Close, but no cigar
Haval’s mid-sized SUV is much improved on previous Chinese imports, but questions remain
IF you haven’t heard of Haval you’re not alone.
It’s a total tiddler in Australia today, even if — like every other ambitious immigrant to land on our shores — it has big plans for the future.
Haval is an upscale, SUVonly offshoot from the basic working-class brand Great Wall, which primarily sells utes.
It has been in Australia since last year with a four-model line up, although so far it has managed just 286 sales. A new H7, with more of a coupe look than a boxy SUV, is on the way.
Despite modest sales in Australia, the H6 is currently China’s best selling SUV.
It’s a Mazda CX-5-sized family wagon with a driveway bottom line of $29,990. To put that in perspective, the CX-5 starts from $27,890 before onroads and most of its opposition will be more like $35,000 with similar equipment and the driveaways done.
That means, despite the upscale ambitions of the group it’s a challenger brand at the bottom end of the SUV scale.
As with the other challengers it needs to underpromise and over-deliver, on everything from design and cabin quality to — inevitably — a five-year warranty to give peace-of-mind to people taking a punt on a Haval.
There are two versions of the H6, but both have a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and frontwheel drive, with a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox from Getrag.
Even the basic Premium — there is also the fully loaded LUX — comes with all-round parking radar, a reversing camera, dual-zone auto aircon, keyless entry and start, auto lamps and wipers and 17-inch alloys.
Moving up to the LUX at $33,990 driveaway brings bigger alloys, Xenon headlights, a giant sunroof and heated seats with fake leather.
But there is no ANCAP safety rating yet and that’s a big question that needs to be answered soon, given the poor record of Chinese cars in crash testing.
ON THE ROAD
I’m not expecting much from the Haval. My experience with Chinese cars shows they are underdone in quality and refinement, despite big promises and massive enthusiasm from a range of brands including Geely, Chery and Great Wall.
And let’s not get started on reliability problems at Great Wall, or the asbestos found in some Great Walls that arrived in Australia.
But the H6 is surprisingly unbad. Straight away it’s a massive step up from the Mahindra from India I drove last year, and even my experience with the Holden Captiva.
The car looks good, the paint finish is good, and the cabin