Close, but no cigar

Haval’s mid-sized SUV is much im­proved on pre­vi­ous Chi­nese im­ports, but ques­tions re­main

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK -

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

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