the Lux’s 19-inch wheels, the ride is gen­er­ally good but the sus­pen­sion fails to soak up smaller bumps.

The elec­tric power steer­ing could be sharper and lacks turnin ac­cu­racy, though it has a com­fort­able on-centre feel and is not tir­ing to drive.

On one sec­tion of par­tic­u­larly windy road, the car im­pressed, re­main­ing flat with plenty of grip, although the brakes lack feel.

VER­DICT

A more con­vinc­ing ef­fort from the Chi­nese brand. It looks good, de­liv­ers de­cent per­for­mance and the fin­ish is im­pres­sive in­side and out. There’s still some work to do, though, to match the heavy­weights in the class.

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